‘Money doesn’t guarantee happiness, but it certainly helps’

Me & My Money: Paul Merriman, of financial advice website askpaul.ie

Paul Merriman, of financial advice website askpaul.ie

Paul Merriman, of financial advice website askpaul.ie


Are you a saver or a spender?

I’m more of a spender. I do save regularly, but not enough. I put a bit of money aside each month between a mix of cash and investment markets. I also have a jar that gets all my change. I gave up cigarettes two years ago and made an effort to put between €5 and €10 each day in the jar. It has paid towards a few weekends away with the family over the past year, so the saying “little and often” has some merit.

Do you shop around for better value?

Yes, more so when online for certain products – holidays, electronics, presents, etc. I find it easier and less stressful trying to get better value online. Five minutes of research can sometimes save hundreds of euro. My impulse buying doesn’t help this tactic, however.

What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?

My car, €55,000. I’m constantly on the road around the country with clients, and last year drove approximately 30,000km, so a good car is essential. I also have a keen interest in cars so it was a feelgood purchase.

 What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?

A family holiday to Orlando last year. Value was spending time with my wife and kids in a different time zone. That made it very easy to switch off from work, which is sometimes difficult to do.

How do you prefer to shop – online or local? 

Local as much as I can for everyday goods; online for bigger purchases. 

 Do you haggle over prices?

Yes, much to my wife’s embarrassment, but it depends on what for and if it’s socially acceptable. I’ve noticed, however, that the number of people who now shop around or haggle over prices compared with during the recession has drastically decreased. Once people are in a comfortable financial zone, they tend to spend more easily.

Has the recession changed your spending habits?

I would still spend the same amounts, but the recession has made me shop around more and get better value for money.

Do you invest in shares? 

Yes. My most recent successful trade was VW after its drop in value in October 2015.

Cash or card?

Cash – I find my spending hard to manage with the debit card. I try to take cash out of the ATM once a week and make that do. It was a habit passed down by my dad. I don’t have a personal credit card – I made a wrong decision with one when I was 18. When I got my first job after leaving school, I applied for a limit of €250 but got a Gold Card in the post with a €5,000 limit. Needless to say, the €5,000 didn’t last long. The most valuable money lesson of my life was trying to repay €5,000.

What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?

Most recent purchase was an Apple Mac. Considering the amount of time I spend on it, it was good value.

Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?

Yes, most recently that family holiday to Orlando.

Have you ever lost money?

Yes, I lost money on a geared property fund I invested in back in 2007. Gearing and investments don’t mix well when the investment is going south. I also lost money on bank shares. I worked in Irish Life & Permanent until 2010 and would have taken employee shares. It’s easy to look back now and see the problem there, but at the time bank shares were a follow-the-leader investment – when you hear that all the management are investing, you automatically think it’s the correct thing to do.

Are you a gambler and, if so, have you ever had a big win?

I gamble once a year on the Grand National. Still waiting on that so called big win.

Is money important to you?

Yes, it is important. It doesn’t guarantee happiness, but it certainly helps if you have it. I like to use my money to have nice things, invest in companies, in myself and my family with education, and also give to charity. I set up my own business in 2011. I now employ 16 people, so money has helped create employment. I think people sometimes put a negative spin on money, but that’s only if you use it in a negative way. I try to use it in a positive way.

How much money do you have on you now?

I have €85 and £280 (€320.65) from a recent trip to the UK. I still haven’t made it to the bank to change it. 

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