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Green Goddess Diana Moran: 'I didn't ask for money in my divorce'

Roz Lewis
Eighties TV fitness expert Diana Moran says her biggest lesson is trusting financial advisers too much - www.alamy.com

Famous for being the BBC’s Green Goddess fitness expert in the Eighties, 80-year-old former model Diana Moran continues to work as a broadcaster, writer and health/fitness expert.

She appeared in the touring version of Calendar Girls in 2011. Moran lives on the River Thames in Surrey, and has two sons and four grandchildren. 

How did your childhood influence your work ethic and attitude towards money?

I had an incredibly strict father. He was a sales director of a big oil company. My mum stayed at home to bring up my brother and myself. 

He encouraged us all to work very hard and he also said that we could only have what we could afford so there was no buying on credit.  He taught that when you dealt with people, your word was your bond. 

We were a good middle-class family but as children, we were not spoilt. We only had presents at birthdays or Christmas. I have worked very hard during my life and that comes from my father. My father was also a very strict timekeeper, which I am too.

What was your first wage packet? 

I got £5 a week as a trainee personnel and welfare officer for a department store in Bristol at age 16. 

A few years later I was encouraged to become a model for a store charity event and that was the start of a very successful career.

Was the money good as a model?

It was. My modelling career started at 19, and as time went on, I was getting pretty well-paid. I was earning hundreds of pounds a day back in the Sixties and Seventies, so it was a lot of money and very prestigious work. 

I was doing shoots abroad while bringing up my two sons. I was filming a lot of commercials as well and earning repeat fees.

Has there been a time in your life when you didn’t know how you were going to pay the bills?

Yes there was. I was self-employed when I was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer in 1988. I was booked up with work and suddenly it was just collapsing before me. I had also separated from my husband, John, after 27 years of marriage and had just bought a flat. So I really didn’t know how I was going to pay the bills. 

When we separated, I didn’t ask for money. I wasn’t one of those people who say, “right we are splitting up, let’s sell the house and I want half of this and half of that”. Nothing like that. It was very amicable.

How did your TV career start?

I was doing masses of modelling abroad and I decided I would prefer to work closer to home. I applied for a job with HTV, my local television company, for a job and they offered me a position as a local newsreader and continuity presenter. Before the audition, I had been hennaing my hair so I tried to make it less red and ended up with fairly blonde hair. The TV station liked it, so that is where my blonde look started. 

I got into the fitness business because I was naturally athletic and enthusiastic about exercise. When I became the Green Goddess for the BBC, that part of my career and life really took off.

What has been your most lucrative job?

Doing television advertisements for a brand called Oil of Ulay, which later rebranded as Oil of Olay in around 1998. I was the world face of a product for mature skin, Pro Vital, and I filmed advertisements around the world, in different languages for it. I earned hundreds of thousands from that job over four years, as I had repeat fees too. 

I bought my current house, which I’ve been in for 21 years, from the money I earned at that time.

Have you ever been paid a lot of money for very little work?

No. It has been the opposite. I have done a lot of work for a little money.

What was your best buy?

Definitely my current home, which is a three-bedroom townhouse on the river with fabulous views.  I bought it from the plans many years ago and it is now worth much more of course.

Are you more of a saver or a spender? 

I am more of a saver. I am cautious. I do savings accounts and Isas – you name it, I do it. If I am going to spend on anything it will be on my family. I have four gorgeous grandchildren, who are young adults now, so I was very happy to fund school trips when they were younger. 

I am a very savvy shopper and I am good with a needle. So I can alter clothes to make things work. I have my mother’s flair for dressmaking and sewing, so that helps.

Are you naturally good with money?

I am pretty good with money. I have been self-employed for a long time. That makes you cautious. You put money away in the good times as you know very well that there will be bad times as well – so there are no panics as you have already prepared yourself.

What’s been the most difficult lesson you’ve learnt about money? 

Being too trusting with financial advisers. I have lost money in the past by taking poor advice.

Do you bank online?

I don’t really. I am cautious and don’t trust it so I prefer to go into my bank and discuss anything I need to with someone in person.

What are your financial priorities for the next few years?

To keep afloat, and as my grandmother would have said to me, “to live for the day with a cautious eye to the future”. I intend to go on fast and furiously for as long as I can. I take things as they come along.

Do you have a personal pension? 

Yes, I started a personal pension at 19.

Do you invest in stocks and shares? Or property? 

I have invested in stocks and shares since I was 25. I did it myself in those days. There was a short time when one of my sons was a stockbroker so I used to listen to him a little bit but I would usually invest in media companies and newspapers that were local to me in the West Country at the time. All of those paid off very well. 

I still have investments in a managed portfolio and like everyone else I am watching in despair at the moment but there isn’t a lot you can do about it. You just hang on in there.

I haven’t invested in property, which is something I regret. There was a time when I could have bought a couple of properties but I didn’t. I wish I hadn’t sold my two-bedroom flat in Battersea, which I bought for just under £100,000 in 1995 and sold four years after for twice that – it is now worth just under a million. 

Do you give regularly to charity? 

Yes, I work with several charities. Age UK, Breast Cancer Now, The Royal Osteoporosis Society, Osteoporosis Dorset, The Orpheus Trust and Look Good Feel Better. I also support White Lodge, which helps children with cerebral palsy, and White House, a cancer charity up in Dudley. I am President of Surrey Lady Taverners too, which keeps me very busy.

Does money make you happy? 

A certain amount of it does, but what is more important is good health. I have a mantra that good health is better than great wealth. If people have got good health, they are happy and are enjoying themselves. You can have a great deal of money and ill health and be a miserable git.

Is there anything you don’t really like about handling money? 

Doing the maths. I am very bad with figures. I have an accountant. That is an expense that I can’t do without.