Donor: But Julia Hartley-Brewer also invests
Journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer says her biggest financial regret was for not investing in the stock market and starting a retirement when she was younger.
52-year-old Julia, who hosts the breakfast show on TalkRadio, also reveals that life has not always been easy, despite wearing Chanel perfume, drinking champagne and being paid up to £ 3,000 for three minutes of her time these days.
She spoke to DONNA FERGUSON from her home in North London, which she shares with her husband and 13 year old daughter.
What did your parents teach you about money?
Not spending it on something you don't need or love. My parents grew up without money and always knew the price of everything. As a result, I can't stand wasting it. I spend a lot of money on things I cherish, but I'll never waste 20p on something I don't need.
My parents were students when I was born. My mother became a general practitioner, but she was a doctor for most of my childhood. She separated from my father when I was a few months old and then remarried. But my dad stayed 100 percent involved when I was growing up.
My father had several jobs. He grew up poor – he made a coal lap and gave his mother the money to buy food. He eventually became a post graduate teacher, economist and also worked for the BBC.
When I grew up, I never worried about money. It was cramped, but bourgeois cramped – not cramped for the working class. We lived on a tight budget and there was never any money to splash around, but we never had any problems either.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, definitely. When I was in college I remember being too scared to put my debit card in the wall machine thinking that if I had no money it wouldn't come out.
After graduating, I did some unpaid work experience with The Times newspaper. I had nowhere to live and no income, so I crouched down in the East End of London and ate a lot of rice, pasta and canned tomatoes.
Once I was 40 pence less than the subway fare, so I stood at the train station asking people for money so I could afford to get on the train. I didn't find it humiliating – I just accepted that I had to do this to get where I wanted to be.
Then I got a job at a local newspaper in London and made £ 9,000 a year. Even in the 1990s that wasn't a lot of money. It was a fight. I walked everywhere because I couldn't afford public transport. I was out of cash and still had college debts to pay off. But I always knew deep down that I would be fine. I didn't feel hopeless. I saw what I was doing as a stepping stone to something better.
My experiences have given me a glimpse of what it's like to live day after day, week after week.
Of course, I always had my parents to replace me. At the same time, I knew that I never wanted to be in this financial situation again.
Have you ever been paid stupid money?
Yes. I was once paid £ 3,000 for a three minute after dinner speech that was fabulous. I was one of several speakers at the event and luckily they didn't pay me with the floor.
What was the best year of your financial life?
It would have been this year if it hadn't been for the pandemic, so last year was my most successful.
I'd rather not say how much I earned in 2019, but I presented the breakfast show on TalkRadio. Typically, getting up at 4:40 a.m. each morning makes you well compensated.
What's the most expensive thing you bought for fun?
I'm celebrating my 50th birthday – I spent a hell of a lot of money on a party. I invited 170 guests and had a marquee and caterer – and it was worth every penny.
What's your biggest money mistake?
Don't invest in an annuity and stocks. I've been good at making money and not spending it – I'm not missing out. But I wasn't good at investing it. I wish I did.
During the lockdown, I had a massive solution to my finances and one of the things I have organized is my retirement.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I've also started investing in the stock market. I think the only way is for stocks and shares, so I put a lot of money into a FTSE100 tracker fund as a long-term investment – more than my annual Isa allowance of £ 20,000. I like the idea of a tracker because it's inexpensive.
The best money decision you've made?
Freelancing. I quit a job as a political editor for the Sunday Express in 2011. I trusted that I could make more money by supporting myself – and that has paid off by far every year since then. I also feel like I have more of a say in my career.
My father always advised me to leave money – a sum that would allow you to be financially independent so that you can always go, be it from a relationship or a job, and still pay your bills.
Do you own a property?
I do. I own my three bedroom apartment in North London with my husband. We bought it in 2006 which I've been told since then was the peak of the real estate market. Regardless, it was a great investment and more than doubled in value. It's really close to the subway and has a 50ft garden which is fabulous for parties as I discovered.
What little luxury do you indulge in?
I've worn Chanel perfume since I was young. I also love champagne. I am happy to spend money on a nice glass of Taittinger.
If you were chancellor what would you do?
I would have more houses built by having the councils prioritize the private development of more houses and lowering all planning costs.
That would create more jobs and make housing cheaper. I think we have to build two million more houses right now.
We need to get more people into their own homes. It would revolutionize our country overnight.
What is your number one financial priority?
Most people would say their kids, but I've never worried about my daughter and I feel like I will never need that.
So my number one financial priority is that my husband and I have a wonderful and comfortable retirement.
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