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Dancing On Ice’s Zoe Salmon talks to ME & MY MONEY

TV presenter Zoe Salmon says the biggest money mistake she ever made was buying a Grade II-listed apartment in West London. 

The former Miss Northern Ireland and Blue Peter presenter, 41, told DONNA FERGUSON it cost her £60,000 a year in service charges, plus thousands more in expensive renovations. 

She is attempting to do hula-hoops for 500 minutes this month as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards ‘Do It 4 Youth’ challenge. 

Ice queen: TV presenter Zoe Salmon on Dancing On Ice in 2009 with partner Matt Evers

What did your parents teach you about money? 

To save wisely and to spend wisely. I was really fortunate growing up. My dad was the managing director of a large flooring firm in Northern Ireland and my mother was a stay-at-home mum to me and my three siblings. We were comfortable and lived in a beautiful four-bedroom detached house in Bangor, which is by the sea. 

I didn’t want for anything, but I was never handed anything on a plate. My parents were keen that I should appreciate the value of money and encouraged me to get a part-time job at a young age. 

Have you ever struggled to make ends meet? 

Yes, at university. I was studying law, which was very intense, and I also worked part-time in retail and as a model to pay my way.

I remember nearly falling asleep in lectures at times because I was working and studying so hard. I felt under a lot of pressure to make ends meet. But I left university without a lot of debt, aside from my student loan. 

Have you ever been paid silly money? 

Yes, shortly after I did Dancing On Ice in 2009. I did one or two jobs within the space of a week, for which I got paid five-figure sums for a few hours of work, doing endorsements and a glamorous photo shoot. That was more than my whole year’s salary as a newly qualified lawyer. I remember meeting my stylist, hairdresser and makeup artist and thinking I barely need to do anything but smile. It was just crazy. 

The best year of your financial life? 

It was probably 2010, when I took part in the Dancing On Ice tour, which is actually more lucrative than the show. I also presented so many TV shows for different channels that, at one point in that year, I was on every major network in the UK. Plus, I did a Hollywood movie with Russell Brand and had the lead role in a theatre production of Cinderella. 

Most expensive thing you bought for fun? 

My Birkin handbag. I got it in 2017 for a four-figure sum. It’s black with gold hardware.

It was such a magical experience to buy something so exclusive and bespoke and I went for a classic, timeless colour scheme that goes with everything. Although I bought it for fun, I do see it as an investment – it’s already gone up in value substantially.

What is your biggest money mistake? 

Buying a two-bedroom apartment in a Grade II-listed building in West London for £300,000 in 2000. 

The building had beautiful Art Deco features, a swimming pool and a tennis court and I absolutely loved living there. 

But I spent a lot of money renovating the flat and I had to use certain contractors that were council-approved to work on listed buildings. As soon as I finished my renovations, the managers of the building said it needed a lot of work. By 2008, my service charge had more than doubled to £5,000 a month. I managed to sell it for nearly £500,000 that year. But if I had bought a similar apartment in the same area that wasn’t Grade II-listed, I would have made much more money

The best money decision you have made? 

Selling a buy-to-let penthouse apartment in Belfast that I’d bought in 2009 for £250,000. 

A decade later, it still hadn’t appreciated much in value. So last year, during the pandemic, I cut my losses and sold it for around the same price for which I had bought it. I reinvested the money in a four-bedroom house in Bangor, which is proving a much better investment. I haven’t looked back. 

Do you save into a pension or invest in the stock market? 

No. I have two investment properties in Bangor, which I see as my pension nest egg. I’ve focused on paying off the mortgages on them instead of paying into a pension. I prefer bricks and mortar because it’s a physical asset that you can see. Maybe one day I will invest in the stock market, but until recently I’ve been more interested in becoming mortgage-free. Now I’ve achieved that, I wouldn’t rule it out.

In a spin: Zoe doing hoops for charity

In a spin: Zoe doing hoops for charity

Do you own any other property? 

Yes, my family home is a four-bedroom house in north County Down. My husband William, who is a butcher, designed and built it ten years ago. We are currently building our dream home together, which will have a sort of Los Angeles feel to it, with lots of glass and a lovely view of the Mourne Mountains. We’re hoping to sell our current home and move in there in about a year. 

What is the one luxury you treat yourself to? 

A holiday at Sandy Lane, a luxury resort in Barbados, twice a year. It’s just paradise. We’ll go for ten to 14 days at a time and it costs a five-figure sum. 

If you were Chancellor, what would you do? 

I would force multinational companies to pay their fair share of taxes and use the extra money to abolish tuition fees and ensure it is free for people to study for a degree, an apprenticeship or any other type of formal educational training. I think the interest rates on student loans are too high and that education should be free for all.

Do you donate money to charity? 

Yes, ever since I was a child I’ve donated money and time to charity. At the moment, I am supporting the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and taking part in their ‘Do It 4 Youth’ summer challenge. 

The idea is that you complete a challenge in four weeks, to raise money to help young people from tough backgrounds (see www. dofe.org/di4yteamni for more information). 

Everyone can do their own challenge, but I’m hula-hooping every day for the month of July, increasing the amount of activity I’m doing each day by one minute. By the end of July I will have done 500 minutes. I’m already exhausted. But it’s a lot of fun, and a good workout. 

What is your number one financial priority? 

To always be debt-free and have savings for a rainy day. That way, if I ever choose to buy myself another expensive asset – whether that’s a property or a handbag – I’ll be able to do so, knowing I worked hard for it. 

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