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‘My worst financial mistake was I should have bought a house in the early 90s when I was able to’


Niamh Kavanagh. Photo: Frank McKenna

Niamh Kavanagh. Photo: Frank McKenna

Niamh Kavanagh. Photo: Frank McKenna

In May, Dublin-born singer Niamh Kavanagh will mark 30 years since she was catapulted into the limelight by winning the Eurovision for her performance of In Your Eyes. The one-time AIB employee represented Ireland for a second time in 2010, and, in 2017, won Celebrity MasterChef Ireland.

In 2020, Kavanagh worked at her local Tesco to provide for her family when the pandemic called a temporary halt to live performances. The 55-year-old, who also co-hosts a podcast called Agony Rants with comedian Gearóid Farrelly, is married to musician and architectural photographer Paul Megahey and they live in his hometown of Carrickfergus. The couple has two sons, Jack and Tom.

Kavanagh will perform with The Illegals on a tour that kicks off next month, with dates including The Everyman Theatre in Cork on April 29.

What did you learn about money while growing up?

We were definitely not poor but certainly not rich. My parents were always generous and we never wanted for anything, but we weren’t encouraged to think that just because you can afford it or want it, you should have it.

My mum has always been an amazing manager of money, and I learned so much from her. When I got my first pay cheque, she asked for a contribution to the household – rent, you might say.

Truthfully, this was one of the most important lessons about money that I learned, although I was quite dramatic [at the time]  about how unfair it was. I’m pretty sure my paltry few bob hardly put a dent into what it cost for me to live there, but I learned that you pay your bills first, then spend your money.

What was your first ever job?

My first real job was working at Dunnes Stores at the Ilac Centre when I was 16. I was a part-time sales assistant. It scared me to death, and at the same time I loved it.

 What’s the most expensive place you’ve ever visited?

Oslo in 2010 (when the city hosted the Eurovision). The cost of living in general seemed crazy compared to our cost of living. But you have to balance that with when you live there, your earnings are relative to that.

Have you ever seen anyone spend money in a way that shocked you?

I’m often surprised how unconcerned people are about spending money they don’t have. I use credit, and I have -- on occasion -- lost the run of myself.

But I often wonder if people saw a price that included how much something would cost once interest had built up on it, would they still buy it? I like nice things but I don’t need them and I’d rather not have to work hard to pay for things I don’t need.

What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

Probably a car. I’ve bought a car outright twice in my life. If I can pay upfront for something, I will, because I don’t want to pay an extra €3,000 to €4,000 for the luxury of taking a few years to pay for a car.

I often get some stick for not having fancy cars, but I drive a lot and I drive them till they are done – I  get my value from them.

Do you still carry cash?

There was a period there where I didn’t carry any, but now I always have an emergency €20 about me, just in case all else fails or if someone else needs it.

What was your worst financial mistake?

There are two big mistakes. Firstly, I should have bought a house in the early 90s when I was able to, but I was too busy and then it got out of hand by the mid-90s. When I met my husband he already had a house, so that resolved that.

Secondly, I lived within my means without borrowing for years, and when my husband had his stroke, I realised I didn’t have any debt, but I also didn’t have a credit score. I have since sorted that out. 

What was your best-paid gig?

When I performed at the Unicef concert in Berlin on Millennium Eve, 1999. I was paid so much just to sing three songs and then ring in the new year on the steps of the Reichstag with the best of Champagne!

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