Fame And Fortune

Actress stores up for 'fun' retirement

Entertainer Su Pollard loves the perks she gets from her private-client account at Coutts.

Su Pollard became a household name in the 1980's for her role as Peggy in Hi-De-Hi!. The BBC comedy was so successful that it ran for nine series, followed by a sell out tour and a production in the West End.

She grew up in Nottingham with her younger sister, Jeannie. She left school at 16 to as a shorthand typist for eight years. She was an amateur actress at 11, appearing in local productions at the Arts Theatre in Nottingham.

She got her first job as a professional when she was 24, in The Desert Song, an old fashioned musical that went on a national tour. Parts in other musicals followed, including Godspell, Grease, Rose-Marie, and the West End productions of Godspell and Me And My Girl.

Su has made countless television appearances, including in the popular series You Rang, MLord?. I nearly 1989 she was the subject of This Is Your Life. She also starred in Two Up, Two Down with Paul Nicholas, and recently completed a fourth radio series with Gorden Kaye, For Better Or For Worse.

Su has just started a three month national tour with the New Shakespeare Company's production of The Pirates Of Penzance. She stars as Ruth, the nursemaid to Frederic.

Su, 52, is single and lives in a town house in Islington.

How much money do you have in your wallet?

About 50, which is for taxis, cleaning materials and a couple of red wine spritzers. And I often buy greetings cards in advance, because I am so busy learning lines.

Do you have any credit cards?

I have a Coutts Gold Card that gives me Air Miles and the use of executive lounges in airports. I also have a Switch debit card.

I don't think I could manage without them because I couldn't face a cheque book again. I wrote out only one cheque last year, to reimburse my parents for their flights to Hawaii. I treated them to the holiday which was money well spent.

Are you a saver or a spender?

I definitely do both, in equal measures. I might suddenly buy a 1,000 dress that I like , then set myself a goal to save the next spare 1,000. It goes into my current account with Coutts.

When I was 16 I had a Saturday job at C&A, earning 1.50 a week. To me it was just frothy money, not a proper wage, so it all went.

In my early twenties I did not save atall and Hilda, my mum, used to help with my rent. When I was in the profession full time my dad would regularly send me 25 cheques, but then he said he couldn't really afford it.

My parents both worked for Players, the cigarette company. Hilda was in the packing department, my father worked in data processing.

I knew I had to start saving when I took on a basement flat with a friend and we were always behind with the rent, which was 40 a week.

I forced myself to put away 5 a week and when I got to the first 50 I was thrilled. It was a great sense of achievement. I wrote out a list of all the outgoings and finally took responsibility for my own finances.

How much did you earn last year?

It would probably be the upper end of five figures. Whatever my income I always pay half into an account with Nationwide, for VAT and tax money.

Have you ever been really hard up?

Yes, most definitely. At 17, when I shared a flat with my best friend Ju. We both had jobs as typists; it was tough going. By Wednesdays we were always down to small change.

What is the most lucrative work you have done? Did you use the fee for something special?

I played Dick Whittington 10 years ago in panto at Newcastle and was paid a fair whack for 10 weeks' work. It went towards one of my Peps and was enough for a five week holiday in Australia. It was great to fly first class. Another actor might have spent the lump sum on a new car, but I don't drive.

Do you own a property?

I bought my house in Islington 20 years ago for 70,000. It seemed so much money at the time, but my accountant encouraged me to go ahead. It's a town house on three floors, with a garage that is crammed with sheet music, stage costumes, old dolls, and rocking chairs.

Five years ago I managed to clear the whole mortgage when my endowment policy matured with a very nice payout of 65,000, so I was fortunate. I don't know what it would be like for policy holders now.

I am pretty sure the value of my home is getting on for 500,000. It is near King's Cross, which is being redeveloped. I think in three or four years the area will be a really good place to live.

It is the first property I have owned. About 10 years ago I bought a beach hut at Sutton Sea as a present for my mum and dad. I think it cost 500.

Do you invest in shares?

I have a large portfolio of shares but they are just lists to me. I leave most of the work to Sash, my private banker at Coutts. I can do without the task of monitoring companies, and I've no desire to get into figures.

I believe in delegating things to the right people. After all Sasha is not trained to go onto the stage, and I am.

At Coutts you have to pay 1% of the portfolio's value every year, but I think it's worth it because of the kudos and extra attention you get. There are lots of perks as a private client. For starters you get really nice food when you go to their functions.

What about Peps and Isas?

I have invested in Peps since they started, and Sasha seems to think they are doing all right. When Peps were abolished I bought Isas.

I regard this money as invisible because I don't need it now. One day it will be wonderful six figure nest egg.

Do you have a pension, or other retirement plan?

I've got three, with Norwich Union, Sun Life, and Abbey Life.

I took the first one out at 32, when I earned more money with Hi-De-Hi, and set it up with a lump sum of 10,000. I've tried to put in the same amount for many years.

Do you believe pensions are a good thing?

They are essential, but the word "pension" should be changed because it dies not sound like much fun.

My dad told me to start one at 17 but it seemed too dull a thing to do. A pension should be called a Fill - that's Fun In Later Life.

What has been your worst investment?

Probably my most extravagant - a 5,000 dress that I have worn five times over 10 years.

And your best?

I suppose it has to be my house. On my part it was just luck, I didn't have a clue about property values in London, but I knew where I wanted to live. In those days Islington wasn't atall trendy.

Do you manage your own financial affairs?

As well as my private banker, I have an accountant, Bashkent Orhan, who has a number of showbiz clients. When I first approached him, 17 years ago, I leant over the desk, grabbed him by the lapels and said "If you stitch me up, you're dead!" He laughed and said it would be more than his job was worth.

What aspect of our taxation system would you change?

It would be lovely if the top rate of tax was cut a bit, because higher earners like myself have enough responsibilities already.

What is your top financial responsibility?

To make sure all the household bills are paid. I like to go to sleep at night, knowing that all I owe is paid by direct debit.

Years ago my phone and electricity were cut off. I never want that to happen again. I pride myself on not having had a red reminder for more than 20 years.

Do you have a money weakness?

Several. One is for buying things on the spur of the moment. If I am with a friend who tries on a marvellous hat I will buy it for her. The other is for paying dinner bills, as I am usually the first one to offer. One week I paid for five dinners, and it came to 1,000.

What is the most extravagant thing you have ever bought?

A beautiful hand-beaded and hand-dyed dress, specially made for me by a BBC costume designer 10 years ago. It cost 5000 but it is fantastic. The dress was for my one woman show, but I did go to Sainsbury's in it, which caused a stir.

Do you play the lottery? What if you won?

No, I never buy a ticket. If I did and I won 1m, I would put on my own show, with the very best people available. I would try it out in the provinces, then at the Palladium before taking the show on a world tour.

What is the most important lesson you have learned about money?

Don't always be wanting more, because the more you get the more you want. I am not materialistic, but money buys me the freedom to choose my work.

By Natalie Graham.

The Sunday Times
Feburary 2002