Singer and actress Toyah Willcox would like to take all her retirement savings and put them into property, writes John Marx 

Toyah Willcox is perhaps best known for her chart success in the late 1970s and early 1980s with singles such as Itís a Mystery. More recently, she appeared in the second series of Iím A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. 

The youngest of three children, Toyah decided she wanted to act at the age of seven. Her first big film role came in Derek Jarmanís 1977 punk movie, Jubilee. Later that year she put together her own punk band. Her pop career brought her chart success and the accolade of the Best Female Singer at the 1982 British Rock and Pop Awards. 

She has worked on a variety of TV programmes such as Holiday, Heaven and Earth and Fasten Your Seatbelts. She has spent much of the past year performing in a touring production of Calamity Jane, which is currently in the West End. 

Toyah is 45 and lives mainly in Chiswick. She is married to Robert Fripp, a guitarist who lives in Nashville. The couple chose not to have children, preferring to lead ďaffectionately independent livesĒ in order to pursue their separate career interests. 

How much money do you have in your purse? 
About £300. I always have a lot of cash. I think itís so that I have enough if the opportunity arises to take people out for a meal or drink. But that doesnít happen very often so when I draw cash from the bank it tends to sit there forever. 

Do you have any credit cards? 
I have cards from American Express, Barclaycard and Marks & Spencer. I always pay them off straight away ó I donít borrow money from anyone. I donít even like having mortgages. I really resent giving banks interest when they are making plenty of money out of my wealth in the first place. 

Are you a spender or a saver? 
I think Iím a saver, but when I spend I do it big time. But Iím careful about what I spend it on. I donít own any expensive cars, for example. I donít buy anything that devalues. 

How much did you earn last year? 
Oh, Iím not telling you that. But my earnings this year are already three times as much as last year because Iím in a West End musical and because of Iím a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. 

Have you ever been really hard up? 
Yes, many times. My parents struggled financially throughout my teens. When I was at drama school I was very poor and it was only the generosity of friends that kept me fed. 

Derek Jarman would say: ďToyah, come round, weíre going to give you a meal,Ē and all I could afford was the 27p bus fare to his home. So I do know what poverty is like and I think itís the most frightening, powerless position to be in. 

What is the most lucrative work you have done? Did you use the fee for something special? 
I remember some years ago making a documentary of the Pirelli Calendar shoot. It was five daysí work for a huge sum ó tens of thousands of pounds. I was flown first class to Florida where there were people catering for us, getting our clothes, driving us round in limos and generally making sure we were happy. 

With the money I bought a property to add to my portfolio of investments. 

How many homes do you own? 
Several. My main financial philosophy is to buy property. I donít rent it out because I will never be a landlord ó and I feel really strongly about that. I either let friends live in a property, as long as they maintain it and pay the expenses, or I allow a family to stay there rent-free. 

I use some of my homes for work. I have a place where I paint, for example. I have also bought my parentís home and I have looked after them financially for the past 15 years. The properties are all quite unusual and very rare, and I have no intention of selling any of them. They are my safety net so I never have to experience hardship again. 

I tend to have mortgages for two years and then I pay them off, which allows me to borrow another sum to buy the next property, and so on. I only have the mortgages for tax purposes; my accountant gets cross with me if I buy for cash all the time. 

Do you invest in shares? 
Yes, Iíve got a few Isas. I look after them myself because my advisers only give me opinions. I judge their performance based on the paperwork I receive. 

Do you have a pension, or other retirement plan? 
I have 20 pensions and they have all lost 40%. But I want to keep working so I shouldnít need to use them at all. Iím hoping that when I pass away I will be able to leave a huge lump sum to some charity. I donít need to take a pension financially, everythingís ticking over really well with the property portfolio. 

Do you believe pensions are a good thing? 
Iíve been investing in pensions for 20 years and I am so angry about the way their value has diminished. 

My financial advisers say I should keep going because in two years theyíll be back on their feet. But thatís not good enough. I could be investing my annual lump sum in property. We have huge arguments about it. 

I think the whole problem with pensions and Isas is that financial advisers do better out of them than we do. 

What has been your worst investment? 
I bought an extraordinary studio apartment in Chelsea in 1986 for £156,000, which was quite expensive for the time. I needed to sell it in 1990 and it went for £142,000. 

Thatís the only time that I have ever had negative equity on a property. 

And your best? 
A penthouse in Wapping, which I bought for £199,000 in 1984 and sold for £300,000 in 1986. 

Do you manage your own financial affairs? 
It took a long time for me to realise that one of my former accountants was not working in my interests ó my money had been pilfered. The accountant went to jail over it; I had lost a total of £100,000. 

Now Iím my own financial manager and I have been for the past 10 years. I do absolutely everything ó I balance my bank accounts, make all my own decisions and even prepare my own Vat. 

I have a wonderful bookkeeper whose quarterly bill is the least out of all my professional advisers, but I trust her implicitly. 

What aspect of our taxation system would you change? 
I get no tax relief for helping my parents. I bought their home and pay for its upkeep. I also take care of their council tax, water rates and medical costs. The more I help my parents, the more they suffer because their benefits are reduced, even though they have only a very small amount of savings. If I hadnít kept them over the past 15 years they would have been able to claim more benefits. It makes me livid. 

What is your financial priority?
Always to have cash available. Even with people like me, cash availability can be quite scary because most of my money is in fixed assets. I make sure I have a bank account with a large amount in it at all times. 

Do you have a money weakness? 
I donít fully understand how pensions work and I get very frustrated by it. I donít know why my financial adviser says ďdonít worryĒ when my pensions, which are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, have diminished in value. 

I want to draw the lot out and buy property, but I canít win the argument because I donít fully understand how these people think. Thatís my biggest weakness. 

What is the most extravagant thing you have ever bought? 
I like to commission jewellery and art. I even hired a watercolour artist at Reddich House, a home I had for 12 years. He was a resident artist there for 12 months to paint the seasons. I think thatís extravagant, but it was also an investment. 

Do you play the lottery? What if you won? 
I only play when my instincts tell me, but I have often thought about what I would do if I won. 

Near my home in the Midlands, there are a lot of people on lower incomes. I would go to every landlord in the community and give them money so they could let their tenants have the month of December free of rent. 

Iíve heard conversations in shops where people are debating which packet of biscuits to buy to get them through the week. It breaks my heart. 

The other thing I would do is invest in a project to improve the recycling facilities in the local community. 

What is the most important lesson you have learnt about money? 
I treat it as though itís terminally ill. I just donít think money is safe unless you realise it is like water. 

Sunday Times
20th July 2003
Thanks to John Shepherd