Bill Oddie: don't trust financial advisers

The 73-year-old explains why he takes such a cynical approach to his finances

Bill Oddie: Don't trust financial advisers - put your money under the mattress!

The TV presenter and comedian Bill Oddie says there are two types of people he doesn't trust: politicians, and anyone with whom he has financial dealings.

Here, the 73 year-old former Springwatch presenter explains why he takes such a cynical approach to his finances - and reveals the best piece of financial advice he's ever been given.

How much do you tend to take out of ATMs?

£150. I prefer to pay for things by card so I'm astonished how quickly my cash goes. But you only have to go somewhere in one taxi in London and you've spent almost £50. Plus, Laura and I usually eat breakfast at a cafe down the road so that's £15 nearly everyday.

How did your father influence your attitude to money?

My father was an accountant. He didn't impart any of the knowledge or financial jargon to me whatsoever. But he probably did impart meticulousness and honesty when it comes to finance. I just hate the idea of owing people money and the idea of not being able to pay a bill is even worse.

Are you good at saving?

I never quite know what 'save' means. The number of things that come in the post and on email saying 'save this, here's this wonderful rate that you're going to get of 0.00%'.I'm afraid I'm so cynical I don't really believe any of them. I can't imagine any of those things are going to make such a difference that it's worth doing.

So you don't shop around for the best rates on your savings?

We're both freelance so it's a completely different ball game. When somebody says to a freelancer: "Look I can get you a savings account that's going to get you an extra percent and you could make an extra £1,000 over a year," then you say: "Well, that's fine but I could get a phonecall from my agent tomorrow who says we've got this advert and it's a couple of grand." It doesn't mean we earn a vast amount of money - I remember, for years, thinking if I'm hitting £100,000 a year I must be doing OK - but it's totally unpredictable. You just think: I can't be asked really, I'll just put myself about a bit more and hope I get another job.

Do you feel apathy towards financial matters?

I don't think it's apathy, I think it's fear and confusion. If ever there was a situation where you like to think that you trust the person you're talking to, it would be your bank manager, financial adviser, insurance agent, anyone in financial dealings like that. Your life depends on it in many cases - they can rook you, they can lose your money and worst of all, they can leave you thinking and feeling that you live in a world you don't understand.

But if there are two areas where you think: I don't trust anybody in this area, one would be politicians, obviously, and the second one would be financial dealings. Trust and truth are the
two things that should be essential and yet never a week goes by without some bank being revealed to be basically criminal - and obviously, in my area of wildlife conservation, most of the big banks are financing much of the destruction of the natural world.

Another bunch of people we don't trust are pension providers. My wife Laura and I had to extricate ourselves from a very big pension provider and they proved themselves to be grossly inefficient.

When did you first buy a property?

Back in the 1960s. I was fairly rapidly pushed into buying a property when I came to London - the instruction was: buy that, you won't regret it. I started with a little flat, then a little house, then a slightly bigger house and then quite a big house. I ended up with this great house overlooking one of the ponds on Hampstead Heath.

Eventually we sold that house in 1985. Heavens knows what you'd get for it now but even then, it allowed us to buy two properties. One of them was a divorce settlement property for my ex-wife. But I still had enough to buy a house for myself and my wife Laura, which we still live in 30 years later.

I expect a wise adviser would say: "I think you should sell your house now, because you're getting old and decrepit and small and you'll find it difficult to climb upstairs. So I think you should buy a nice old person's place down by the river and then you'll have lots of money to pay for a care home." I'm certainly not going to do that.

What are your thoughts on the financial policies of the political parties?

When it comes to the coming election, it's not going to be financial issues that are uppermost in my mind. My objections to politicians are not mainly financial ones.

What's the best piece of financial advice you've ever been given?

I remember, the accountant I had when I first came to London in the 1960s said to me: "I wouldn't bother with investments. If you don't want any trouble, put your money under the mattress."

Bill Oddie's latest book, Bill Oddie Unplucked: Columns, Blogs And Musings, was published by Bloomsbury last month.

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