Brave face: Jan Leeming saved a third of her income in a pension with Equitable Life
The most expensive thing TV presenter Jan Leeming ever bought for fun was a £3,000 sculpture of an endangered bear when her heart was pulled at a charity auction.
The 79-year-old former news anchor told Donna Ferguson that she lost so much money investing in a pension with Equitable Life that she’ll have a hard time having enough to live on in a few years – and jokes that she hopes she can. will be dead at age 90!
She is a strong supporter of the Miracle Mission animal charity, which provides disabled animals with prosthetic limbs.
What did your parents teach you about money?
To be careful and live within my means. My father was a soldier in the Royal Artillery and was born and raised in India. My mother was a draftsman who worked for the Woolwich Arsenal. They divorced when I was seven.
My mother left and she took my sister. My father and I stayed in the family home. Looking back, I think maybe that was the germ of all my insecurity.
I loved my father and can’t remember being unhappy, but it was a strange childhood. We lived in a rented house with an outside toilet and no bathroom, but we were not poor. This is how the majority of Britons lived at that time. I don’t remember ever being hungry, but I do remember being very cold and seeing ice in the windows as we didn’t have central heating.
I had a best dress for Sunday and a pair of shoes. But I didn’t feel robbed because everyone was in the same boat.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes. The hardest time was after my last marriage ended in 2001. It was a very difficult time for me and I didn’t have much to live on.
I had to downsize a lot. I married a beautiful four bedroom house in Buckinghamshire worth £365,000, but after the divorce I only had enough to buy a small flat for £135,000 and some furniture.
I had to sell jewelry I’d collected over the years, along with a large library of autographed books from my days interviewing at HTV West and BBC Pebble Mill.
But it was hardly a struggle compared to what some people endure. I would never starve.
Have you ever been given ridiculous money?
If I want. The public perception that everyone on TV should be wealthy is pretty funny. All my working life I have received less than my male colleagues and you would hardly believe how little, compared to the dazzling amounts paid to newscasters and presenters today.
I started reading news for the BBC in 1981 on a salary of £10,000, with no wardrobe allowance and no pension. By the time I left in 1987, my fee had risen to the staggering £23,500.
What was the best year of your financial life?
It was 1988, the year after I left the BBC. I was in high demand for business work that paid well.
I have organized many awards and conferences and made videos for companies. I was paid a few thousand pounds a day.
The most expensive thing you bought for fun?
A sculpture of a moon bear that I bought at a charity auction for £3,000. The charity raised money to save moon bears, known for the distinctive crescent shape on their chests and milked for their bile in Vietnam and China. I wasn’t about to bid on anything, but my heart was being pulled and I was thinking about it.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Investing £1,000 in a company run by a very impressive woman I met at a conference promoting royal jelly. I might as well have burned the money. Since then, I have never traded stocks again.
The best money decision you’ve made?
I bought that four-bedroom house in Penn, Buckinghamshire, for £83,000 in 1983. It had quadrupled in value by the time I had to sell it in 1997. Mind you, it would be worth around £2 million today. Instead, I live in a small two-bedroom house near Dover that is worth considerably less.
Home News: Jan Leeming, on the BBC in the early 1980s, started with a salary of just £10,000
Are you saving for retirement?
I used to. I started in the early eighties, when I was in my forties. Every month I saved a third of my income for a pension with Equitable Life. I have invested about £200,000 in 25 years. Of course it went haywire.
I’ve fought for five years to get my money and now I’m getting a £7,000 annuity, half of what I should have gotten – but more than a little.
I also have a private pension, which I set up with the money I made doing I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here – a show I did out of desperation because I had no money. Unfortunately, the income I’ll get from that pension will run out when I’m 87, and my state pension won’t even cover my council tax, food, and other necessities. But I don’t allow myself to worry about that. I’ll put the house in equity release and hope I’m dead by 90!
That little bit of luxury you like to treat yourself to?
A Clarins facial for £60, every six weeks. Eventually I’ll be so old and decrepit that I probably won’t care anymore.
What would you do if you were chancellor?
I would make big companies like Amazon and Facebook pay a hefty tax. At the moment, such companies make huge profits, but take advantage of tax havens and hide behind loopholes. It’s mean. Just think what all that corporate tax could bring in our country, which it needs more than ever after Covid.
Do you donate money to a good cause?
Yes. I give what I can and give my time. I am a big supporter of Miracle’s Mission, a non-profit animal welfare organization that works with sick, injured and disabled animals. Its mission is to provide a safe place for animals in danger, castrate stray animals and provide prosthetics to disabled animals.
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