Electric Six singer Dick Valentine talks to ME & MY MONEY
In song: Electric Six’s Dick Valentine is also a day-trader
Singer-songwriter Dick Valentine invested wisely in real estate, a pension and the stock market after spending his 20s working various day jobs and learning the value of money.
Although he is the lead singer of the band Electric Six, he claims not to be a “real” rock and roll star. He tells Donna Ferguson that he has never used cocaine, bought a guitar, or thrown a television out the window.
Now 50, he lives in New York with his wife and two daughters, aged four and nine. His latest album, Streets Of Gold, has just been released.
What did your parents teach you about money?
Only buy what you can afford and pay off your credit cards when you can. I grew up in the suburbs of the American Midwest and both my parents worked in sales. Dad sold light fixtures to owners of office buildings and factories, while Mom sold office furniture. So between them they sold the things that let you sit and see in an office.
Since they worked in sales, their incomes fluctuated and some years were better than others. There were times when we seemed to be living high on the hog. But very young, I learned that when it comes to money, there are ups and downs.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Not really. I have always been responsible when it comes to money. Even when I wasn’t earning a big salary, I figured out how to make it work for me. I was in the rock band Electric Six for six years before we had a record deal. I’ve always had day jobs to pay rent — I’ve done everything from barista work at a chain of coffee shops to bus driving and writing. So, I’ve never missed a rent payment and, so far at least, I’ve never really had money problems. I have always lived within my means.
Spending my 20s working ‘real’ jobs made me realize how amazing – and how lucky – it is to make a living doing what I do as a musician. I think if I had gotten a recording contract at 21, I might not have had that prospect. So many musicians don’t realize that the struggles you might have on tour are far better than anything you might have to do if you had a 9-to-5 job at home.
Have you ever been paid stupid money?
Yes. The silliest part was when we played the Big Day Out music festival at Finsbury Park in London in 2005. We only had to do four songs and they paid us an exorbitant sum. It could have been over £10,000.
What was the best year of your financial life?
That was in 2004 – because of our many tours and also because of what we received in royalties for the use of our songs in radio, television and cinema. The big hits we’ve had – like Danger! High Voltage and Gay Bar – that was 2003, but we got our royalties in 2004. I’m not talking about 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 financial mistake?
I don’t think I made any big money mistakes. I’m not the extravagant type. I’ve never taken cocaine and I’m not a real rock star. I have never bought a guitar. I have never thrown a television out the window. When I receive money, most of the time it goes directly into a savings account.
What’s the best financial decision you’ve made?
Buying my two bedroom apartment with my wife in Brooklyn, New York in 2011. We bought it at the right time and it went up in value. Sounds like a great investment. It offers us both housing and financial security.
Do you save in a pension?
Yes, I have a retirement fund that I throw money into. I started doing this when I was 22. Although we have social security in the US, our pension benefits are not as good as in the UK. I realized that I had to take care of myself because the US government wouldn’t do it for me. I used to save in my fund every year, but since I have kids I tend to be more punctual about it. I just throw in a little money once in a while.
Do you invest in the stock market?
Band guitarist John Nash got me started in 2009. I started day trading online while on tour, investing in low to medium risk stocks, and haven’t looked back. from. I won thousands, not millions of pounds. I’m ahead. But not early enough to give up my day job and set up my own investment company.
Do you take advice on what to invest?
No, with online trading it’s easy to do it yourself and I like to learn about stocks. I find that fascinating.
I invest in companies when I like what they do as a company. But I also invest in companies that I don’t like so much if I have a good idea of where the stock is high and low and can make money from it.
Recently I have invested in many solar energy companies. I predict they are at rock bottom right now in terms of their stock prices, but will rebound.
Of course, I could be wrong and would advise anyone not to follow my financial advice.
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 luxury do you give yourself?
I like a meal at the restaurant two or three times a week. New York has the best cuisine in the world. I usually spend at least £60 every 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 funds for refugees settling in the UK, especially with what is happening in Ukraine.
I would maintain the NHS. From an American perspective, it’s amazing to have a national healthcare system like this.
And I would improve funding for education. I have children and I think education is extremely important.
Do you donate money to charity?
Yes, and I also gave of my time once in a blue moon, but not as much as I should. It’s something I’d like to do more.
What is your number one financial priority?
To make sure our girls have everything they need. Once you have kids, they’re all that matters.
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