High earner: Neil Fox presents the Heritage chart rundown on United DJs Radio
Neil Fox would revamp income tax if he were Chancellor of the Exchequer – making everyone pay the same rate.
Talking from his home in South-West London, the 59-year-old DJ told Donna Ferguson he has fallen back on his savings in recent months as his work has dried up.
‘Dr’ Fox presents the Heritage chart rundown on United DJs Radio every Sunday evening – and is married to Vicki, 47. They have three children – Scarlett, 19, Jack, 17, and Martha, 14.
How have you been affected by the pandemic?
My work as a broadcaster and media entertainer has been put on hold. But I had some rainy day savings I could fall back on which has been useful. I haven’t been ill but Vicki, Scarlett and Jack have all been tested and they’ve had the coronavirus.
They’ve all got antibodies. I didn’t get it, amazingly, despite living in the same house.
My son felt a bit grotty and they lost their sense of taste and smell, but they seem OK and nothing too bad happened. Thank God.
What did your parents teach you about money?
That it doesn’t grow on trees. They taught me to work hard and not to borrow more than I need because I will have to pay it back. Mum was a housewife. She had been in the Wrens in National Service and my dad had been in the military. He became a businessman and ended up working in a senior role for food manufacturer Birds Eye.
I wouldn’t say my parents were well off, but we were comfortable and lived a nice life. My brothers and I all went to private school, but I know my parents really struggled to send us there and made sacrifices. They put our education first.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, to some extent, when I took my first radio job. It was really badly paid – about £5,000 a year. This was 1985 but even then £5,000 didn’t buy you a lot. It just about paid for my food and rent. So if I wanted anything else, I had to go out and DJ in clubs to earn extra money. I wasn’t on the breadline, but money was tight. There were times I worried about paying my rent and bills.
I could have asked my parents for help, but I didn’t want to treat them like a bank. Plus, my dad thought I was crazy to go into broadcasting. I had got a business degree from Bath University and he had assumed I was going to be this amazing captain of industry. Then I said to him: ‘Actually, Dad, I’m going to be a DJ.’
He slightly freaked out about it. He said: ‘Please tell me you have a plan.’ And so I did a deal with him – I promised that if I wasn’t on Capital or Radio One by the time I was 30, I would quit. And then I just went for it. I worked really hard seven days a week to get to where I wanted to go.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes – for voice-overs and TV work. You don’t really have to work for that kind of work and you get paid a lot of money. The money involved makes you go, ‘Wow.’
I remember once doing a voiceover for a radio and TV commercial. They liked the second take I did. And that was it, job done. It took me all of five minutes, including the time I spent walking into the studio, and I got paid £10,000. Even at the time, I thought, ‘That’s insane.’
What was the best year of your financial life?
It was 2003. I was doing Pop Idol, a massive show on Capital, and the Pepsi chart which was broadcast nationwide. Plus lots of commercials and other TV shows too. Money was coming in from all angles. I’d rather not say exactly how much I made that year, but it was a six-figure sum.
The most expensive thing you bought for fun?
It was a Gazelle helicopter for £350,000, 15 years ago. I’ve always been obsessed with helicopters. I got my licence in 1991. It was a massive indulgence, but I used it quite a bit doing gigs around the country.
Sadly, there wasn’t room for a helicopter pad at my house in Fulham in South-West London so I kept it at an airfield. I sold it 12 years ago. After our daughter was born, I just wasn’t using it as much. Helicopters are expensive to buy, but they’re also very expensive to maintain and insure.
Up in the air: Neil used the Gazelle chopper to fly to gigs around the country
What is your biggest money mistake?
Buying a Bentley. My kids kept being sick in the back because it had such small windows. So I got rid of it after six months for 25 per cent less than I had paid for it. That cost me about £30,000.
The best money decision you have made?
Buying our home in Fulham in 1998. It’s a five-storey, five-bedroom terrace house dating back to 1860. Over the 22 years we’ve lived there, we’ve extended both upwards and backwards. I would say it has quadrupled in value.
But that is partly because house prices have risen a lot in London over that period. In a way, my best decision was to save into a pension while I was earning lots of money. I started saving into a pension when I was in my late 20s. My dad advised me to do it. That was a really wise move.
Do you invest in the stock market outside a pension?
No. I’ve tried it a couple of times and didn’t do it successfully. I think investing in a pension is sensible because it is tax-efficient and you are putting money away long term for your retirement. But I think investing in the stock market outside of a pension is a bit like gambling on the horses and I don’t gamble at all.
If you were Chancellor, what would you do?
I would simplify the tax system so there were no ways to get out of paying tax. I’d raise the threshold at which you start paying income tax and make everyone pay the same standard rate – probably around 30 per cent.
I think the Government would make more tax revenue overall because there would be fewer tax dodgers. Also, by raising the threshold, more people on low incomes would be taken out of tax, so I think it would be fairer.
What is your number one financial priority?
Security for me and my family. I don’t think it’s the Government’s job to look after me.