Noel Cunningham is the Ambassador of Harvey’s Point, the four-star Donegal hotel he once managed, and a TV personality who is a regular contributor to RTÉ’s Today Show and Virgin Media One’s Ireland AM. The 69-year-old is Donegal Person of the Year.
What’s the most important lesson about money you’ve learned from your career in the hospitality industry?
That one should save for retirement when one is young. Hospitality is very similar to showbiz. Everyone in showbiz honestly believes that the limelight on them will never fade, and likewise, hoteliers aren’t always good at saving for the rainy day and assuming the good times will never end.
Have you ever had a financial setback?
My journey with alcoholism is well documented. In the end I lost everything. I had done everything in my power to get money for my addiction and I ended up losing my car, my home and my dignity. It’s been quite a challenge over the past 25 years to get back on track.
Are you affected by the current high inflation?
I had to focus on my financial security later in life. But I find myself in a privileged position because between my work at the hotel and the various things I do outside of the hotel, much of my own living is at the expense of others. If I go to a charity concert, they feed me. If I need to travel to another part of the country, my expenses will be covered. I would hate not to be in this position because it would mean eating up my life savings.
Have you been affected by the economic crisis caused by Covid-19?
My book, Noel Cunningham’s Guide to Modern Irish Manners, was hitting shelves just as Covid was taking over the world. People bought novels online, but my book is the kind that people have to go to the store and see; it sells better in outlets because it’s often an impulse buy. But there won’t be a date, so we’re doing a relaunch in September.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about money?
My dad used to say, “Never lend money to family or friends, and if you do, it’s a bonus to get it back.” When you are able to give and not expect it in return, that’s wonderful. But very few people are. There’s nothing like a loan to destroy friendships.
What was the most expensive place you have ever visited?
Iceland. I remember going there about 30 years ago. It was during my drinking season, and I remember that a beer was exceedingly expensive – almost as much as a meal.
Aside from real estate, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?
works of art. I like original art and I would probably collect more if I moved to a bigger house because, to be honest, I’ve completely run out of wall space. One of the most expensive pieces was a beautiful Picasso-style piece of porcelain from a family workshop near Malaga. I also have a little piece from Alva Gallagher and it’s a great piece – also from an investment standpoint.
Do you still carry cash?
Yes. In rural Ireland, it took many years for people to trust the banks, and when they did, it was thrown in their faces again. Rural Ireland isn’t quite ready for us to be completely cashless. Many of my family members and generation are not comfortable with Revolut or online banking.
What was your biggest financial mistake?
Debt restructuring of a house during Celtic Tiger.
What three things could you not do without if you had to tighten your belt?
My little holiday gone, my car and – doing absolutely nothing – I couldn’t do without a decent pair of shoes.
https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/i-lost-everything-it-was-a-fairly-big-challenge-over-the-last-25-years-for-me-to-get-back-on-track-41924426.html ‘I lost everything. It’s been quite a challenge for me over the past 25 years to get back on track.