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Former Blue Peter star Peter Duncan talks to ME & MY MONEY

Actor and former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan has no pension to rely on in retirement. But he doesn’t feel financially insecure because he is using equity release to access the wealth he has accumulated in his £2.5million South London home. 

Duncan, 67, who presented the BBC children’s show in the 1980s, told DONNA FERGUSON he has never struggled to make ends meet. 

He is currently working on a new, interactive online pantomime, Cinderella, which is coming out at Christmas. Visit pantoonline.co.uk for more details. 

Star: Peter Duncan with fellow Blue Peter presenter Simon Groom, left, in 1982, and the actor today

What did your parents teach you about money? 

Not to spend what you haven’t got, and to be frugal. My father was a theatrical entrepreneur. He put on shows with my mother, who was a singer, and his income depended on what came through the box office. 

When I was born, they were broke and were putting on shows that lost money. But by the time I was ten, they were more successful. We moved into a bigger house and became more comfortable financially. But I grew up with an awareness that sometimes my parents would make a profit on a show and sometimes they wouldn’t. 

That taught me, too, to be frugal. Friends thought I led a fun and glamorous life as a child, but I knew that acting didn’t always add up – and that I didn’t get to go on expensive holidays and have shiny new bikes like other boys did.

Have you ever struggled to make ends meet? 

No. I left school at 15 and started working as an actor and I’ve been in work ever since, either in theatre or TV. I’m a grafter like my parents and something either always turned up, or I’d go off and find some work. 

Did you suffer financially during the pandemic? 

No, because the minute all the work for actors stopped, I decided to make a film in my back garden. 

At the time the pandemic kicked off, I was touring in a musical. I came back home and had an idea to make a pantomime film in my garden, which is quite big. I got lots of friends together and a crew, and we made this singalong online film where you interact with what you see on screen. 

It ended up going into the cinemas and had a national release and made the front page of newspapers in America. 

I didn’t know whether it would work out or not, but it did, and I didn’t lose my shirt. Now we’re doing another one for Christmas because of that.

Have you ever been paid silly money? 

Yes, when I made a commercial for diamond company De Beers in 1975 when I was 21. I was told to give a diamond ring to a model and ask her to marry me in various places. It took seven days to film and I got paid about £20,000, which would be the equivalent of earning around £170,000 today. I bought my first flat in London with the money I made. 

Was Blue Peter good for your finances? 

Working at the BBC actually reduced my income initially. I only got paid a few hundred pounds per episode. There was a sense that you were lucky to do it, that you’re going to be famous and all that malarkey. 

But it meant I had a steady job for four years – the first continuous job I’d ever had – and it led to more lucrative offers. It was a great job too – who wouldn’t want to be a Blue Peter presenter, travel the world and influence people’s lives? 

What was the best year of your financial life? 

It was around 2000. That was the start of the most productive decade of my life. I decided to make a documentary in 1999 about travelling the world with my four kids, seeing the world through their eyes. 

Rather than spending 12 months trying to persuade broadcast channels that my idea was good, I borrowed some money, went off and filmed it. 

I showed the raw footage, which was fantastic, to the BBC and it agreed to pay all post-production costs. Then they commissioned me to make two further series. That raised my profile and I became chief scout for The Scout Association as a result. 

That led to corporate work and endorsements.

The best money decision you have made? 

Getting on the property ladder in Chelsea, South-West London in 1975. I bought a one-bedroom flat for £7,000. A couple of years later, I sold it and bought a bigger flat in the same block for £20,000. Then I bought a house in nearby Fulham for £40,000 when I was 26. 

We moved to our current home, a five-bedroom house in South London, 35 years ago when I was in my early 30s. It cost £360,000. We had it valued before the pandemic and it was worth about £2.5million. 

It’s been a bedrock of financial security for us. 

Do you save into a pension? 

No, I don’t. I have a little pension which I saved into when I was young which now pays a meagre income. 

But I didn’t really believe in pensions so I stopped paying into it. There were a lot of financial scandals at the time and I didn’t trust the pension companies. 

I never got one at the BBC because I was a freelancer. So I just have my State pension. 

I don’t feel insecure about my retirement because we own such a big house. We’ve gone into equity release so we can access the wealth we’ve accumulated in our home. 

Do you invest directly in the stock market? 

No. I don’t want to invest in something I don’t have a handle on – and I don’t like the idea of people making money out of my money. 

I’d much rather invest in a business or social enterprise where I agree with the principle of what they are doing. 

What is the one luxury you treat yourself to? 

Clinique moisturiser, partly because as an actor I sometimes have to put on make-up. I spend £30 on a little pot and it lasts a while. 

If you were Chancellor, what would you do? 

I would stop levying inheritance tax on gifts made within families. I think you should have the ability to transfer your wealth to relatives without being punished. It’s not right for the Government to take a slice of that money, especially a Government that seems to be giving money to all of its friends. 

Do you donate money to charity? 

Yes, although I don’t donate that much. I give my time – I’m still vice-president of The Scout Association and I’m associated with five or six other charities. I’m also running a marathon in October to raise money for the Clothing Collective, a local charity that gives vouchers to homeless people so they can go to charity shops and choose some new clothes to wear. 

What is your number one financial priority? 

To keep being creative and pursuing the projects I want to do – and to keep receiving recompense for doing them. 

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