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Gary Numan: I had so much cash, all I wanted to do was spend
Singer Gary Numan, 53, chose to buy fast cars and planes rather than invest for the future.
By Richard Webber
7:30AM GMT 22 Jan 2012
HOW DID YOUR CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCE INFLUENCE YOUR ATTITUDE TO MONEY?
Unfortunately, not much. My dad was a baggage handler at Heathrow and careful with money. He worked hard and had three jobs when I was young. I wish I'd inherited his care for money. Sadly, I've grown up to be rather scatty when it comes to finances.
Before breaking into music, I had various jobs: forklift driver, driving a courier. But I was forced into working rather than doing it off my own bat because that was my dad's way: you got a job and paid your way.
Fame came quickly. I was only 19 when I secured my initial recording contract and my first two hit records – Are Friends Electric? and Cars – were number ones.
I became massively famous with all the money in the world for a while. At that stage, I never had any appreciation of money: I knew it was hard to get, but I had so much – I'm talking millions – and all I wanted to do was spend. I went mental with it, including buying a big house next to Wentworth golf course, Surrey, in the early Eighties. It was about £165,000 back then but would be worth millions now.
ARE YOU A SPENDER OR SAVER?
Still a spender, although not as bad as I was because other commitments soak up much of my earnings, like sending my children to private school. Nowadays, there isn't so much free money around to buy aeroplanes, helicopters and all those lovely things I used to acquire.
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY TIMES WHEN YOU WERE WORRIED ABOUT MONEY?
Many. Two business ventures in the Eighties didn't work out. I opened a restaurant – Coffee Pot – in Hounslow and my own record company; both were disasters.
When I started having success in music, everyone said it wouldn't last and to ensure I had another source of income. So I tried diversifying for the day the music career collapsed. But it was naive because I knew nothing about restaurants or running a record company.
Setting up Numa Records in 1983 would have been OK if I'd concentrated on my music, but I signed other bands. The company lost hundreds of thousands and closed a few years later. My father knew what he was doing but I kept sticking my nose in and making it difficult for him.
Our debts levelled out at around £600,000 and perhaps the biggest cause of this was my desire for elaborate light shows long after my career could justify it. But even during the early Eighties I spent too much: on one sell-out tour I lost £150,000 due to expensive lighting and production – pure stupidity.
WHAT'S BEEN YOUR BEST BUSINESS DECISION?
Despite my first attempt at running a record label being a disaster, I tried again in 2005 when I launched Mortal Records. It's only two years or so since my dad retired from running the business so it's been a steep learning curve for me. This time, I'm concentrating solely on my music and doing a much better job.
WHAT'S YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?
Until a few years ago, I'd have said my Harvard, a Second World War plane, but I sold that. I did air display flying but two things happened: my second child came along and my flying team-mate, Norman Lees, was killed in a crash.
Now, my most treasured possession is a Gibson Les Paul guitar I've had since I was 15. My dad bought it in Ealing and it's some guitar to have when you're a teenager – another example of me being a spoilt child.
WHAT'S BEEN YOUR BEST BUY?
My house. It's a Twenties six-bedroom detached property set in eight acres of Sussex countryside. Originally two houses, we bought it in 2005 for around £850,000. It was valued recently at around £950,000-£975,000. We're thinking of selling up and moving to the United States.
WHAT ARE YOUR FINANCIAL PRIORITIES FOR THE NEXT five TO 10 YEARS?
I don't have specific financial goals but I want my children to remain in private school, whether we move to the US or not. So it's all about earning as much as possible and spending as little as I can.
Album sales have collapsed, with few artists making money from albums; touring is more lucrative. But I'm 53 now and won't be able to tour forever so a logical step is to get into writing film scores. Trouble is, you need to be somewhere which has a big film industry – another reason why I'm thinking about living in California.
WHAT'S BEEN YOUR WORST BUY?
My own studio, Rock City, in Shepperton some years ago. Initially, it seemed to make sense but soon became a bottomless pit in terms of money. I poured so much cash into it, but couldn't make my money back on it. By the late Eighties, I decided to move on.
