Donna: Tell me about your family.
Noel: I was one of two. Good churchgoing people. My brother died of a brain tumour at 52. My mother died of a stroke at 54. My father died of a broken heart. So I guess I’m an orphan.
Donna: Do you think those things in life made you stronger?
Noel: I think it makes you more self-reliant. I think it also teaches you the person you love may not be here tomorrow, and I think that’s critical. You must accept the fact that nobody knows how much time you got, which is scary.
Donna: Tell us about your lovely wife, and your children? You’re spread far and wide, tell us about your family and grandchildren.
Noel: We’re now 41 years together. Three gorgeous kids aged 37, 35, and 33. It’s a good Catholic family and ten grandkids. And one more coming. Father (Peter) Dillon married us, and married our kids, and baptised the grandkids. Peter Dillon is part of the Whittaker family.
Donna: Where did you go to school?
Noel: Salisbury High.
Donna: Wow, a Brisbane boy through and through.
Noel: Absolutely. I was a foundation pupil in Salisbury High, 1954.
Donna: Did you have any mentors?
Noel: I have always had a mentor. At high school, there was a person who was my best friend, then when I joined the bank, there were always people I looked up to. And I think mentors are always important. Mentors show you what you can be and what you can aspire to be. I think mentors are critical and I’m very proud to be a mentor to other people.
Donna: Speaking of mentoring other people, who do you think are some of your success stories over the years that you’ve helped?
Noel: I guess it’s my books. I get emails every week.
Donna: Now you’ve written 22 books.
Noel: 22 bestselling books. We’ve sold over two million copies, I reckon I reach five million people every week in the media. And I get emails every week saying “your books have changed my life”. And I think that’s the best thing because you can’t take it with you, all you can do is leave a legacy. And if you can leave a legacy of improving some people’s lives, that’s the ultimate.
Donna: It’s a nice way to be too, getting a message out to people.
Noel: Well, the older I get… the greatest rewards and satisfaction comes from giving back. Life’s been good to me. I was a poor boy from Kingston. I’d never thought when I was young I would be where I am now. So it’s great to give something back, I think that’s critical.
Donna: Alright, if you were giving advice to people that had money and a lot of people say I’m going to leave my children everything I’ve got, do you think that’s wise in this day and age or do you think people should leave some money to charity?
Noel: I think unearned money can be poison. In fact there’s a book I’m reading called the Dark Side of Wealth, written by a psychologist who specialises in the grandkids and kids of billionaires. Because with no sense of purpose (and) no goals, it’s a very sad life. So I think help your kids, absolutely, if they’ve earned it. You could say, well, if you want to save for a house, for every dollar you save, I’ll give you $10 or $5 or something.
Donna: Well they’re making it so easy to use money they haven’t got with cards, I know they’re trying to make us a cashless society, no more cheque books. I know they have to move forward but is that a good thing as well?
Noel: The trouble is when you spend on a credit card or after pay, it doesn’t feel like spending real money. Sometimes I get a hundred dollar note just occasionally – the nice green one – and to spend that is painful. I think about it, look at it, but I can go whack with a credit card and $300, $400, (it) doesn’t matter. And then the statement comes in. And the first thing you notice is the balance is more than you thought. So grab the calculator… but it’s always correct. That’s the problem.
Donna: We said we’re at the end of financial year, the new financial year rolling around. Have you got a special tip?
Noel: You need to get your finances in order. Only eight per cent follow through on the goals they set. So we need to be doing something to save money. You’ll never save voluntarily, therefore I like direct debit into a savings account. Speeding up your housing repayments. You’ve got to work on some ways to keep more of what you get paid. Otherwise you’re just treading water.
Donna: What did you think of the recent rate cut with the banks?
Noel: I thought the rate cut was an act of madness. Rates at one point five are at historical lows. A mortgage has never been cheaper, the government have just announced their intention to let young people buy a house on five per cent deposits. They’re letting people in the market who can’t afford it and that will end in disaster.
Donna: This has happened before over the years though and we got through, but it takes a while doesn’t it.
Noel: When you look at the TV news and they say this will give some help to struggling families – if they’re struggling at 1.5 (per cent), what the hell will happen when it gets back to 3 or 4 per cent? This is very dangerous waters.
Donna: And has Noel Whittaker got a tip for the Catholic Church?
Noel: I think for the Church, you need shorter homilies and more music.
Donna: Sounds like a good radio station. Always lovely to see you, thank you very much for talking with us.
Noel: A pleasure, thank you.