Anna Walsh is literally waltzing her way around the world. Nothing’s going to stop her, and she’s only just begun.
Competing in ballroom dancing can cost thousands. But when 73-year-old Anna Walsh rediscovered her passion, she wasn’t going to let its expense stop her living her dream.
“Like most little girls, I did dance when I was younger,” Anna explains. “When I got to the age of 11, my parents told me it was time for something more grown up, so I started to do ballroom.
“I loved it, but then exam time came around and I was told I had to stop to concentrate on my studies.”
Anna went on to become a university lecturer, training PE teachers. She still took dance lessons in her spare time and her job meant Anna could also teach aspects of it. However, life got in the way. Dancing had to take a back seat.
“Unfortunately, I was forced to give up dancing for 20 years,” she remembers. “I just didn’t have time for a full-time job, running a home and visiting my elderly parents, who didn’t live locally.
“I couldn’t afford to give up work, so I had to give up some of the things I did in my free time. One of those things was dancing.
“By the time it got to the point where I could pick it up again, I figured I was too old. I tried a couple of classes and everyone was about 16. I felt like I had lost my edge.”
At 58, Anna took early retirement. Always active, she looked around for something she could do to fill her spare time and ended up turning a hobby into a part-time job.
“I’d always been interested in archaeology,” she explains. “When I gave up work, I started working on sites... I never really got to go anywhere exciting with it but I enjoyed it. That was until dancing came along.”
Anna spotted an advert for an over-50s activity group and decided to try out one of its dance classes.
“That first class gave me back my confidence. It was a lot of fun and I found myself hooked again. It led to me joining the local Arthur Murray Latin and ballroom dance studio.
“I didn’t join with any intention of competing, I was just going to go there once a week for a bit of fun. It didn’t take me long, though, before I decided that this was what I wanted to do.”
However, one thing was standing in Anna’s way; money. Competitive dance is an incredibly expensive sport, and she soon found that the money she’d put aside from her pension wasn’t going to be enough.
“I knew I wanted to do more with dancing,” Anna says. “I tried everything to fund it – asked the bank, even tried to get sponsorship. Then I heard about equity release and decided to look into it.
“I didn’t know what to expect really. But once I’d spoken to the adviser at length and read all the paperwork, there were never any doubts. I never wanted to sell my house – it’s perfect for me. This was the best option and it was much easier and quicker than I would have thought.
“It wasn’t only the dancing I needed to think of either. My car was on its last legs, so I needed a new one.
“I also needed to think about the future and the fact that I might be able to do less around the house; I needed a cushion of money if something were to go wrong.
“With equity release
, I have that option of drawing out some more money later if I need to.”
Anna immediately used the money to help support her passion. After her first competition in London, she went on to dance in Malta, Venice, and Barcelona.
“Last year, in the spring, we went to New York and got placed in the final. I’ve competed in the ProAm championships in Blackpool and got to the final twice. Now my aim is to win. It was magical, as we got to dance to a live band.
“You go out two days before the competition starts,” says Anna, discussing the social side of the ballroom scene. “The first evening you have a get together. The next day you normally go on an organised tour of the place and then in the evening there’s some sort of party.
“After the competition there’s a dinner and ball with presentations. We normally get a late flight back, so we can see more of the place where we’re staying.
“It’s much more than dancing. I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been to places I’ve never even thought of going to, like Kiev and Las Vegas, and doing things I’ve never dreamt of doing.”
She’s under no illusion that she will be able to dance forever but, for now, Anna’s determined to keep going as long as she can.
“I don’t know how long my body’s going to hold together and I’ll be able to dance at this level. I’m in my 70s now with dodgy knees! I dance some days for four to five hours. I’ve got to take these opportunities and use this money now, because I may not be able to next month or next year.
“Dance is amazing. I love performing. I love the physical feel of dance. It’s different to everything. It’s the sheer joy of doing it; what it looks like, what it feels like.
“There’s research to show that dance is one of the best things for older people. Friendships are built. It’s a great confidence builder.
“Most of my friends think I’m mad – some think I’m throwing my money away and should be thinking about when I get old or if the roof comes off my house. I’ll deal with it, though.
“I’ve lost friends who are younger than me and you see people’s lives come apart. I didn’t used to think like this but life is too short.
“These opportunities need to be seized as they won’t come around again.”
You could also live out your dreams like Anna.
Equity release allows you to unlock some of the tax-free cash tied up in your home. And it’s yours to spend as you wish.
So, if money is standing in the way, why not see how much you could release from your home by using our free and simple online equity release calculator
Alternatively, to find out more about equity release and how it could change your life, download your free guide here
What should you consider before taking out equity release?
Our independent, specialist equity release advisers compare products from the whole of the market to find the most suitable equity release plan for you. They’ll discuss all the options available to you and explain that taking an equity release plan reduces the value of your estate and may affect any means-tested benefits you’re eligible for.
With a lifetime mortgage, you’ll still own your home. It’s a loan secured against your home and is repaid when you, or the last surviving applicant, pass away or move into long-term care.
Equity release plans we recommend have a no negative equity guarantee, which means you’ll never owe more than the value of your home.
You have to get expert advice before releasing equity; it’s a regulatory requirement. Key’s initial consultation is free with no obligation to proceed. If you decide to go ahead with an equity release plan, our advice fee – usually 1.99% of the amount released, subject to a minimum of £1,499 – is payable only on completion.