The Scottish Mail on Sunday
My grandfather saved all his life to help buy my first flat. Now it’s part of my pension
Q As a former Blue Peter presenter, what is your reaction to the recent death of John Noakes? A JOHN was a total original. He would cover a story in his own ramshackle way. It was like the camera just happened to be there. Q What did your parents teach you about money? A MY PARENTS were teachers and they taught me about the value of money. To this day, I still have a massive respect for anything I buy and I have never got into debt. I understand money does not come easily. I put a lot of that down to my parents. Q What was the first paid work you ever did? A ANSWERING phones for S4C, a Welsh TV channel, for 45 minutes on a Sunday evening when I was 16. I was paid £5.80. Q Have you ever struggled to make ends meet? A YES, straight after university when I moved back in with my parents. I ended up going back to S4C and working on the complaints hotline. It was through that job that I heard about an opportunity to present a new kids’ pop show in Welsh at S4C. It was only three weeks’ work, but the money was better than half a year’s wages answering phones.
It was not a solid nine-to-five job, but part of me did not want that sort of routine. Soon I was earning £35,000 a year presenting TV shows in Welsh. It must have blown my dad’s mind. Q How much were you paid to present Blue Peter? A I WAS paid a salary of £27,000. I actually took a pay cut when I left S4C. Plus, I only had 14 days off each year. But I did not mind. The work was one long holiday. I had the best job in the world. Q Have you ever been paid silly money for a job? A YES. I did a corporate gig where I presented on stage for an hour and was paid £12,000. I felt so guilty. It is still hard for me to accept I can earn that sort of money for an hour of my time. Q Did you make a lot of money appearing on Strictly Come Dancing? A NO WAY. Everybody gets paid the same and it is not that much. Nowhere near what people think. There is no money in TV now unless you present a prime-time show. But you get a lot of offers through the knock-on effect of being on Strictly. For example, you can earn really good money from doing the subsequent six-week tour. Q What was the best year of your life in terms of money you made? A LAST year. I did several corporate gigs as a presenter, worked on a few branded campaigns and also made money from my rugby events company and my business, Leaf Hospitality. Whatever money I make, I pay myself a ‘salary’ of between £65,000 and £70,000. The rest goes into savings to invest in property or my businesses. Q What is the best money decision you have made? A INVESTING in Leaf Hospitality, a hotel management company founded by my best friend, Richard Farrar, ten years ago. I gave him all the money I had at the time, which was a high five-figure sum. In July, Leaf will start managing its fourth hotel and is now making substantial profits. The annual return on my investment has been around 12.5 per cent. Q Do you own any property? A YES. I bought a two-bedroom flat in Cardiff in 2003 for £90,000 with a £10,000 deposit my grandfather saved all his life to be able to give me. Last year, I bought a two-bedroom flat in a converted hospital in West London. I reckon my Cardiff flat is worth £200,000 which I see as part of my pension, while the London flat is worth £1.2 million. Q What is the one luxury you like to treat yourself to? A TRAVEL. I travel abroad for work a lot and will often stay a few extra days in a nice hotel with my girlfriend Katja to make the most of the trip. Shortly after we met at Christmas, I invited her to join me on a holiday to Barbados. Then I had work in Rome, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona and Los Angeles and she came with me to all of it. A few weekends ago, I invited her to Cardiff. Until then, she thought I was an amazing globetrotter. Q Do you think it is important to give to charity? A YES. I set up Nai (Welsh for nephew) to help autistic children who, unlike my nephew Alby, cannot afford to get the support they need. I vowed I would cover all the expenses of the charity forever. If I can do something, I see it as my responsibility to do it. I know how much ‘enough’ is and I got to that stage a few years ago.