On song: Dick Valentine, of Electric Six, is also a day-trader
Singer-songwriter Dick Valentine invested wisely in property, a pension and the stock market after spending his 20s working in various day jobs and learning about the value of money.
Despite being lead vocalist for the band Electric Six, he claims not to be a ‘real’ rock and roll star. He tells Donna Ferguson he has never done cocaine, bought a guitar or thrown a television out of a window.
Now 50, he lives in New York with his wife and two daughters, aged four and nine. His latest album, Streets Of Gold, is out now.
What did your parents teach you about money?
To buy only what you can afford and pay off your credit cards when you can. I grew up in suburban Midwest America and both my parents worked in sales. Dad sold lighting fixtures to owners of office buildings and factories, while Mum sold office furniture. So, between them, they sold the things that made you able to sit and see when in an office.
Given they worked in sales, their income fluctuated and some years were better than others. There were times when we seemed to be living high on the hog. But at an early age, I learnt that when it comes to money, there are ups and downs.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Not really. I’ve always been responsible when it comes to money. Even when I wasn’t earning a big wage, I figured out how to make that work for me. I was in the rock band Electric Six for six years before we got a record deal. I always had day jobs to pay the rent – I did everything from working as a barista at a coffee chain to driving buses and copywriting. So I’ve never missed a rent payment and, so far at least, I have never really got into trouble with money. I have always lived within my means.
Spending my 20s working in ‘real’ jobs has given me some perspective on how amazing it is – and how lucky I am – to make a living doing what I do as a musician. I think if I had got a record deal at age 21, I might not have had that perspective. So many musicians do not realise that the struggles you may have on tour are so much better than anything you might be dealing with if you had a 9 to 5 job at home.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes. The silliest was when we played at the Big Day Out music festival in London’s Finsbury Park in 2005. We only had to do four songs and they paid us an exorbitant amount of money. It might have been more than £10,000.
What was the best year of your financial life?
It was 2004 – a result of how much we were touring and also what we were being paid in royalties for the use of our songs on radio, TV and film. The big hits we had – such as Danger! High Voltage and Gay Bar – were in 2003, but we got our royalties in 2004. I’m not talking millions, or retirement money. But it was probably close to £100,000, which was a step up from working as a barista.
What is your biggest money mistake?
I don’t think I’ve made any big money mistakes. I’m not an extravagant type. I’ve never taken cocaine and I’m not a real rock and roll star. I’ve never bought a guitar. I’ve never thrown a television out of a window. When I get money, a lot of the time it goes straight into a savings account.
The best money decision you have made?
Buying my two-bedroom apartment with my wife in Brooklyn, New York City, in 2011. We bought it at the right time and it’s gone up in value. It feels like a great investment. It provides us with both a home and financial security.
Do you save into a pension?
Yes, I have a retirement fund that I throw money into. I started doing that when I was 22. Although we have social security in the US, our retirement benefits aren’t as good as those in the UK. I realised I needed to look after myself because the US government isn’t going to do it for me. I used to save into my fund every year, but since I have had kids, I tend to be more ad hoc about it. I just throw some money in every now and then.
Do you invest in the stock market?
The band’s guitar player, John Nash, got me into it in 2009. I started day-trading online while on tour, investing in low to medium-risk stocks, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve made thousands, not millions of pounds. I’m ahead. But not ahead enough to give up my day job and start my own investment firm.
Do you take advice about what to invest in?
No, with online trading, it’s easy to do it yourself and I enjoy learning about stocks. I find it fascinating.
I invest in companies when I like what they do as a business. But also I invest in companies I don’t like so much if I have a good idea of where the top and bottom of the stock is and can make money from that.
Recently, I’ve been investing in a lot of solar energy companies. I’m anticipating they’re at the bottom right now in terms of their share prices, but will bounce back.
Of course, I could be wrong and I would caution anyone not to take financial advice from me.
I think my interest in stocks also has a lot to do with sitting in a van and being on the road for six or seven hours a day. It’s something to do.
What is the one luxury you treat yourself to?
I like a meal out two or three times a week. New York has the best food in the world. I’ll typically spend at least £60 each time I go out.
If you were Chancellor what is the first thing you would do?
I have three things I would do and I’m not going to pick one over the other.
I would allocate more immediate funding for refugees settling in the UK, especially with what’s going on in Ukraine.
I would keep the NHS going. From an American perspective, it’s amazing to have a national healthcare system like that.
And I’d improve funding for education. I have kids and I think education is incredibly important.
Do you donate money to charity?
Yes, and I also donate my time once in a blue moon, but not as much as I should. It’s something I would like to do more of.
What is your number one financial priority?
To make sure our daughters have everything they need. Once you have kids, they’re all that matters.