instagram envelope_alt facebook twitter search youtube_play whatsapp remove external_link loop2 arrow-down2

My money… Claude Littner

What was your first job?

It wasn’t a job, but when I was at school I came up with various businesses. I used to buy a huge quantity of gobstoppers for a halfpenny and sell them to my friends for a penny. Then I had a stamp club with my friend. We’d collect stamps, put them in a book and sell them to friends for a profit, so I’ve always liked business. I put the money in a bank account and I enjoyed seeing the interest grow.

What would be your money no-object purchase?

I don’t have any strong desire to buy anything. I’d invest in diagnostic equipment, so people can get diagnosed with cancer earlier. I’m very lucky to be a cancer survivor. I didn’t get an early diagnosis; I thought it was a hernia, and only through a series of circumstances did I go to a doctor who told me it definitely wasn’t a hernia.

What luxury wouldn’t you give up?

The only objects I’m attached to, I value for sentimental reasons. I wear a ring that belonged to my father, and have a watch that was given to me by my grandmother when I was 13. I wouldn’t want to lose either of those.

What’s been your biggest financial regret?

I don’t have too many, I’ve done better financially than I ever thought I would. The only regret is I didn’t earn more money earlier on in my career, which would have meant I could provide more things for my family when I was younger. It was only when I left Unilever and started my own business that I started to earn a substantial amount of money.

What was your first business?

I started a concessions business within the Burton group in the 1970s. I acted as an intermediary between the manufacturers and retailer with menswear accessories. We were in profit from week one. It was a niche opportunity in the market, and even though I didn’t know anything about men’s accessories I grabbed it with both hands.

What mistakes did you make?

I made loads of mistakes. In business you need to try new things. The key is not being too proud to admit you’ve made a mistake, and being prepared to change your course of action. One mistake I made was buying stock myself from wholesalers but because I didn’t know anything about men’s fashion I put it in the shops and it didn’t sell. I also didn’t notice at first there was a lot of pilfering, which eats into your profit margin.

Are you a spender or a saver?

A saver. There’s nothing I want to spend my money on. I’m keen to provide for my children and grandchildren but there’s nothing I want to buy.

Are you savvy with your personal finances?

Very savvy. I take a long time to study the various opportunities, interest rates, markets and risks and I regard that as an interesting challenge. I enjoy it. It’s part of what I regard as my responsibility, which is to preserve my wealth and do good along the way. In society today, there are lots of people who want things they can’t afford and buy things on credit cards. The most common mistake is people overstretch themselves. It’s one of the ills of society that people are allowed to get into debt with things like payday loans, and my heart bleeds for people who have got themselves into a mess and don’t know how to get out of it.

What was your last impulse purchase?

I never make impulse purchases. There’s nothing I need. I make impulse investments. I invest in shares or businesses, or in people where I think I have some appropriate knowledge and take a punt on it – and most of them have been successful. I’m very careful with what I do.

■ The Apprentice is on Wednesday nights on BBC One