Racing driver Tom Onslow-Cole used to be so hard up that the only car he could afford was a second-hand Rover 25 – bought for £50 after it failed its MOT.
Onslow-Cole, now a BMW team driver for Nurburgring 24 Hours, earns £250,000 a year and can command tens of thousands of pounds in a few minutes when he gets behind the wheel of a car.
Now he has his eye on bigger things than a Rover 25 and has just bought a classic Porsche 964 for £30,000 on the spur of the moment and plans to spend up to £100,000 restoring it to its former glory.
He would like to see better tax breaks for motorsport sponsors to boost a booming UK industry and encourage more young, talented drivers to take up the sport professionally.
Now 30, he lives in a five-bedroom house in Buckinghamshire with fiancee Rebecca, 32.
What did your parents teach you about money?
That you can achieve wealth if you work hard, but you can also lose it easily.
When I was young I lived in relative luxury because my father had done well for himself with commercial property. Then, when I was about five, he lost all his wealth in the recession of the mid-1980s. We had to downsize our family home and move to a small flat.
Then I saw my father, who was entrepreneurial, build himself back up again. That was an important lesson. It taught me that to obtain money you need to have a good work ethic and that you should not be risk averse.
How much pocket money did you get as a child?
I do not remember getting any. Instead, as soon as I got to an age where I wanted my own money, I worked for it.
My father had his own removal business so when I was 12 I used to go out on the trucks with the guys and move furniture. It was hard work and if I was lucky, I would come out with £4 or £5 at the end of a weekend. It was character-building.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes. I have never gone hungry, but I have had to live on my credit card and drive around in a Rover 25 that I bought for £50 after it failed its MOT. To make it in motor-sport, you have to make a huge financial commitment at the start of your career. That is often a real struggle.
For example, when I was 18 I needed to race in the last round of the Renault Clio Cup Championship and the only way I could afford to do that was to sell my car, which at the time was a really cool 4×4. I did that and won the race – so I have no regrets.
Have you ever been paid silly money for a job?
Yes. The most I ever earned was for a job in 2010. I flew to China to test for a team. I drove the car for 45 minutes and then it was the turn of another driver who unfortunately had an accident and wrote off the car. So that was it.
We all packed our bags and went to Macau, which is famous for its casinos. I would not like to say exactly how much I was paid for those 45 minutes but it was certainly a high five-figure sum. Sadly, after Macau, I did not come back with much of it.
Tom has bought a classic Porsche 964 for £30,000 and plans to spend up to £100,000 restoring it to its former glory
What was the best year of your life in terms of money you made?
Even though we are just over halfway through it has to be this year. I am racing a lot and I have driven for the factory BMW team. I imagine I will earn a quarter of a million pounds this year. Not bad for a job I love doing.
What is the most expensive thing you have ever bought yourself?
The dream of my youth, a Porsche 964. I had a poster of one up on my bedroom wall as a child.I bought mine online 18 months ago for £30,000 on the spur of the moment. It was not in the condition I thought it would be in.
At the moment, it is basically an expensive ornament. It has no engine or wheels so I have not managed to drive it. I have looked at it lots, though, like I did at that poster.
What is the biggest money mistake you have ever made?
Buying the Porsche 964. I may have to spend up to £100,000 on its restoration and then it may only be worth between £80,000 and £100,000.
What is the best money decision you have ever made?
Hanging on to my first home, a £295,000 five-bedroom house in Buckinghamshire, despite a break-up with my ex. I had to really stretch myself to do that. But in less than five years, it has increased in value by 50 per cent.
I have released equity from it and invested that money in my business, EDEC Apparel, which makes hard shell cases for motorsport kits. That has brought in extra income because I am now distributing those cases worldwide.
Drivers travel so much and there is a lot of value in our race kits and obviously we do not want our helmets getting damaged in the hold of a plane. There was a real gap in the market for a hard shell kit bag.
Do you own any other property?
Not yet but I have been looking at buying a place in Barcelona which I can rent out when I am not there. I have raced there a few times and I like the city.
Do you save into a pension or invest in the stock market?
No. So far, I have been living a bit hand to mouth and enjoying life. But I have just turned 30 and saving is something that I am definitely going to look into. But saving is no fun. Earning a little interest each year is not as exciting as investing in a business. I am not averse to taking educated risks with my money.
Do you pay off your credit cards in full?
Nearly always. But when I have sent invoices for my work and I am pretty sure the money is going to arrive in a month or two, I will quite often go and spend that money on a credit card.
Tom used to be so hard up that the only car he could afford was a second-hand Rover 25
What is the one little luxury you like to treat yourself to?
Wearing the latest Casio Edifice watch. The technology is incredible and improving all the time. It is all motorsport-inspired. There are these cool lap timers and average speed calculators. I am a bit of a geek at heart.
I have got about 25 Edifice watches. I get sent a new one every couple of months for free, because I am an ambassador for the brand.
If you were Chancellor of the Exchequer, what is the first thing you would do?
Resign. I love my racing, travelling and enjoying life. Being Chancellor would be far too heavy a burden.
Joking apart, it would be fantastic to see more support for motorsport from the Government. The UK is the leader of this global sport – 90 per cent of Formula One teams are based in the UK – and it is a big industry.
It is not just racing, it is engineering and manufacturing too. Better tax breaks for businesses which want partnerships and sponsorships within motorsport would not hurt.
It is incredibly difficult for aspiring drivers to get into racing and you need financial backing and often family money to be able to do it. There are hundreds of talented drivers who will not make it to professional level because they have not got the funding to get their career going.
Do you think it is important to give to charity?
Yes, I do. My fiancee Rebecca is passionate about it. She donates regularly on our behalf and I also take part in charity motorsport events and donate my kit at the end of the year.
What is your number one financial priority?
To make a financial plan for my future. I only have another 15 years left as a driver if I am lucky. It is always at the back of your mind and weighs on you.