I mentiond in my first post for Money Matters that I think it is an innate part of my personality for me to spend what I have, rather than save.
And this is true. When I have earned a lot I seemed to have little left at the end of the month. Just as when I haven’t had a large income at my disposal I’ve adapted to what I do have. Whatever financial situation I find myself in I manage to live within those means.
Therefore, I am not a great saver. Although this has improved with age and I now can see that tomorrow needs to be provided for as well as today. But living within my financial boundaries also means I have hardly ever been in debt. My first job was in a clearing bank. We were not allowed to go overdrawn at all or we would be reprimanded or even sacked. This taught me well. But I have to confess to having been in debt – just the once!
My Debt Story
There I was – having moved on from the bank job – still merrily only spending what I earned from my new London office job, enjoying being financial stable and having fun too. When one day I looked at my account and it was £500 richer. A deposit had landed in there and I had no idea who or where it was from. Now I am talking late 80’s ish. So that was a lot of money. Still is to me!
There were a few options I had at this point. I could have popped into my branch and asked them if some kind of error had occurred. Or, I could have immediately closed my account and moved the money elsewhere. I didn’t do either of these things. Vic and I went on a holiday and as the months passed by I lived within these new means. So the money got taken up as I carried on living. I wasn’t in debt – yet.
Finally, a month came when at the end of my pay period my account was very light. I wasn’t worried as my salary was due to be paid in the following day. But the £500 was no longer buttressing my bank account. I’d spent it.
Then, without warning of any kind £500 was debited from my bank. This meant about a week later I went into the red. I spoke to the bank and they told me originally the money had inadvertently been credited to my account and now had been deposited into the correct account. The bank didn’t apologise for their error and were not at all concerned about the overdraft they had caused by removing the £500. Instead at the end of each month they just piled on the bank charges. I went further and further into debt.
To me there didn’t seem a way out. I had cut down on everything possible and Vic was financing me a lot. But one day at work the debt stress became too much when the bank bestowed a load of new charges on my account. My immediate boss asked me what was wrong. He had studied law at University and to this day is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. We went out to lunch, with my bank statements, and I explained it all to him.
Within a week he had crafted me a letter, including various legal terms, to send to the bank telling them I felt they were in the wrong and wanted to meet with the manager to talk about putting an end to my debt. They replied with an appointment and armed with figures and legal talk I nervously attending the meeting with more than one staff member from the bank.
After listening to me, chatting, nods and raised eyebrows the manager asked,
“So what is it you are proposing we do, Ms More?”
Having rehearsed my reply I didn’t need to be asked again.
“I want you to pay me back the £500 plus all the interest and charges I have incurred so far.” I handed them my sums.
And do you know what? They bloody did as I asked! Wiped the debt out and I closed the account.
In general financial worries are very stressful. I have some of my own at the moment but it is not because of debt. My job has been terminated due to Covid. And I am pleased that I put a little aside each month to pay for the ground rent of our home. But saving that money each month this coming year won’t be easy to achieve in the current climate.
I think help for those with financial problems should be more actively promoted. Be more visible. I recently re-read Madame Bovary and still the ending shocked me. Finding herself in extreme debt and exhausting all possible avenues she finds a very painful way to end her life. I think the shame of the situation pushed her over the edge and I have no doubt debt can kill a spirit.