Thursday, 29 October 2009

Objects in the mirror might be closer than you think

Minor scare yesterday. Found out from our payroll department that the deadline to change my bank account (to get my pay into) is late next week - about a week earlier than I thought. That suddenly meant a lot of things needed to be done even more urgently to prepare for imminent bankruptcy than I had expected. Panic! Sorted it out this morning however - payroll will accept my wife's bank account number - so now back to having time to sort things right. Hopefully.

Nearly made it too

Even six months ago I didn't see this coming. To an outsider it might have been obvious, but it certainly wasn't to me. Like a lot of people (in the UK something like a million people are either on the edge of, or have dived into, insolvency) using credit cards was a daily activity. Not for holidays, not for luxuries, for food, for stuff for the kids, for everyday living. Over the last few years I knew my debt had risen sharply, after all, the cost of everything has gone up - food, electricity, gas; at our last mortgage review we picked a really bad deal too. My wife and I, although concerned, really didn't see the end coming - one of the things that I'm not looking forward to is the Official Receiver going over the numbers and saying 'you really didn't get it? are you mad?' And maybe he will be right. We just thought that we would (again) pull the rabbit out of the hat. My wife has a weird sort of job where she can earn a large chunk of cash in one go, a deal was on the horizon, looked a dead cert, this was the life-saver on it's way. And then after one phone call the deal was dead.

If we made any mistake it was to tie the potential of this deal coming off with it being our saviour. But then again, that's how most companies go down too - pushing everything to get that one extra order, hope while the order is on the cards, despair when the order dissappears in a puff of smoke.

That's life, I'm going bankrupt for £50K. Say it fast and it doesn't sound much, does it? Bugger, we nearly made it too.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

No to the bridge option

Every day I have a few moments of terror. Less than a couple of minutes worth at the moment, normally coming in 10 to 30 second chunks. Often caused by the sound of a telephone ringing somewhere, or at the point the enormity of bankruptcy comes home to me yet again. I'm coping, but in those few moments each day I can see why debt is one of the largest causes of suicide in this country, because in those few seconds I can truly understand how jumping off a bridge might just seem a plausible solution.

Run, fat boy, run

Stress is a killer. Depression is a killer. To combat both I run every morning; I've learnt that the route to mental health is through physical health. I'm slow, I'll not win any races. But for those forty odd minutes each morning I can be free, enjoying life, and enjoying the views along the North-East coast where I run (there are some stunning sunrises at the moment). After a run I reach a sense of balance that gets me through the day, that helps me see the wood AND the trees.

Z is for Zen

I think my wife is turning Zen Buddhist. She said something the other day that just hit the nail on the head. "This is silly, we are doing this wrong. We are focussing all our energy on what we don't have and what we can't have. We are really lucky, we should focus on what we have and remember how lucky we actually are."

Yes, I know - it's obvious, but it's amazing how stress sends you down the wrong path. We are all healthy, the kids eat hot meals, we all have nice beds, nobody is looking to put me against a wall and shoot me. We are luckier than the majority of people on this planet - and it's churlish to dwell on what we don't have. Life can be humbling, and it can be good.

Rising UK debt

Debt in this country is rising rapidly, thanks Gordon. The banks are OK, it looks like big banker's bonuses are still on the cards, it's just us average Joe's that you aren't interested in helping.

"A record 33,073 people in England and Wales were declared insolvent during the three months to the end of June, sparking predictions that the total number of individuals to go bust would break the 130,000 barrier by the end of the year." - "Insolvency figures hit record high", The Guardian, 7th. August, 2009.

Most of those poor people (no pun intended) will go down the IVA route rather than bankruptcy. Around 30% of IVAs fail resulting in bankruptcy anyway (I've seen some figures that estimate this as being nearer an astonishing 60%).

They are there for you

Friends and family are amazing. They are the best support you can ever get. They will surprise you. Enough said.


Phones are my greatest terror right now. I can be pretty cool, coping with all life throws my way - right up to the point a phone rings, and then my heart misses a beat. The moment I stopped paying my credit cards (not a life choice unfortunately) the calls started. Banks are pretty smart and know how to use technology to hound you. Basically there are 3 types of calls you will get in the early days of missing payments:

1. Automated - 'This is bank X, please call us back on 0800-XXX XXXX to discuss an urgent matter';
2. A real person - pretty much the same as above. The person will sound *really* bored, but then you would be if you had to make those calls all day;
3. A real person - 'Hi, this is a call for Joe, could you call me back on XXX XXXX soon? Thanks.' This person sounds suave, this person is 'your mate' (TM) The Banks.

If I had the chance to give any advice it would be this: Never EVER give phone or mobile numbers to you bank or credit card companies. These contact details are NEVER in your favour, they are totally there in the bank's favour. Miss one single payment and you'll find out what I mean.

The other thing to remember is that if they call your mobile - NEVER answer. Eventually they will give up on mobile numbers, most probably assuming you've changed numbers. Unfortunately this doesn't apply to your home fixed phone line. They will pretty much call this at whim constantly. OK, 'constantly' is an overstatement - I've received 3 calls in the space of 10 minutes, and then nothing for a few hours. I've had calls in the early morning and late evening (and everything in between).

You eventually reach the point (quite quickly) of pulling the phone socket from the wall.

Give it a little while longer and any slight vibrating noise just below proper earshot becomes a phone call - and you start spooking at anything. It gets to feel like you are being hunted. Then again, it's probably because you are being hunted.

Monday, 26 October 2009

B is for Bankruptcy

Call me Joe. I'm an average guy. I live in the North-East of England, I work in IT, I have a wife and family, I have everyday hopes and dreams - I'm just like you. You wouldn't pick me out of a line-up or pass me a glance if we passed each other in the street. Like I said, I'm just an average guy. And I'm going bankrupt in the next few weeks. I'm not exactly relishing the thought but one thing I have figured out is that by understanding what is happening, and going to happen, I can reduce (to almost manageable levels) the terror that the threat of bankruptcy brings. On the off-chance that this blog helps even a single soul in the same mess then, if you don't mind, I'll bring you along for the ride. Time will tell if it's a roller-coaster or a car crash.