TV presenter Zoe Salmon says the biggest money mistake she ever made was buying a landmark West London apartment.
The former Miss Northern Ireland and Blue Peter presenter, 41, told DONNA FERGUSON it was costing her £60,000 a year in service charges, plus thousands more in expensive renovations.
She’s trying to do 500 minutes of hula hooping this month as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards ‘Do It 4 Youth’ challenge.
Ice Queen: TV host Zoe Salmon on Dancing On Ice in 2009 with partner Matt Evers
What did your parents teach you about money?
Save wisely and spend wisely. I was really lucky growing up. My father was the director of a large flooring company in Northern Ireland and my mother was a stay at home mother for me and my three siblings. We were comfortable living in a beautiful four bedroom detached house in Bangor which is located on the sea front.
I didn’t want anything, but I never got anything on a plate. My parents wanted me to appreciate the value of money and encouraged me to look for a part-time job at a young age.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, in college. I studied law, which was very intensive, and I also worked part-time in retail and as a model to pay.
I remember sometimes almost falling asleep during lectures because I worked and studied so hard. I felt very pressured to make ends meet. But I left college without much debt, except for my student loan.
Have you ever been given ridiculous money?
Yes, shortly after I did Dancing on the Ice in 2009. Within a week I was doing one or two jobs, getting five-figure pay for a few hours of work, taking notes and a glamorous photo shoot. That was more than my entire annual salary as a newly graduated lawyer. I remember meeting my stylist, hairdresser, and makeup artist and thinking I hardly needed to do anything but smile. It was just crazy.
The best year of your financial life?
It was probably 2010 when I joined the Dancing On Ice tour, which is actually more lucrative than the show. I also presented so many TV shows for different channels that I was on every major network in the UK at one point in that year. Plus, I did a Hollywood movie with Russell Brand and starred in a stage production of Cinderella.
The most expensive thing you bought for fun?
My Birkin handbag. I got it in 2017 for a four figure fee. It is black with gold hardware.
It was such a magical experience to buy something so exclusive and tailored and I went for a classic, timeless color scheme that goes with everything. Although I bought it for fun, I do see it as an investment – it has already increased in value quite a bit.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Buying a two bedroom apartment in a listed building in West London for £300,000 in 2000.
The building had beautiful Art Deco features, a swimming pool and a tennis court and I loved living there.
But I spent a lot of money renovating the flat and had to hire certain contractors approved by the council to work on landmark buildings. As soon as I finished my renovation, the building managers said a lot of work was needed. By 2008, my service charges had more than doubled to £5,000 a month. I managed to sell it that year for almost £500,000. But if I had bought a similar apartment in the same non-listed area, I would have made a lot more money
The best money decision you’ve made?
Selling a buy-to-let penthouse apartment in Belfast that I bought in 2009 for £250,000.
A decade later, it still wasn’t worth much. So last year, during the pandemic, I cut my losses and sold it for about the same price I bought it for. I reinvested the money in a four bedroom house in Bangor which turns out to be a much better investment. I haven’t looked back.
Are you saving for retirement or investing on the stock market?
No. I have two investment properties in Bangor, which I see as my retirement nest. I’ve focused on paying off the mortgages on them rather than a pension. I prefer bricks and mortar because it is a physical asset that you can see. Maybe one day I will invest in the stock market, but until recently I was more interested in becoming mortgage free. Now that I’ve achieved that, I’m not ruling it out.
In a spin: Zoe doing hoops for charity
Do you have any other properties?
Yes, my childhood home is a four bedroom house in north County Down. My husband William, who is a butcher, designed and built it ten years ago. We are currently building our dream home together, which will have a kind of Los Angeles feel, with lots of glass and a beautiful view of the Morne Mountains. We hope to sell our current home and move in in about a year.
What is the only luxury with which you treat yourself?
Twice a year vacation at Sandy Lane, a luxury resort in Barbados. It’s just paradise. We go for ten to fourteen days at a time and it costs a five-figure sum.
What would you do if you were chancellor?
I would force multinational corporations to pay their fair share of taxes and use the extra money to abolish tuition and ensure that people can study for free for a degree, internship or other form of formal education . I think the interest on student loans is too high and that education should be free for everyone.
Do you donate money to a good cause?
Yes, since I was a child I have donated money and time to charities. At the moment I support the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and participate in their summer challenge ‘Do It 4 Youth’.
The idea is that you complete a challenge in four weeks, to raise money to help young people from difficult backgrounds (see www.dofe.org/di4yteamni for more information).
Everyone can take their own challenge, but I’m hula hopping every day for July, increasing the amount of activity I do each day by one minute. By the end of July I did 500 minutes. I’m already exhausted. But it’s a lot of fun and a good workout.
What is your top financial priority?
To always be debt free and have savings for a rainy day. That way, if I ever choose to buy myself another expensive asset—be it a property or a handbag—I can do so knowing I worked hard for it.
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