Support: Mark Bright sponsors seven children through a foundation
Former footballer Mark Bright grew up in foster care dreaming of being rich one day. Having now achieved financial success, his top priority is to be there for his son.
Bright – once so poor he struggled to buy food – reveals he used to clean toilets on a caravan site to earn a fiver.
As a bustling centre forward he helped take Sheffield Wednesday to the finals of both the League Cup and FA Cup in 1993 – and became the club’s top scorer for three consecutive seasons. He also played for Crystal Palace.
Now 57, he lives in a one-bed flat in South London and has one child, Isaiah, 19.
His book, My Story: From Foster Care To Footballer, has just been published.
What did your parents teach you about money?
Not much because I was taken into care when I was three. From the age of six until I was 16, I was fostered by a couple who taught me to be careful with money. They were amazing people – in total they fostered 50 kids. Because of their age, I called them my foster grandparents.
My foster grandad was a coal miner and he was strict with money. If I borrowed £5 off him, he would write it down in a book and I would be expected to pay him back gradually. He used to say: ‘Don’t spend what you haven’t got.’
We didn’t have much money. So if I ever got any, I would not waste it. I knew I was poor but I felt lucky. My foster family had a TV, car, telephone and a holiday caravan to go to. That was more than most people around us.
What was the first paid work you ever did?
Cleaning toilets on the caravan site when we went down there. I was 14 and would get paid £5 each weekend. My brother used to laugh at me for doing it, but I liked having money of my own.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, when I left fostering at 18 and got a job as an apprentice engineer earning about £25 a week. Most of that went on my rent and travel to work. I had no savings or anything. So I moved in with my brother who was 19 and he used to pay for my food. He supported me because he was earning a little bit more.
I always dreamt of being rich one day. I dreamt of having a new car and wearing nice clothes. That’s what you dream about when you are poor.
Biggest money mistake? Buying a three-bedroom, three-bathroom, three-storey townhouse in Knightsbridge in the early 1990s for £400,000 – and then selling it after only 18 months
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes. I was once paid £5,000 to go to the Champions League Final. All I had to do was give a 15-minute speech to some clients who were enjoying corporate hospitality. They flew me out there, I got to watch the match and when I got my fee, I thought, ‘Wow’. I would have gone for free.
What was the best year of your financial life?
It was 1993. I was playing for Sheffield Wednesday and we got to both the FA Cup and League Cup finals. I scored quite a few goals in the season which increased my earnings. On top, I got bonuses for winning games and helping get the team to two finals. I don’t remember exactly how much I earned, but it would have been a six-figure sum.
What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun?
It was a warm, brown quilted coat from Hermes on Bond Street in London for £1,000 in 1993. I went into the shop, casually dressed, and I asked the assistant if he had it in my size. He said: ‘That is £1,000.’
I replied: ‘I didn’t ask how much it was. I asked if you had it in my size.’ He replied: ‘OK, I was just explaining to you the price.’ I realised that he thought I could not afford it and I was just wasting his time. So when I tried it on and I liked the way it looked, I decided to buy it. I told him: ‘I’ll take it.’
What is your biggest money mistake?
Buying a three-bedroom, three-bathroom, three-storey townhouse in Knightsbridge in the early 1990s for £400,000 – and then selling it after only 18 months for not much more than what I had paid for it. I should have hung on and rented it out. It would be worth between £5million and £6million today.
The best money decision you have made?
Buying property. In 1985, I bought a one-bed flat for £64,000 within walking distance of the Kings Road in London. I still live there and I would estimate it’s now worth £500,000.
Do you save into a pension?
I did when I was playing football. When I reached 35, I got a tax-free lump sum. I used some of that to buy more property in London. In total, I now own three buy-to-lets. I don’t invest in the stock market directly. I would like to. But I don’t have the money to play with at the moment.
Travelling the world: Mark Bright particularly likes going to Africa
What is the one little luxury you treat yourself to?
Trips abroad. I go three or four times a year, usually somewhere I haven’t been before. I like learning about new cultures and travelling the world. I particularly like going to Africa.
If you were Chancellor, what would you do?
I would abolish inheritance tax. You’re taxed on your money while you are alive and then when you pass it down to your family, it gets taxed again. I think it’s unfair.
Do you donate money to charity?
Yes, I sponsor seven kids. I finance them through the not-for-profit Don McMath Foundation school in the Gambia. When one of them leaves, I sponsor a new one.
What is your number one financial priority?
To make sure there’s something left for my son Isaiah who is 19.
He is my absolute priority. I do not understand how anyone can have a child and then give them up. I deeply admire people like my foster grandparents who take on someone else’s child as their responsibility.
Now I have a child of my own, I couldn’t ever think of not being there for my son.
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