TV host Johnny Ball has never forgotten the days when he struggled to make ends meet, played drums in Liverpool and hung out with The Beatles.
Ball, now 81, earned six-figure amounts through children’s science and technology programs in the 1970s and 1980s.
He never attempted to give his daughter, DJ Zoe Ball, any money advice, just a financial security blanket. His one-man show, Wonders Beyond Numbers, based on his book of the same name, is currently on hold, but will hopefully return in the fall.
His book, of the same title, which unravels the story of how humanity has built knowledge and understanding of ancient forms, numbers, and patterns, is available from bloomsbury.com.
On the Ball: Johnny Believes His Best Money Decision Was Buying His Buckinghamshire Home Now Worth £ 1.5 Million
How has the coronavirus affected your life?
My wife Diane, who is 69, and I currently isolate herself. We don’t mind, but I am sorry that my road show, Wonders Beyond Numbers, had to be suspended. Nevertheless, we are very happy and keep it good. I cook a lot because Diane broke her collarbone skiing. However, she is getting better.
What have your parents taught you about money?
Not much. My father was an iron founder and former. He knelt in the sand all his life and had no hair follicles on the skin of his legs. My mother had a job in a boot factory during the war and then in a weaving mill. They worked hard for their money. We did well – we were never short of anything – but we never had extra money.
What have you tried to teach Zoe about money?
I have always said this: you can never teach your children anything, but they learn everything from you. I never gave her direct financial advice. But I hope I have shown that I will always be there for her when she needs me, because family is important.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, in the winter of 1960. I lived in Liverpool. I worked for a shipping company and my income was £ 7 a week.
My digs and meals cost £ 3.50, I had to pay £ 2 a week for a drum kit I bought by hire and I spent £ 1.50 a week on cigarettes. As a result, I didn’t have a cent for anything else, including my bus costs to work. I had £ 20 in savings but that went quickly so I was really stuck for money. But then I started working as a drummer at night for another £ 11.50 a week, which meant I could afford a pint on Friday night.
I shared a house with a man named Rory Storm who had played in a band with Ringo Starr. George, John and Paul used to come over and play music at home because their parents didn’t like playing at home – and thought they were layabouts. When I got home early in the evening we chatted. I got to know them all very well, but I was closest to George. I thought they were very talented.
Have you ever been foolishly paid money?
Yes. In 2000, I wrote a five-person show for the Mindzone in Millennium Dome, London, and was paid £ 100,000 on top of what I asked. It was crazy.
What was the best year of your financial life?
It was 2000. Besides the Dome show I toured with my drama musical for children, Tales Of Maths And Legends. I also spoke businesslike. That year I earned over six figures.
What’s the most expensive you bought for fun?
It was a brand new metallic gold BMW 5 Series – bought seven years ago. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but it would have been around £ 40,000.
What is your biggest money mistake?
I didn’t really make one. I have invested money in insurance company Equitable Life. But I was released for some financial damage because I saw it coming. I don’t remember how much money I lost, but it wasn’t much.
Security: Johnny says he will help his DJ daughter Zoe if she needs it
The best money decision you have made?
Buying our house in southern Buckinghamshire for £ 50,000 which seemed like a fortune at the time. It was a wreck, but we’ve slowly stepped it up and doubled over the years.
As a result, I have now built a five-bedroom house with three gazebos in the yard that I built myself. We have been here for 40 years. It is probably worth £ 1.5 million now.
It was a great decision financially, but also for my career because of the location. We live just off the M40. When I worked for the BBC it only took 20 minutes to get to the studios. Yet it is outside London and has a beautiful garden with huge trees.
Do you save in a pension?
No, it used to. I built up a hefty pension fund in the 1990s after paying off the mortgage. Now, I draw it down – but I only get what I need, which is not much.
Do you invest directly in the stock market?
Yes, I have shares and I share Isa. I chose all investment funds myself. I like it and I think it is important to learn how to handle your investments myself. I can’t tolerate a financial advisor saying, “Leave it to me.” The recent depreciation of the stock market is horrifying, but will recover.
What is the only little luxury you treat yourself to?
Vacation. We probably go on vacation three times a year. Since my wife usually does all the cooking and takes care of me at home, we always stay in beautiful places if we can. Sometimes that means a five-star hotel, sometimes it is a nice little guest house in an idyllic setting. We confuse it but we don’t cut back and save on holidays.
If you were chancellor, what would you do first?
I would cut all green energy subsidies. We have to pay those subsidies through our taxes. Everyone is poorer as a result.
Do you donate money to a good cause?
Not regularly. I have worked with many charities over the years and unfortunately I have met quite a few charlatans.
What is your number one financial priority?
To keep working as long as I’m fit enough to do that. If I do that, my family will be financially comfortable.
Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on it, we may earn a small commission. That helps us to fund This Is Money and keep it free. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow a commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.