Gold as an investment

Only Fools and Horses’ Tessa Peake-Jones: ‘We earned loads from the repeats’

Sep 24, 2022

Tessa Peake-Jones is a British actress who found fame playing Raquel in the BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses from 1988 to 2003. She starred in ITV’s Grantchester and has also been in Doctor Who and Poirot. She lives in north London and has two grown-up children.

How did your childhood influence your attitude towards money?

I grew up in Middlesex with my mum and my aunt, who gave us a home. My mum was poorly because she lived with bipolar disorder, but when she was well, she worked hard. My aunt worked in a hardware shop six days a week. So I was brought up that you worked really hard; you earned your money. You paid your debts, and you never owed anyone anything.

We always had a holiday abroad. And if I was dancing in a show, I always had the costumes made for me. Mum found the money from somewhere to help with things she felt were important so I never went without.

Has there been a time in your life when you didn’t know how to pay the bills?

I had hard times. At drama school I remember it being very tough because I was on a grant. I worked at the Old Vic as an usherette because I couldn’t afford to live just on the grant.

My income has been on and off during my career because with our job, you can have six months’ unemployment. So I would never assume I’ve got money coming in every month for the rest of my life. I can’t remember who it was who said “save when you’re earning for the times when you’re not”. I suppose I have always done that. Whenever I’m earning, I try and put some away.

What was your first wage packet?

When I was 16 I got £38 as a dancer. I also worked at British Tissues, selling toilet rolls down the phone when I left school for £30 a week.

Did you do well from Only Fools and Horses?

At the BBC, certainly in the days when we were doing it, you didn’t earn a lot of money as an actor. I don’t know about the others but we weren’t on huge whacking great salaries. You got paid well enough to be able to continue paying a mortgage and bills and look after your kids. But you weren't on silly money because the BBC just didn’t pay it.

When the show was repeated a lot on the BBC, we would get paid, I think, about 80pc of your fee, which was very generous.

They don’t repeat it on the BBC at all now, because they’ve done a deal with UK Gold. So although it is on loads, we get a much smaller amount.

The only thing that matters when I choose jobs is whether I want to play that part or work with that person or do that writing. That’s the thing that dominates. Someone could offer me a million pounds, and if it’s something I’m not interested in I won’t do it.

There were very well paid adverts in the days of Only Fools and Horses that I could have done, but I didn’t want to do them. I didn’t want to be somebody who sold goods. It wasn’t what I became an actress for.

What’s the most lucrative part of your career?

Probably Grantchester. I’ve had more security, certainly.

Have you ever been paid silly money for a job?

I haven’t actually, no.

What has been your best buy?

My first house when I was 23 years old for £23,000. I bought a little railway cottage in Cricklewood, North London: a two up, two down, that needed doing up. I was lucky. I got a 100pc mortgage. as I had no savings and, at that time, you could sign on and get your mortgage paid and housing benefit as an actor.

And I’ve never looked back. I advise anyone now that I talk to, youngsters and young drama students, to try to just get your first step on the ladder because you’ll never regret it.

What was your worst financial decision?

My godmother, who brought me up when my mum died, left me about £45,000. I was very young at the time and didn’t know what to do. I asked a financial advisor somebody suggested, and they put it in the stock market.

A week later was Black Monday. So I panicked. The financial advisor said to stick with it – but I took out what was left, which wasn’t very much. I wish I’d never invested it in the first place and I wish I hadn’t then drawn it out because I think if I had listened to him, and left it in, it would have already made it up again. That was my first experience of the stock market… and my last.

Have you been affected by the change in the state pension age?

Yes. It’s appalling. A friend of mine who is six years older than me will make £50,000 pounds more than me in her pension, because she claimed at 60. And I can’t claim till I’m 66. None of us were given enough notice.

We are all part of WASPI [Women Against State Pension Inequality], which is trying to appeal and get some sort of compensation.

What are your financial priorities over the next five to ten years?

I am planning to work till I die. I don’t need millions. I will be very happy just to keep working. If I can, I’ll help my children.

Do you invest in shares Or property?

I don’t. I own a home, but I haven’t got stocks and shares and I won’t again.

Does money make you happy?

Not as happy as doing an amazing job where I love playing that part, and not as happy as seeing some of my family or friends having a brilliant time.

Tessa Peake-Jones has recently appeared in the UK tour of ‘Ladies of Letters’, which was produced by the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre


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