The best financial decision Aggie MacKenzie ever made was giving up her job at the Good Housekeeping Institute to present Channel 4 TV series How Clean Is Your House?
She told Donna Ferguson that she went on to earn up to £440,000 a year from her TV work – a salary she felt she did not deserve.
The Scottish presenter, 66, lives in a mortgage-free, two-bedroom house in North London, but says her heart remains in the Highlands where she grew up.
On her website Aggiestips.com, she offers household tips on domestic matters.
What did your parents teach you about money?
Not to fritter it away. My father was a jack of all trades. He was a blacksmith who repaired metalwork and ran the local garage.
My mother was a housewife when we were children, then she worked as a cleaner at the local hotel.
Even though Dad ran his own business and had access to more cash than most people, there wasn’t much money around when I was growing up.
There were six of us and we lived in a three-bedroom council house in Rothiemurchus, in the Scottish Highlands.
My parents were from poor backgrounds and it had been inculcated into them that money was not to be wasted.
They believed, for example, that holidays were frivolous and it was better to spend your money on furniture and items that last, rather than experiences.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Not really. I’ve always been in jobs where I’ve been paid OK and I’m not stupid about money. I’ve always managed to live within my means.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes, I have. In the mid-2000s, I was paid ridiculous amounts. The silliest money I ever earned was a £100,000 bonus I got for some TV work I had already agreed to do. My agent was thrilled, but I felt weird. I didn’t think I deserved it.
What was the best year of your financial life?
It was 2003, the first year I did the TV show How Clean Is Your House? I was still working four days a week at the Good Housekeeping Institute, earning around £50,000 a year.
Then, all weekend, I’d film the show. In total, I managed to earn an extra £100,000 in my spare time. It felt amazing.
When the second series was commissioned, I realised I had to be brave and leave my job at Good Housekeeping. I couldn’t hack the pace of working all weekend when my children were small.
That’s when I started being thrown all this money for doing series after series. I was also getting advertising gigs and work in America. In 2004, I earned £440,000. That made me feel a bit sick. I didn’t feel comfortable with it.
The most expensive thing you bought for fun?
It was an abstract sculpture by artist Laura Thomas for £1,500. I sent her pictures of colours and shapes I like and she created it based on that. It still gives me a lot of pleasure.
What is your biggest money mistake?
On the advice of a friend, I invested a six-figure sum in a property investment scheme that promised a really good return – but it turned out to be a pyramid scheme and soon folded.
I’ve never worked out exactly how much money I lost, but it would have been enough to give my children good deposits on flats so they could buy their own homes. It was horrible when I found out.
But I’ve managed to forgive myself and move on. I never deserved that money in the first place.
The best money decision you have made?
Deciding to leave my job at Good Housekeeping. I had no guarantee my TV career would work out, but I felt I had to seize the day.
I love my work and even though I’m 66, I’ve not even considered retiring. I have a lot of freedom over how and when I work, and I think that’s invaluable.
Do you save into a pension?
Not any more. There’s quite enough in the plan and it seems to be making money by itself. I started a pension when I was in my early 20s.
I was encouraged to do so by National Magazine Company which owns Good Housekeeping. I’m glad I did so as now I get £350 a month in pension income, plus I got a tax-free lump sum last year.
Do you invest in the stock market?
I do through a financial adviser. I have several Isas and invest in a large number of investment funds.
I can’t remember which ones, but I know I don’t invest in tobacco, oil and arms. I take £500 a month in income from my investments and yet my capital still manages to grow.
Do you own any property?
Yes, I own the house I live in. It’s a modern, two-bedroom house in North London. I bought it outright in 2016 for £770,000 after the marital home was sold following our divorce.
I suppose it has gone up in value since then, but I’m not sure. I love living in London, but my heart is still in the Highlands and always will be.
What is the one luxury you treat yourself to?
Perfume. There’s one I like called Portrait Of A Lady. It costs £140 for a 50ml bottle, but it’s my luxury and I absolutely love it.
If you were Chancellor what would you do?
I would reinstate the Sure Start scheme which assisted families with young children living in disadvantaged areas.
I’ve got lots of friends who work in the public sector who say the scheme made a huge difference to mums who were struggling with small children.
It provided places of support and safety where families who were struggling could be identified early on and the children given help at a young age.
By all accounts, it worked really well. And then it was taken away and it hasn’t been replaced with anything. I know it would make a huge difference to many families if it was brought back.
What is your number one financial priority?
Helping my two sons get on the property ladder. One is 30 and is in the process of buying with his girlfriend – while the younger one is not yet ready to settle down.
But that’s my priority: to help them on their way because London rents are ridiculously expensive. I’d like them to have financial security and a nice place of their own to call home.Internet Explorer Channel Network