Moving home: Matt with his model girlfriend Sam Rollinson
Comedian and broadcaster Matt Richardson struggled to make ends meet during lockdown last year and says the pandemic took its toll on both his finances and his mental health.
The former Xtra Factor presenter told Donna Ferguson he lost most of his income as a comedian overnight. As a self-confessed workaholic, the 30-year-old says he found it hard to keep himself sane.
He lives in a two-bedroom flat in North London with girlfriend Sam Rollinson, a fashion model. The podcast When No One Is Watching, which he co-presents with Matt Willis from pop group Busted, gives celebrities and comedians an outlet to discuss their darkest pleasures and weirdest confessions. It is available to download now.
What did your parents teach you about money?
Never to get into debt. My parents are sensible with money. They taught me to buy only what I could afford to pay for. My dad was the managing director of a lighting company, while my mother worked as a personal assistant and did secretarial work. They are from working-class backgrounds, but I’d say I grew up in a middle class household. To my knowledge, money was never tight and my parents never argued about it. I could have whatever I wanted, but I was brought up not wanting to buy lots of things. Having said that, I am probably a bit more frivolous with money than the rest of my family. I’m not bothered about saving. I’ll get a pound and spend it.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
I never struggled before the pandemic. But my job involves travelling and entertaining crowds of people. So, obviously, that was impossible during lockdown and there were times things looked a little hairy. I was fortunate that my girlfriend was working, so we were OK and could pay the mortgage.
Did you have any income during the pandemic?
I had a little bit. I furloughed myself for a few months and then I had bits and bobs coming in – just enough to live on. But it was a big difference to what I was used to, having started doing comedy on television when I was very young. I’ve always worked a lot – I’m probably a workaholic – so the fact that all of a sudden I wasn’t was rather disconcerting.
I am my job – my whole identity is ‘being a comedian.’ So losing that overnight was hard. It had a negative effect on my mental health, like it did for millions of other people. I didn’t really keep myself sane. There were times when I struggled. Then, luckily, early this year, I started performing five days a week for the ITV series Dancing On Ice and that gave me something to do. Thank God that came along, or goodness knows what would have happened.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes. That happens all the time in my industry. The silliest fee I ever earned was for an event I took part in at the 2017 Wimbledon Championships with tennis legend Goran Ivanisevic for Stella Artois. All I had to do was a photo shoot and then two hours of alternative commentary on the championships with him. I was paid a very high five-figure sum for that, more than I had earned the entire year before.
What was the best financial year of your life?
It was 2017. I was doing a radio show five days a week and getting TV work as well as corporate gigs such as the one at Wimbledon. I’d rather not say exactly how much I earned, but it was a rather nice six-figure sum.
The most expensive thing you bought for fun?
It was a £20,000 holiday to Hong Kong and Thailand in 2018. Both my girlfriend and I had enjoyed a good year financially and we thought: ‘Let’s have a once-in-a-lifetime holiday and really enjoy ourselves while we’re still young enough to appreciate it.’
What is your biggest money mistake?
Not investing in a buy-to-let property in a commuter town seven or eight years ago. I couldn’t have afforded to buy in London, but I could have bought a three-bedroom, semi-detached house within commuting distance of the capital. Instead, I went out a lot and spent my money on entertainment.
I must admit that when I was young, I thought: ‘Why would I want to buy property? Who cares?’ My attitude was: ‘I’ll rent forever, it doesn’t bother me.’ I realise now that if I had invested then, I’d be in a better financial situation now.
The best money decision you have made?
To buy a second-hand Mercedes E-Class for £8,000 three years ago. It’s now ten years old and it’s still absolutely fine.
Do you save into a pension?
No, but the pandemic has changed how I feel. I want more financial security and more savings. So, my girlfriend and I are thinking about moving out of her flat in London and buying together a place in Oxfordshire where we can live mortgage-free. I’m going to look at starting a pension after we move.
Do you invest directly in the stock market?
No. Why? Because I don’t understand it and I don’t see the difference between investing in the stock market and going to a casino. I find it intimidating as well. I know I’m probably making a really silly mistake, but because I feel that way I think the best strategy for me is not to go anywhere near stocks and shares.
Do you own any property?
No, I live in my girlfriend’s two-bedroom garden flat in Highgate, North London. I contribute towards the mortgage though.
If you were Chancellor, what would you do?
I would close every corporate tax loophole and make sure that companies such as Amazon and Google pay their fair share. In my opinion, using money you didn’t pay in taxes to go into space like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is morally abhorrent. It’s sticking a middle finger up to all workers.
I’d use that money on everything the Government promises it will spend on, but doesn’t – like the NHS and schools. Also, having spent a lot of time on the road, I’d make sure the M1 finally got finished.
What is your number one financial priority?
To have an alternative income stream. I’d like to invest in property or something else that’s away from comedy and entertainment. It would give me a ‘Plan B’ – because this is a fragile industry. Before the pandemic, I thought I would work in TV and comedy forever. But now, I think the way TV’s going, with fewer and fewer people watching it, I need to have an alternative plan.