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Mouthy Money catches up with contributor Nick Daws about the dangers of Shiny Object Syndrome and why everyone should have a side hustle.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself
I am 65 and live in Burntwood, Staffordshire. I live alone since my partner, Jayne, passed away eight years ago. My early career was in local government and the voluntary sector, with my last ‘proper’ job being Information Officer for a small national charity.
For the past 25 years, I have worked as a freelance writer and editor. I am semi-retired these days and don’t do proofreading or editing anymore as my eyesight has deteriorated somewhat. I still do some freelance writing, though, including my articles for Mouthy Money! You can find one of my recent Mouthy Money pieces on how much we need to retire comfortably here. I also run a personal finance blog.
2. What is your biggest passion in life?
To be honest I am not sure I have a single ‘biggest passion’. I do enjoy travelling when the opportunity arises – which hasn’t been very often in the last year or two.
When Jayne was alive, I took every chance to visit Greece, a country both of us loved. We also enjoyed going on cruises, around the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands, and beyond. In more recent times my travelling has been mainly confined to the UK, and especially Wales. I love Wales and the Welsh people, but really do hope to start travelling a bit further afield again soon.
I am also a keen swimmer and particularly enjoy swimming outside when the opportunity arises. And without wanting to sound too corny, my other big passion is personal finance and helping people find ways to save money, boost their income, and so forth!
3. What one personal finance tip would you give a younger version of yourself?
Beware of Shiny Object Syndrome. In other words, focusing too much on the latest ‘new and exciting’ business/investment opportunities, even if potentially you think there may be big money to be made from them. I would tell my younger self it is very easy to over-hype something when it is new and there isn’t a long-term record of results (good or otherwise).
I was guilty of falling into this trap myself when property crowdfunding first hit the financial scene a few years ago. In my excitement, I invested more money than I should have in it. While some investments paid off, I lost a lot of money on others and wound up losing money overall.
Nowadays I do still have some property crowdfunding investments but am very cautious about how much I put into any one project and diversify as widely as possible. I have also avoided dabbling in cryptocurrency since (a) I don’t really understand it, and (b) it is unarguably high risk and you can just as easily lose money as make it.
Read more: Why diversification is key to investing
4. If you had to stick to one rule around money what would it be?
In a word, diversify! In these uncertain times, it is important to have a few different strings to your bow where income is concerned. Everyone should have a side hustle, in my view. And the same is true with regard to savings and investments. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket is still one of the very best pieces of financial advice (I wrote an article about this for Mouthy Money a while ago, of course).
Find out more: Investment tips for every age group
5. What’s the biggest personal finance issue you think people face today?
As an older person myself, I would have to say planning for old age.
Most of us nowadays have ‘pension pots’ which we build during our working lives, but it is then down to us how we deploy this money to provide an income in later life.
My advice as a money blogger is that nobody should rely on the state pension alone. Since George Osborne’s ‘pension freedom’ reforms in 2015, we all have much more freedom in how to use our pension pots.
Many, though, struggle to understand the options available, including traditional annuities and the newer drawdown options.
Everyone really needs to understand the basics of how the pension system works so they can make the best choices for themselves. In my view, people should take professional advice on this, certainly by the time they reach middle age.
6. What would you do if you were Chancellor for the day?
Tough question, but one thing I would definitely want to address is fuel poverty. So many older people in particular struggle with paying their fuel bills, and at the time of writing prices are due to go up substantially again.
I would raise the Warm Home Discount from its current level of £140 by at least £50. This would reflect more realistically the way bills have risen since this scheme to help people on low incomes was introduced ten years ago (it was £120 then). I’d also like to raise the Winter Fuel Allowance for pensioners.
7. If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
I don’t really have one big thing, though I suppose a new car would be nice (a modern electric or hybrid one). As mentioned above, I’d also like to travel a bit more, using some of my newfound wealth to go in style!
Beyond that, like any good money blogger, I’d save some and invest some. I would also gift some to friends and relatives who I know could really use the money.
And finally, I would make substantial donations to charities supporting research into breast cancer (which my partner Jayne died from) and prostate cancer (for which I was successfully treated myself six years ago).
Nick Daws is a semi-retired freelance writer and editor. He is the author of over 30 non-fiction books, including Start Your Own Home-Based Business and The Internet for Writers. He lives in Burntwood, Staffordshire, where he has been running his personal finance blog at Poundsandsense.com for over seven years.