Trisha Goddard once had to go hungry so she could afford to feed her children. Then a TV boss uttered the immortal words: ‘I’m going to make you a star.’
Now 62 and living in the US, the television presenter recalls buying a Maserati for £130,000 but says the biggest luxury she likes to treat herself to now is a good thriller – she reads half a dozen books a month.
She spoke to Donna Ferguson from her South Connecticut townhouse where she is spending lockdown.
Payout: Trisha bought a Maserati when she was diagnosed with breast cancer
What did your parents teach you about money?
That money doesn’t grow on trees and you have to earn every single penny. No one is going to give it to you. There were no handouts in our house. My mother was keen that I should always be financially independent as a woman.
Both my parents were NHS psychiatric nurses. That’s how they met – when they were in training. My mother came to the UK from the West Indies when nurses were being recruited after the war. Money was very tight. My parents often did two jobs at the same time. My dad did gardening while my mother would do private nursing – on top of their work for the NHS.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, I have. The worst time was when I was a single mum with a baby and a five-year-old. I was 36, living in Sydney, Australia, and had a mortgage. But I had just come out of psychiatric hospital after suffering a breakdown and I couldn’t work. I didn’t have enough to feed myself, so I had to be inventive. I went to the market when stalls were closing and bought cheap fruit and fish they would otherwise have got rid of. I skipped meals so that the kids could eat.
I had been earning good money before that. I was the first person of colour on Australian TV. But I found out – just after my newborn baby had almost died in hospital – that my partner had been having an affair. I was left on my own. I was running a production company, fronting a TV show and basically running on empty. I didn’t have good coping skills.
How did you find the strength to get by?
My babies. When you have got little ones, you become inventive. Having been brought up with no money, I’m resourceful. You can show me a virtually empty fridge and I’ll find something to make a meal.
In the end, the breakdown was the best thing that ever happened to me. I had to reassess my priorities and lifestyle.
I decided to send my tapes to a couple of TV bosses in England because I wanted to move closer to my parents. I met with the boss of Anglia TV and he said the immortal words: ‘I’m going to make you a star’. To which I replied: ‘Ha ha, yeah right.’
Have you ever been paid silly money?
No. Other people might think I am paid silly money, but I don’t agree. I always do more hours and more research than I’m required to do, and I feel I earn my money.
What was the best year of your financial life?
It was 2010. I was working in England, but also flying out to do The Maury Povich Show in the US up to 20 times a year.
What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun?
It was a convertible Maserati. I received a payout from a critical illness insurance policy when I got breast cancer in 2008. I really didn’t think I’d get through the cancer and I thought: You only live once, I’ve always wanted this car, I will get this car. It was champagne-coloured, like all my cars, and I chose everything, including the piece of wood that the steering wheel was made from. It cost about £130,000.
A friend bought it off me and still has it in her garage because she says: ‘One day, you’ll want it back’. I find it hard to look at the car now because it just drags me right back to that bittersweet time.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Not having my own bank account. I had a joint account with my then husband and that is the dumbest thing I ever did. I’d say to all women: Do not do this. It doesn’t matter how much in love you are – have your own account.
The best money decision you have made?
Buying property. I made a profit on the first house I bought in Wimbledon, South West London. I also made a profit on my house in Australia, the big pile I had in Norwich, and my apartment in Cannes. The key to good property investment is picking the right location. I will select an area – it could be two square miles – and then look very intensely there.
Do you save into a pension?
I have never bought a pension; I prefer bricks and mortar. I never wanted a pension that invested in war or developing countries, and found it difficult to find an ethical company. But employers and unions have always made sure I was part of their pension schemes.
Do you invest directly in the stock market?
No. It’s too risky. I see it as similar to gambling.
Do you own any property?
Yes. I own my own home in South Connecticut here in the US. I bought it with cash so it’s all mine. That gives me a sense of security. It’s a three-storey townhouse on the water. There’s a pool in my complex, tennis courts nearby, a boatslip, and a lovely boardwalk along the harbour. The house is in a little gated community and there’s a good vibe at the moment. We are helping each other out.
What is the one little luxury you treat yourself to?
I like a good book, especially a thriller by a writer such as John Connolly or Harlan Coban. I read voraciously. I’ll buy up to half a dozen books a month. I’m obsessed. I don’t read on a Kindle; I love the smell and feel of a good book.
If you were Chancellor what would you do?
I would give more money to the NHS. My daughter is an NHS frontline worker. I’d also fund mental health and social work by levying tax on the profits of mega companies.
I’d call it a ‘community tax’ and make sure that the money went specifically to organisations that supported the mental health of young children and families. That way, if those companies tried to avoid this tax, they would look like even bigger charlatans than they are.
What is your number one financial priority?
To look after myself. If I don’t look after myself, it will fall upon somebody else.