HOW DO YOU PREFER TO PAY – CARD, CASH OR CHEQUE?
I have Visa and Mastercard credit and debit cards but prefer cash, if I've got it. I carry various amounts, depending on what I'm doing. We recently attended a Hallowe'en party, so the day before went out with £1,500 to buy some stuff. Yesterday we went to London with the kids and I only took £300.
Cheques seem to be disappearing, while I struggle establishing a mental picture of my financial state with cards. At least with cash I can go out with a chunk of notes and control myself when it starts dwindling. It may sound simplistic but that approach works for me.
HOW DO YOU TIP?
Ten to 12pc if people are friendly and helpful. But if they're surly little people, I won't give them anything.
DO YOU BANK ONLINE?
Yes, with HSBC. I banked with Barclays for years but moved after a diabolical problem during the first day of a Florida holiday last year. I was with my wife and children and had just got our shopping for the week when my card was declined. I rang Barclays from the US and was asked the most stupid security question concerning what I'd bought several months earlier – how could I remember that?
Having failed the security check, the bank wouldn't help and the guy hung up when I started shouting. I had a fortune tied up with them at that point so switched to HSBC when I got home.
I love online banking and I check my accounts constantly. Going to a branch can be embarrassing sometimes, especially if you're at the counter with a long queue behind you and suddenly find you haven't got the right ID or have filled a form in wrong.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT PENSIONS?
I don't rate them, especially after the recent bad press about returns. My dad was always keen that I paid into a scheme but I never saw the point.
When I took over the running of my company, I inherited a number of things my dad had set up for me. I didn't get involved at that point so don't really know what they are, so I'm talking to a financial adviser at HSBC to establish exactly what I've got. Whatever it is, we're probably talking peanuts.
HOW DO YOU INVEST?
I don't, I'm afraid to say. This is what I'm discussing with the friendly man at HSBC. Most of my money is in various bank accounts rather than investment products.
HAVE YOU EVER INVESTED IN SHARES?
No, I don't do anything like that – I don't even have Isas. I know it sounds silly but none of these forms of investment seems worth the hassle because you get so little out of them.
If you know what you're doing, perhaps some are worthwhile, but to make money on shares you need to be clued up and prepared to gamble.
For someone like me, who is ignorant about financial products, investing in shares would probably result in picking something so safe that I'd probably only earn a penny on a grand or something ridiculous.
YOU ENJOYED SEVEN TOP-10 UK HITS. WHAT WAS THE MOST SUCCESSFUL?
At the time, Are Friends Electric? did better than Cars but the latter has lasted the longest. It's been used in adverts, films and been covered many times. Barely a week passes without receiving a request for a new cover version or for the song to be used in a film or advert.
DO YOU HAVE A FINANCIAL ADVISER?
Only the guy from HSBC who is helping me sort out life insurance and my general financial situation. As yet, we haven't discussed anything in terms of new investments.
Regrettably, I never had a forward-thinking head on my shoulders and was so childish when I was younger. While I was earning lots, I never thought about which financial product to pick, it was what Ferrari to buy! I've owned several cars, including a Corvette, but having children I now drive a grey seven-seater Jeep Commander.
DOES MONEY MAKE YOU HAPPY?
Yes, it makes a real difference. OK, if you've got a terrible illness or your wife has left you, all the money in the world won't make a difference. But if things are ticking along quite nicely, life is better if you have money.
WHAT DO YOU HATE ABOUT DEALING WITH MONEY?
I find tax demoralising. As my money comes in, I have to put aside a significant chunk and pretend it's not there. That's always depressing.
HAS THE RECESSION AFFECTED YOU?
Not on an everyday basis because my company can still afford to pay me the same as it did one or two years ago. But from a business point of view, it's harder selling concert tickets as people tighten their belts. If it continues like this, I'll have to think about my concerts and perhaps reining in the production somewhat.
Gary's new album, 'Dead Son Rising', is out now on Mortal Records. Visitnuman.co.uk for more information