The dog house: Rory Cowlam has invested in a new property in addition to having a pension and an ISA
Vet and entertainer Rory Cowlam is sometimes so taken aback by the huge fees offered to him that he pinches himself and checks that he hasn’t misread the amount.
Better known as CBBC’s Rory the Vet, The Pets Factor star tells Donna Ferguson he can charge fees of up to £5,000 a day from brands who want him to promote their products.
The 30-year-old, who became Blue Peter’s resident vet in 2019, invests in pension, scholarship and property and regularly gives to charities including Street Vets, the RSPCA and the British Dyslexia Association. He is currently taking seven months off to travel around the world with his fiancée. His autobiography, The Secret Life Of A Vet, is out now.
What did your parents teach you about money?
They taught me the importance of good financial decisions and habits. My father hammered home the importance of a pension, while one of my mother’s favorite phrases was, “Take care of the pennies and the books will take care of themselves.”
When she died, we emptied her apartment and found all those pennies she had saved everywhere. My father was a businessman at Diageo and my mother worked in marketing. There were times when money was tight. But as a teenager, my father got a better paying job. After that I was lucky enough to have things like vacations a year and learn to ski.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
No, I was incredibly lucky. I always knew I wanted to get a degree in veterinary medicine and I was lucky enough to have the means to study for it. Yes, as a student I had to eat beans from a tin many, many times and pay £9,000 a year in fees. But I don’t classify that as a struggle. Since then I have always been well paid and very happy.
How did you get your job on The Pets Factor?
I started posting on social media when I was in college and had a modest following. Then, shortly after getting my first job as a veterinarian, I was approached to be on the show. I did eight seasons and from there I ended up on all kinds of TV and radio shows.
Have you ever been paid stupid money?
Yes, absolutely, for brand promotional work. The most I ever earned was £5,000 for a day of filming and creating content for a company. I wish those days would return more frequently, as anyone would.
But, I’m also trying not to lose sight of the fact that only a small percentage of people on this planet get paid that kind of money to do ridiculous things on camera, and for me that’s probably only going to last a very short period. I know I’m very lucky.
The most expensive thing you bought for fun?
My wedding suit from bespoke tailor Montague Ede. I’ve chosen the ups and downs, and it’s going to cost several thousand pounds. The most I’ve ever spent on a costume so far is £300. But I’m more into fashion and appreciate good craftsmanship. Plus, I live in scrubs while I work — which are basically unflattering pajamas — and I’m covered in all kinds of bodily fluids. It’s going to be special to dress up.
What is your biggest financial mistake?
I fell into credit card debt when I was 19, spending on things I shouldn’t have. I owed around £2,500 and had to get out. It was a very steep learning curve.
What’s the best financial decision you’ve made?
Hiring my manager. Without him, I wouldn’t have the majority of the work I do. When he brings me work, I sometimes have “pinch” moments where I try to wipe the screen, in case I misread the charges.
I am an impostor. Actually, I’m a veterinarian. I am not a media personality. It’s such a weird life that I ended up having, and I love it, but I don’t value myself financially like my manager does. Valuing myself correctly is impossible for me.
Do you own a property?
Yes. In 2017 my sister and I bought a small new build property in Streatham Hill, south London, for £620,000. He’s probably worth £650,000 now. I intended to live there, but then moved in with my fiancée instead. Now I see it as a nest egg for the future.
At work: Rory on CBBC’s The Pets Factor
Do you save in a pension?
I do. I started when I got my first job at the age of 22. It gives me peace of mind. Who knows what the state pension will be when I retire in 30 or 40 years – probably £3 a week? If you stray a little here and there you won’t notice it, but it can really add up.
Do you invest directly in the stock market?
I do. I invest through an ISA because it is tax efficient. I generally invest in environmentally friendly stocks.
What luxury do you give yourself?
Ski. I try to get out every year if I can, and it’s not cheap. I also have a meal at a good restaurant in London about once a month. I will spend up to £300 a head.
Do you donate money to charity?
Yes. I choose three charities a year and give them a monthly donation. This year I chose Street Vets, RSPCA and a charity for deaf and blind children.
I also give my time. I am an ambassador for the RSPCA, Street Vets and the British Dyslexia Association.
I also work closely with Dogs Trust and Dogs For Autism and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
If you were Chancellor, what would you do?
I would make giving to charities more tax efficient for individuals and businesses. I would also increase government funding for charities, especially animal charities, which are going through a severe crisis this winter.
Many pet owners worry about paying their bills and therefore don’t take their pets to the vet.
Charities such as the RSPCA, the Dogs’ Trust and PDSA, the veterinary charity, are doing their best, but they need all the help they can get.
What is your number one financial priority?
So you don’t have to think or worry about money. If I make it and can support my family, I will be happy.
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