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Wealth Check: 'My sons are talented, but it all takes money'

Joyce Ewens, 74, is a retired jazz singer from Tooting, south London. She came to the city aged 18 from Jamaica and began singing in the West End, later touring with Roy Orbison in the 1960s.

Now, with seven grown-up children, Joyce hopes to start her own songwriting business to make a little extra cash and support her sons Joel, 28, and Daniel, 33, who are also hoping to build singing careers.

She says: "They really need promoting. They have so much talent, but it all takes money.

"I'd like to start writing songs again. There's so many things you can turn your hand to with the skills you have."

She also hopes to pay back money she borrowed from a relative when a family-run concert ran into financial problems.

Joyce lives with her second husband Keith, also 74, a retired Navy man and builder. She has had a mortgage on her semi-detached house since 1965.

Case notes

Pension: £20,000 per year joint
Savings: None
Monthly outgoings: £1,600 joint
Debts: £6,227 to a relative
Property: £650,000 house with £300,000 worth of equity

Advising her this week are Dennis Hall, from Yellowtail Financial Planning, Marc Ruse, from Fiducia Wealth Management, and Tom McPhail, from Hargreaves Lansdown...


Going into business after retirement can be a good way to pursue an interest, but Joyce will have to act like a businesswoman if she is to have any chance at making money.

"It is not a get-rich-quick scheme by any means," says Hall. "The hard bit is actually selling your product. In your case you want to write and sell songs – a very tough market to break into."

However, Joyce has proved she has talent and could tap into her contacts in the entertainment industry for help.

Ruse explains: "She needs to have the confidence that her songs will sell, and initially I would test the market. With her background in entertainment, she should concentrate on developing a network of people who may be interested in her style of music, and gauge what sort of demand there would be."

According to him, Joyce could start off as a sole trader, but eventually she should set up a limited company, which would provide more flexibility.

If the project is a success, professional tax-planning and accountancy advice should be sought to manage the profits.


Joyce wants to pay back her loan as soon as possible, but should steer clear of taking out further loans to do so. "Borrowing from Peter to repay Paul isn't the way to do it," says Hall. "Is it possible that there are sufficient unused items sitting around the home that could be sold – on eBay, for example?"


The family home could be used to raise money, although this can be dangerous and requires professional advice.

McPhail suggests moving to a smaller property, perhaps outside London, to provide more security while making some money. "If Joyce and her husband were to downsize their property they could potentially pay off their mortgage and perhaps release another £100,000 or more into the bargain."

The only other option would be to release equity on the house, which McPhail says could be done through a lifetime mortgage, a form of equity release, where the interest would be rolled up and repaid at the end of her life.

Ruse also suggests giving up ownership of the property to a specialised equity-release company, who will allow her to continue to live in the property rent-free. He says: "It's possible to get more money through this method, but of course the disadvantage is that when you die, the property will belong to a third party."

A decision like this should be discussed with family members.


Joyce's philosophy on life has led her to shun a will. She says she wants to "make hay while the sun shines" and help her family while she is still alive – but this may not be the wisest decision. "Unless she plans to give everything away there will still be an estate to be distributed after her death," says Hall. "A will ensures that her final wishes are carried out, not just who gets the remaining assets but in what proportion."

He recommends appointing a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), who would be responsible for managing her financial affairs and well-being if she were ever unable to look after herself. Without this, the Court of Protection would appoint someone to do the job. "This person is likely to be from outside the family, thus you cannot be sure that the family's wishes will be followed."

For a free financial check-up, write to Wealth Check, The Independent, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF; or email wealthcheck@independent.co.uk.