Former Special Forces soldier Ollie Ollerton thinks it’s not worth investing in either pensions or property because neither is the route to wealth.
Instead, Ollerton, star of Channel 4 TV show SAS: Who Dares Wins, prefers to invest in his own businesses and designer watches. He does not save into a pension and rents his own home despite earning a six-figure salary.
The 49-year-old spoke to Donna Ferguson from his home in Shropshire where he lives with fiancee Laura, 40, and her son William, 11. His latest book, Battle Ready: Eliminate Doubt, Embrace Courage, Transform Your Life is out now.
Time is money: Former SAS member Ollie Ollerton
What did your parents teach you about money?
Not much. I came from an affluent family. My father ran an engineering company. Then, when I was about eight years old, he lost his business overnight.
It went from a wealthy lifestyle, where I attended a nice private school, to a more normal upbringing where I went to a state school. We had to move into a new house with my grandparents. My mum, who was a manager at a brewery, became the sole breadwinner. When I was 13, my father walked out on us which placed an even bigger financial burden on my mum.
She became a single parent, bringing up two kids, so money was really tight. I was still young, so even though there was a marked difference in how we were living, I still wanted the best of everything and lots of ‘stuff’. That proved a catalyst for the financial issues I suffered in later life.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, after I joined the Royal Marines. You hardly get paid anything and I just could not live within my budget. I had a carefree attitude to spending. I took out a loan to buy an MG car and spent a lot on socialising. I couldn’t afford my lifestyle and ended up £15,000 in debt. That was a year’s wages for me at the time. I ended up defaulting on the car loan and they took my MG away.
I was risking my life for my job, but I was more concerned about how I was going to pay my bills every month. It caused a lot of stress. The last thing you want is to be serving your country and worrying about cash.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes, after I had been promoted into the SAS, I went to Iraq and started earning £13,000 a month as a civilian contractor. Given it was a war zone, everything I earned was tax-free. But I spent it all. I still had no money because I didn’t know how to live within my means. Money controlled me, not the other way around.
I earned an absolute fortune, but it wasn’t worth the sacrifices I was making. There were people around me getting shot. Friends were dying and getting kidnapped. After living there for five years, I had to leave because my mental health was deteriorating.
What was the best year of your financial life?
Ollie Ollerton owns a £5,500 ‘James Bond’ Omega watch
Last year. I’ve now got five businesses, including a corporate training business and an academy for veterans. I also earn money from mindset courses, a fitness app, the TV stuff I do, my bestselling books and personal appearances. I don’t want to say exactly how much I earned last year, but it was certainly a six figure sum.
What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun?
It was an old Honda cafe racer motorbike for £12,000. I saw it and had to have it. It’s a 1971 CB750 Four that was custom-built. It’s my pride and joy and I’m constantly spending more money on it to make it look even cooler. I also have an £8,000 car that looks like an armoured tank – it was created for a film set.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Using a loophole, I withdrew my entire pension – £50,000 – early and spent it on furnishing a house I didn’t own. It was my ex-girlfriend’s home and when the relationship failed I lost all that money.
The best money decision you have made?
Going on TV. It was effectively like getting lots of free advertising for my businesses which have constantly expanded and evolved since then. But I always imagined I would earn this much – I had already thought about it. I will earn a huge amount more in the future as well.
Do you save into a pension?
No. If I’ve got to rely on a pension at some point, then something’s gone wrong with what I am aiming to do. I’m relying on my businesses and my assets. I think pensions are a load of rubbish. I have no faith in them. Suddenly there can be a shift and your pension is worthless. How can you have confidence in a system that is dictated by someone else?
Do you own any property?
No, I rent. I did own a couple of properties – one in the UK and one in Australia. I worked out how much I was paying, including the mortgage interest, and it wasn’t a good decision whatsoever. People are sold the dream that to buy a house is the key to wealth – it’s not. The only way to make money from property is to buy something and rent it out to someone else or use the land to earn a return.
I’m currently looking to buy a big property with lots of land that I can use for my businesses.
What is the one little luxury you treat yourself to?
Designer clothes and watches. I’ve got eight watches, including a £5,500 ‘James Bond’ Omega watch, which marked the 50th anniversary of the film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The ones that I buy are good investments and nice things to hand on.
If you were Chancellor what is the first thing you would do?
I’d fund more mental health assistance and financial support for Armed Forces veterans. They’ve put their lives on the line for this country and we owe them any support they need in return.
What is your number one financial priority?
To ensure the people who work for me get paid. Many of my public speaking and corporate training events have been cancelled due to coronavirus. We’ve been hit hard financially, but we haven’t furloughed anyone. We’ll get through this without having to take any Government handouts.
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