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Deborah Meaden reveals how having no money helped her thrive

The Dragons' Den star recalls how she lived hand to mouth

Tracy Schaverien
Features Contributor
4 days ago
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Dragons' Den star Deborah Meaden has joined HELLO! for an exclusive interview and photoshoot in Somerset and tells how, despite being a multi-millionaire, she drives a 20-year-old car and wears clothes from the 1990s.

Rather than splashing out on private jets, a fleet of fast cars or a wardrobe full of designer clothes, Deborah says her only extravagance is the farmhouse she and her husband Paul Farmer have lovingly and ethically renovated, and where they live with a menagerie of cats, dogs, horses, pigs, geese, ex-battery hens and a flock of rescue sheep. 

"I'm not at all extravagant," says Deborah, 65. "At my age you think, what do I need? I don't want more stuff. 

"I drive a 20-year-old Porsche and most of my clothes are very old - luckily, the nineties are fashionable again. When I'm in Somerset, I ride most mornings and walk the dogs. I just love being outside and we often have friends over for dinner parties, simple stuff."

Deborah Meaden poses for HELLO! shoot
"I love being outside and we often have friends over for dinner parties, simple stuff," said Deborah

From rags to riches

Deborah, who was once a Butlin's bingo caller, also explains her attitude to money as she releases a financial guide for teenagers called Deborah Meaden Talks Money – a follow-up to Why Money Matters, which was for children aged six to nine. 

"I think I was very lucky because when I was young, we didn't have any money," she says. "My mum divorced when I was 18 months old, so for the first seven years of my life, we really lived hand to mouth. I always felt safe and taken care of, but money wasn't easy. 

"And I think that's a gift because I understood very early on the value of money. Not having money helped me understand I had to earn it, I had to save it and I had to value the things that I wanted to spend it on."

Making teens money-savvy

"All of my friends have had kids and they're all teenagers right now, and we're handing them a pretty tough legacy economically and planet-wise," continues the former Strictly Come Dancing contestant. "There's a lot of anxiety about what the future is going to look like. 

"Teenagers are facing issues like, how are they going to earn their money? How do they save their money? How do they pay tax? Then there is bitcoin and cryptocurrency. And it's really important to talk to them about how they can think about controlling invisible money."

Deborah Meaden poses for HELLO! shoot
"I'm not at all extravagant," she says

Meeting husband Paul

Deborah herself left home at 16 to do a business studies course in Brighton, where she lived in a YWCA hostel and made ends meet by working in bars and washing up in restaurants. Later, she did a stint at a Butlin's in Minehead, where she met Paul, who is now retired from a career in the amusements industry. 

"I was a bingo caller and Paul worked in one of the arcades," she recalls. "He is confident, calm, sensible, funny, smart, insightful and he's a fantastic cook. I've never cooked; I'm rubbish."

Deborah's top money tips for teenagers:

  1. Remember that your money should be working for you; you shouldn't be working for your money. Know what you want out of life and make sure that you do the things that provide enough money for you to do those things that you really care about.
  2. Understand the difference between wants and needs. When I was a teenager, I would say, ‘I need this', but I didn't.  I just wanted it. 
  3. Budget. Budgeting sounds like a complicated word, but it's no different than saying, how much money have I got coming in? How much money have I got going out? And if you begin to understand that at an early age, you're in a good position to manage your finances. 
  4. Think about the things that you really, really care about and try to find a career you love. 

Deborah Meaden Talks Money is published by Harper Collins on 23 May.


To read the full interview, pick up the latest issue of HELLO! on sale in the UK now. You can subscribe to HELLO! to get the magazine delivered free to your door every week or purchase the digital edition online via our Apple or Google apps.

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