On song: Carol Decker was evicted from her family home as a child
Carol Decker, of rock band T’Pau, became a millionaire in the late-1980s as a result of a string of hit songs including China In Your Hand and Heart And Soul.
But she lost a fortune when the band split up and her relationship with band member Ronnie Rogers ended.
Now 64, she is married to Richard Coates and has two grown-up children. This September, Carol is appearing in The Essential 80s Tour, alongside Paul Young and Hue & Cry. Visit myticket.co.uk/ artists/essential-80s for details and tickets. She spoke to Donna Ferguson.
What did your parents teach you about money?
Not to spend what I don’t have. I’m sensible with money. I enjoy spending it, but I would never get into debt for a luxury I couldn’t afford. My dad worked in upper management in the supermarket industry. My mother was a housewife and a homemaker. They were working-class Liverpudlians and when I was young I remember money being tight.
We were evicted on to the street when I was four because my parents had fallen behind with the rent. We had to go and live with my grandmother who was a tyrannical mother-in-law – my mum was scared of her. She was a tough old bird was Nana Decker.
Eventually, we moved into a council flat where I remember we could hear the neighbours arguing and fighting. My dad put himself through night school and got business credentials. He was a hard worker and he wanted to elevate our lives.
How did your childhood affect your attitude to money?
It made me cautious. My life changed when I was seven. My dad got a management job at a supermarket in Shropshire and so my parents could afford to buy a three-bedroom, semi-detached house.
To my mum, it was like Buckingham Palace. She had grown up in Liverpool as one of seven, sleeping three in a bed and using a tin bath to wash and an outside loo. By the time I was 12, we were going abroad for holidays. We became better off as a family thanks to my father’s hard work.
In my own life, I’ve always been protective about money so that I can be independent and look after myself. I never want to find myself in a vulnerable position like the one my family was in when we were evicted.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, like most musicians I was skint for ages before I got a record deal. From the age of 22, I was in and out of part-time jobs while trying to make it as a singer in a local band. I even signed on the dole while working behind the bar – which you weren’t supposed to do – just to make ends meet.
When I met Ronnie Rogers, who was my partner for 13 years, we were so broke we couldn’t afford any heating in our flat – there was ice on the inside of the windows.
My dad bought us a Calor Gas heater that we would wheel around according to the room we were in. We used to sit and watch a small black and white TV in sleeping bags. My mum told me later that she would visit us and cry on the way home. But we were young, in love and ambitious. When I was 26, we got a music deal and sold the copyright to a few of our songs. The £5,000 advance we got felt like a fortune.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes, when our band T’Pau was enjoying success. TV shows would pay me £20,000 to perform a song – that happened a handful of times.
What was the best year of your financial life?
IT was 1988. All our major hits were in 1987 and the money took a little while to come through the pipeline. That year, I bought a three-bedroom Victorian house at the bottom of Hampstead Heath in London and a huge ten-acre farm in Wales. I’d rather not say exactly how much I earned that year, but it was a lot. It was a seven figure sum which would be the equivalent of £3million today.
What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun?
It was a brand new Mazda MX-5 car for £17,000. I paid for it in cash. I didn’t learn to drive when I was young because I was too skint. Then I was too busy and got driven everywhere. I bought the Mazda when I passed my driving test at age 33. In the early 1990s, the MX-5 was a head-turning sports car. I loved posing in it. I’d always have the top down and put on my Ray-Bans. I would use any excuse – like ‘we need milk’ – to drive it.
Hitting the right notes: Carol became a millionaire in the late-1980s as a result of a string of hit songs, including China In Your Hand and Heart And Soul, with rock band T’Pau
What is your biggest money mistake?
I lent a four-figure sum to some friends who never paid it back. What upset me the most was that I found out they were partying and spending tons on drugs. I lent them the money because they had a kid. When I found out what they were doing, I asked if they were ever going to pay me back. The response was, ‘No – you don’t need it. What’s a couple of grand to you?’ I didn’t feel the same way about them after that.
The best money decision you have made?
Buying my home in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, in 2005 for £615,000. It’s a five-bedroom white dormer bungalow with a swimming pool. It’s definitely gone up in value since we bought it. We’ve still got a £12,000 mortgage which my husband Richard and I are chipping away at.
Do you save into a pension or invest in the stock market?
No. I don’t really know what I’m doing with regard to the stock market. I did start a pension in the late 1980s when I first made money and my financial adviser told me to. But I haven’t put anything in it for 20 years.
If you were Chancellor, what is the first thing you would do?
I would cut VAT to five per cent and abolish Inheritance Tax. The Government taxes you on what you earn all your life. So why again when you die?
Do you donate money to charity?
Yes, I donate to Doctors Without Borders, especially right now due to the dire situations in Yemen and Ukraine.
What is your number one financial priority?
To keep a roof over my family’s head.
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