TV’s Rory the Vet talks to ME & MY MONEY

The dog house: Rory Cowlam has invested in a new-build property as well as having a pension and an ISA

Veterinary surgeon and broadcaster Rory Cowlam is sometimes so surprised by the huge fees he is offered that he pinches himself and checks he hasn’t misread the amount. 

Better known as CBBC’s Rory the Vet, The Pets Factor star tells Donna Ferguson he can command fees of up to £5,000 a day from brands which want him to promote their products. 

The 30-year-old, who became Blue Peter’s resident vet in 2019, invests in a pension, the stock market and a property and gives regularly to charity, including Street Vets, the RSPCA and the British Dyslexia Association. He is currently taking seven months off to travel around the world with his fiancee. His autobiography, The Secret Life Of A Vet, is out now.

What did your parents teach you about money?

They taught me about the importance of good financial decisions and habits. My dad hammered into me the importance of a pension, while one of my mum’s favourite phrases was, ‘Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’.

When she died, we emptied her flat and found all these pennies she’d saved everywhere. My dad was a businessman for Diageo and my mum worked in marketing. There were times when money was tight. But in my teens, my dad landed a better-paid job. After that, I was lucky enough to have things like a holiday a year and to learn to ski.

Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?

No, I have been incredibly lucky. I always knew that I wanted to get a degree in veterinary medicine and I was lucky enough to afford to study for it. Yes, as a student I had to eat beans out of a tin many, many times and pay £9,000 a year in fees. But I don’t class that as a struggle. Since then, I have always been adequately paid and very happy.

How did you get your job on The Pets Factor?

I started posting on social media when I was at university and got a modest following. Then, shortly after I got my first job as a vet, I was approached to go on the show. I did eight seasons and from there I’ve ended up on all sorts of TV and radio shows.

Have you ever been paid silly money?

Yes, totally, for promotional work for brands. The most I’ve ever earned was £5,000 for one day of filming and creating content for a company. I wish those days would come around more frequently, as anyone would.

But, I also try not to lose sight of the fact that only a small percentage of people on this planet get paid that sort of money to do ridiculous things on camera, and that for me it’s likely to last for only a very short period. I know I am very lucky.

The most expensive thing you have bought for fun?

My wedding suit from bespoke tailor Montague Ede. I’ve chosen tops and tails, and it is going to cost many thousands of pounds. The most I had ever spent on a suit until now is £300. But I’m quite into fashion and I appreciate good craftsmanship. Plus, I live in scrubs while working – which are basically unflattering pyjamas – and get covered in all sorts of bodily fluids. It’s going to be special to dress up.

What is your biggest money mistake?

I fell into credit card debt when I was 19, by splashing out on stuff I shouldn’t have. I owed about £2,500 and had to work my way out of that. It was a very steep learning curve.

The best money decision you have made?

Hiring my manager. Without him, I wouldn’t get the majority of the work I do. When he brings me work, I sometimes have ‘pinch me’ moments where I try to wipe the screen, in case I’m reading the fee wrong.

I am a fraud. In reality, I’m a vet. I’m not a media personality. This is such a weird life I’ve ended up having, and I love it, but I do not value myself financially the way my manager does. To value myself appropriately is impossible for me.

Do you own any property?

Yes. In 2017, my sister and I bought a little new-build property in Streatham Hill, South London, for £620,000. It’s probably worth £650,000 now. I had intended to live there, but then moved in with my fiancee instead. Now, I see it as a nest egg for the future.

At work: Rory on CBBC’s The Pets Factor

At work: Rory on CBBC’s The Pets Factor

Do you save into a pension?

I do. I started when I got my first job at the age of 22. It gives me peace of mind. Who knows what the state pension will be when I retire in 30 or 40-something years – probably £3 a week? If you squirrel away a bit here and there you don’t notice it, but it can really add up.

Do you invest directly in the stock market?

I do. I invest through an ISA, because it is tax-efficient. I usually invest in eco-friendly stocks.

What is the one luxury you treat yourself to?

Skiing. I try to get out every year if I can, and it’s not cheap. I also have a meal out at a nice restaurant in London around once a month. I’ll spend anywhere up to £300 a head.

Do you donate money to charity?

Yes. I choose three charities a year, and I give them a monthly donation. This year, I’ve chosen Street Vets, RSPCA and a charity for deaf and blind children.

I give my time as well. I’m an ambassador for the RSPCA, Street Vets and the British Dyslexia Association.

I also work closely with Dogs Trust and Dogs For Autism and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

If you were Chancellor, what would you do?

I would make giving to charity more tax-efficient for people and businesses. I would also increase Government funding for charities, particularly animal charities, which are going through a serious crisis this winter.

Many pet owners are worried about paying their bills and so they are not taking their pets to the vet.

Charities such as the RSPCA, the Dogs’ Trust and PDSA, the vet charity, are doing their best – but they need as much help as they can get.

What is your number one financial priority?

To not have to think or worry about money. If I manage that, and can provide for my family, I’ll be happy.