June 17, 2024

By Donna Ferguson, Financial Mail On Sunday


Debt: Michelle Heaton earlier this year
Former Liberty X singer Michelle Heaton got into debt during the Covid lockdowns and came close to needing to sell her home and downsize. 
She tells Donna Ferguson she was unable to earn for almost two years, when the pandemic shut down the entertainment industry. 
But the 43-year-old has now turned her life around and set up a business, Mission Possible Wellness, to help people achieve healthy and active lifestyles through movement, nutrition, mindset, sleep and motivation. To find out more, go to missionpossiblewellness.com. 
What did your parents teach you about money? 
They taught me the value of money. I knew that they worked hard for it. I grew up in a former council house. Dad was a bus and then train driver while Mum raised us. Everything was done on a budget. McDonald’s would be a birthday treat, not an after-school meal. We went on caravan holidays in England. But I knew no different.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet? 
Yes. The worst time started in the first Covid lockdown. My income at the time came from corporate gigs, photoshoots and speaking events. All of that got shut down. My husband, who works in the fitness industry, and I went from being a two-income household and earning similar wages, to just him earning. For almost two years I didn’t earn a penny. All of a sudden we had half the money in our bank account. 
We had lived life to the full. We’ve got two kids, aged ten and eight, and I’m one of those mothers who can’t help but buy good things for my kids. Our attitude was: if we’ve got the money, let’s enjoy life. So we didn’t have much savings. Consequently, we are in debt. 
How did you turn things around? 
It was really scary. We started to discuss selling the house and downsizing. At one point, we were six months behind on our council tax. Luckily, the gigs are back now after Covid. I’ve paid off our council tax bill, got an accountant and got my finances back in good shape. It hasn’t been easy, but I know other people are far worse off. We weren’t living in poverty. The experience made me plan for the future. 
Have you ever been paid silly money? 
Yes, eight years ago, during National Yogurt Week, I was paid £20,000 for six hours’ work. All I had to do was sit in a bath of Greek-style yogurt and eat some, as if I was enjoying myself. It was absolutely freezing.
It was stupid money for such a weird notion, but I’d do it again tomorrow.
What was the best year of your financial life? 
It was 2018, when I released my book, Hot Flush, and was on the ITV show The Real Full Monty. I did a lot of campaigns that year, too. I made a six-figure sum. 
What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun? 
An Audi convertible for £38,000 when I was heavily pregnant with my daughter, Faith, in 2012. I paid in cash. 
What is your biggest money mistake? 
Buying that car. After Faith arrived, I realised her car seat wouldn’t fit in the back seat. What an idiot. I ended up selling it about four months after I had bought it, for around £29,000.
The best money decision you have made? 
Getting on the property ladder early. As a band, we paid ourselves £5,000 a month from Liberty X and kept the rest of our earnings in the bank as a payout in case it all ended. 
I saved every month and three years after we started the band, in 2004, I used my savings to buy a two-bedroom flat in Canada Water in London for £375,000. 
I sold it five years later for about £475,000. That helped me move up the ladder to the family home I’m in now, which is my biggest asset. 
Steady income: Michelle Heaton (centre) with Liberty X in 2002 – the band  paid themselves £5,000 a month
Do you save into a pension or the stock market? 
No. I’m not a gambler. I wish I had saved into a pension. But then again, over the past two years I wouldn’t have been able to make regular payments. 
My husband saves into a pension, and my hope is that he will never leave me. I also have a buy-to-let flat in Newcastle that will hopefully be a nest egg. 
At the moment, the rent just covers the mortgage. I bought it for £210,000 in 2005 and I think it’s worth the same today.
Do you own any other property? 
Yes, my home. It’s a semidetached four-bedroom house with a very private south-facing garden, on a private road in Hertfordshire. 
We bought it for £500,000 ten years ago and have spent £200,000 renovating it. I think it is worth double what we paid for it.
What is the one little luxury you treat yourself to? 
A new set of nails or infills. I spend £40 to £60 a week. It makes me happy. 
If you were Chancellor, what is the first thing you’d do? 
I would even out the wealth of the country better than the Government is doing. 
I would close tax loopholes that only benefit the super-rich and allocate that money towards a tax cut for small, independent businesses that have been struggling following the pandemic. 
Do you donate money to charity? 
Yes. I’m an ambassador for Caudwell Children and I do a lot for cancer charities. I’m BRCA2 positive, which means I have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. So I have had a total double mastectomy and reconstruction, and a total hysterectomy. 
What is your number one financial priority? 
To get in a stable position, where I don’t have to rely on the entertainment industry for my income so that what happened two years ago won’t happen again. 
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