‘I wanted to become a TV vet – but had no idea it meant a pay cut!’: CBBC star James Greenwood tells how he broke into television and is now saving so he can start a family
Caring: Pets Factor star James Greenwood with a golden retriever puppy Dexter
Vet James Greenwood is currently doing all he can to save so that he can fulfil his lifelong dream of having a child.
The 36-year-old star of the CBBC series The Pets Factor would like to start a family with his husband, Mark, a landscape gardener.
He spoke to DONNA FERGUSON from their home near Bristol, where they live with dog Oliver, 12 chickens and 20 sheep. The latest series of The Pets Factor is available on BBC iPlayer.
What did your parents teach you about money?
To spend it wisely and respect its value. My dad is a financial adviser and worked very hard. And my mum was the primary carer.
I was never aware that money was tight. I think we were pretty comfortably off. But I was never spoiled. My mum is frugal and my dad does not believe in spending money frivolously – and I’ve definitely taken that on board. There’s nothing I love more than a yellow sticker bargain.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, when I first started getting work on television about four years ago. I went from working as a full-time vet with a secure salary to working part-time as a locum vet. That meant I had more time for my TV work, but I was quite surprised at how often TV work is unpaid.
I wasn’t paid for contributing to the first series of The Pets Factor, for example, because it was more of an observational documentary.
As a result, there was an 18-month period when I was struggling to cover the mortgage and my basic shopping needs. I was dipping into savings just to make ends meet – and keep a roof over my head.
That was the worst period of my life, financially. It was super stressful. If the money scales start tipping in the wrong direction, it can affect everything from your relationship to your home – and it can result in general anxiety.
I wanted to pursue the media opportunities I was being offered, but I realised a career in TV was not financially sustainable if I didn’t start getting paid. Now, my role on The Pets Factor is different. I’m more of a presenter and am paid accordingly.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes. I once took part in a branded PR campaign to raise awareness around parasite control. I earned several thousand pounds – a month’s wages for a vet – in about four hours. It was crazy. I almost fell off my chair when I got the email. I had to read it several times, as I thought they’d put an extra zero on my fee by mistake.
It was quite electrifying to earn that much money in such a short period of time. As a vet, the money you earn is quite low for the amount of emotional stress.
Vets’ salaries aren’t nearly comparable to doctors or dentists. The amount of financial commitment it takes to become a vet versus the reward, in terms of salary, means it’s definitely a labour of love.
You go into it understanding that being a vet is a vocation – an absolute passion – rather than something that you are going to make a lot of money from.
What was the best year of your financial life?
Last year. I took a big gamble taking a pay cut to work in TV, but I’m now making as much as I would make if I was working flat out full-time as a vet.
I am hoping this year will be even better but it’s difficult to know, due to the coronavirus.
What was the most expensive thing you bought just for fun?
A natural seagrass carpet for my home. My husband and I were renovating our house, which is quite old, and I had always wanted to have this specific type of carpet. It cost about £5,000 to carpet two rooms.
However, the dog vomited on it, a lamb called Sprout urinated on it and we had a leak from the bathroom – so it all had to be replaced.
It was such a ridiculous extravagance, but I still absolutely love it.
What was the best money decision you made?
Getting on the property ladder. We bought our first home, a two-bedroom house in Bristol, in 2012. We sold it three years later and made £40,000. That enabled us to buy our current home, a three-bedroom detached house on the outskirts of the city.
Do you save into a pension or invest in the stock market?
Yes I do save into a pension and have done so since I was 29 and started as a vet. My dad always encouraged me to start one.
I’ve also got some share-based Isas – I took advice from a financial adviser and invested a small amount about nine months ago.
I think it’s a good idea to have a spread of investments – a pension, a property, and stocks and shares – rather than putting all your money in one place.
Do you consider your home as an investment?
Yes. Our home was a project when we bought it, which means, unfortunately, we have been cooking on barbecue stoves and washing up in the bathtub for years.
But it’s finally getting to the point where it’s more like how I want it to be. Plus, our replacement carpet is down – so that makes me happy.
There’s a paddock behind the garden for our 20 sheep, though Sprout – the lamb who urinated on the carpet – lived in the house for three or four weeks during lockdown.
If you were Chancellor what would you do?
I would throw more money at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – as well as all the animal charities working so hard to expose and clamp down on illegal puppy trading.
Puppy farming and illegal puppy smuggling has boomed through the coronavirus lockdown as the demand for puppies has skyrocketed. It’s heartbreaking as a vet to witness this exploitation of animals and more needs to be done to toughen the laws around it.
What is your number one financial priority?
To save more money so that my husband and I can start a family. I never thought that becoming a dad would be an option for me when I was growing up. But my husband and I have got so much love to give and would like to be able to experience parenthood, like so many other people do.
We’re looking at how we can put the money together because if we go down the surrogate route, all the expenses need to be covered by the intended parents, which costs thousands of pounds. We’re exploring adoption as well.
But either way, we know that bringing up a child is going to put extra financial strain on our household. So we’re being careful with all the money we have coming in at the moment and trying to save as much as possible.
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