Me and My Money: Derek Bell, Retirement Planning Council chief

‘If I won the Lotto I would enjoy being a secret millionaire’

Retirement Planning Council chief operations officer Derek Bell: “I am generous and really dislike meanness.”

Retirement Planning Council chief operations officer Derek Bell: “I am generous and really dislike meanness.”


Are you a saver or a spender?

Thinking about this I really am both. I tend to save for a period of time and then spend. I suppose you could call me a binge spender! I am generous and really dislike meanness.

Do you shop around for better value?

Yes, I do. My default position would be to do extensive research before purchasing, particularly where big-ticket items are concerned. I tend to buy the highest quality I can afford and make it last as long as possible. However, there is definitely room for improvement, particularly when it comes to insurance renewals.

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

For my 60th birthday, I bought a classic Mercedes E350 convertible – an absolute luxury – but an appreciating asset (I am told!). It gives me so much pleasure to drive it that I can’t stop smiling, The family have christened it “Dad’s Happy Car”.

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

A holiday home I built in Wexford in the 1980s – a haven and a super place for children to play during school holidays.

How do you prefer to shop – online or local?

Always local if at all possible. Service and the personal touch will never be replaced by technology as far as I am concerned. The march of technology is relentless and is wonderful for lots of reasons, but will never compare with being able to have a face-to-face conversation with a human.

Do you haggle over prices?

As much as possible. This is a definite by-product of the recession. My success ratio varies, however. A smile and a bit of banter can often work wonders! Value, not cost, matters more to me.

Has the recession changed your spending habits?

Yes, it most certainly has. I think some of this is age-related, too, though. Stuff’ matters less and less, while time with people and enjoying new experiences become ever more important. I have informed my three adult children to ‘expect to inherit my debt’.

Do you invest in shares?

I inherited shares from my late father, but I am the first to admit that I don’t pay enough attention to these investments. He gave a constant reminder that if one invested in shares, one had to know what one’s limits were on both the upside and the downside, and not to be greedy. One also has to be able to afford to lose the investment!

Cash or card?

This has changed as a result of recession, too. Pre-recession, I was definitely a card man, now it’s more of a balance between the two. People often think twice before making a purchase if they are handing over cash – real money – as opposed to sticking it on the ‘plastic’. There are more opportunities to spend money when retired than when one is working.

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

Concert tickets to see Joan Baez – I hope they are good value. Ask me again after the concert! I always like to have tickets in advance, and get twitchy if I don’t have an event to look forward to.

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

Yes – the biggest success was saving to get the deposit on my first house in 1978.

Have you ever lost money?

Indeed I have. Bank shares. Enough said!

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

I am not a gambler in the recognised sense in that I don’t bet on sports or play cards, though I am not risk-averse in business terms. My approach is best described as ‘calculated risk’.

Is money important to you?

It is important for what it allows me to do rather than for the quantity I have. I believe the lack of money causes so many problems for people. If I won the Lotto I would enjoy being a secret millionaire, and put envelopes through letterboxes to make a real difference in people’s lives.

How much money do you have on you now?

Eighty-seven euro and fifty cent. All coins under 50 cent in value go into my giant piggy bank. Which reminds me, it needs to be emptied – treat in store!

In conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea