Anxiety, embarrassment and fear – those were the three words that consumed me as I saw my finance situation spiral out of control through no making of my own.
I had always been good with money, or so I though, and earned enough to provide for my family. In fact, my credit rating was so good that I was being offered loans and credit cards with virtually everyone…an offer that my then-wife took up early and often.
She even convinced me to re-mortgage our property to lend a mutual friend £25,000 for a start-up business and take out a further £18,000 loan for his cause. I loved my wife and allowed her to take care of our finances. I trusted her, too, as she seemed so much better in financial dealings than I, largely because of her background in banking and financial services.
It wasn’t until that family unit unexpectedly collapsed that I found myself on the long road to financial ruin and eventual collapse.
My divorce proved costly and I inherited £13,000 worth of matrimonial debt in a bid to allow my estranged wife to set up a new home with my children. Little did I know that she chose to set up this new home with the same friend that all the money had been given to. Shocked, hurt and angry were the other three words I used way back then as I watched my near-perfect life vanish in an instant.
What followed was something that I would never wish upon another person: three costly custody battles that landed me with a further £28,000 in legal fees just to pursue joint custody of my two children.
It is also fair to say that the money that was loaned to my then friend was never repaid, amounting to an additional £18,000 debt and a £25,000 equity gap when the matrimonial home was eventually sold. This all happened within six months. Frightening really when I look back on it.
Within six month I had gone from naively believing that my marriage and finances were both sound to being lumbered with debt that I never saw coming and wasn’t exactly sure how I would repay.
But repay I did. For seven long years I toiled as best I could to repay everyone by robbing Peter to pay Paul. I struggled to pay my mortgage, child maintenance, bills and get just enough petrol in my car to get to and from work each day to repeat this vicious cycle month after month after month.
Eventually, and unexpectedly, the money run out…and I did so when I had to pay £100 for my son’s school trip. I didn’t have £100 and the school didn’t take credit cards or credit cheques.
I felt ashamed of my financial situation and inadequate as a father. How could I, earning roughly £35,000 a year at the time, not have £100 in the bank?
Truth is I didn’t and I hadn’t for years. I had become so dependent on credit that it consumed me, controlled me and almost ruined me. After months of worrying, months of sleepless nights and months of being too afraid to ask for help, I finally did.
Well, sort of…I did ring the number for an IVA specialist that I had researched via the internet but no one picked up on the other end. I was almost relieved that I didn’t have to reveal my story to this stranger, that I could pretend all was OK for one more day, sleepless night or not.
And then my phone rang and I began the conversation that was years in the making with my IVA specialist. He listened, but didn’t judge, and he walked me through the process of filing for an IVA, holding my hand along every step of the way, until my repayment arrangement was accepted.
That was five years ago. Today, I am debt free and IVA free and rebuilding my financial life on my terms.
The anxiety, embarrassment and fear are all gone, replaced instead by optimism, experience and a very healthy relationship with the money that I earn, save and enjoy.