Tuesday, 29 October 2013

New Beginnings

Yesterday I reached a bit of a milestone.  I know I have talked before about finances and how we all struggle to make ends meet.  Well a lot of you probably don't know that I had, for five years, been making regular monthly payments into an IVA or an Individual Voluntary Arrangement.  Its a form of insolvency but one that was brought in some years ago to prevent the person undertaking the agreement from losing their home and all their assets. 

When I remarried in 1999 I hadn't realised that my late husband had so much personal debt.  It wasn't something that had been revealed to me, he wasn't very good at money, as simple as that and had a lot of debt that had built up from his first marriage.  So because he wasn't very good at sums, handling money etc, most of his cards, accounts etc were put in joint names with me so that I could talk to the creditors and try to make some sense of everything and put payment arrangements in place.  So, consequently when he died they came after me for the lot.

I struggled with this for four years after his death and eventually I couldn't deal with it any longer, both financially and emotionally so I decided to declare myself bankrupt and if I lost the house well so be it because I just didn't care anymore by that stage.  You see it doesn't seem to matter if someone is left on their own to these people, and by that I mean banks, credit card companies, no matter what the circumstances they just assume you must have run the debts up yourself and you are judged quite harshly in some cases, there is no sympathy, no compassion.  I watched a programme on t.v. once about personal debt and how it happened and they were interviewing one poor man who had lost his business, his wife and kids and his home all because his business went bust due to the economic downturn.  They asked him how it was that he thought he had got into this "mess"  and he replied all because of circumstances beyond my control.

And its true, I fell in love with someone who owed money, not that I was aware of that of course, had I been and had he been more prepared to face reality and deal with his situation it could have been changed.  But that's just the type of person he was and no one of us is perfect, we all have flaws and that was his.  So when that man died very suddenly, without life insurance, leaving me with £26,000 of debt (and that was half of what it had been) what was I to do. 

So as I said, I decided to declare myself bankrupt.  I googled firms that would deal with these issues and came across a firm called Baines and Ernst.  Now I was familiar with these people having dealt with them in cases of firms going out of business when working with a brick merchant during the time that a lot of the small building firms went to the wall. 

I rang them and got talking to a really nice guy, explained how things were, what had caused me to get on this road and said I needed help.  He in turn explained to me about the IVA and I opted to take that route.  When they told me to go into town the next day, change my bank account and just stop paying everything I was very scared.  No seriously, obviously not your mortgage, insurances, the important things, gas, electric bills but go and stop paying all the creditors. 

So I did, took a deep breath and just did it.  The relief was indescribable at that point.  I really felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  And really to be honest, it wasn't my debt but the debt from my late husband and his first wife and where was she?  Sitting pretty having walked away from their marriage and left him to pick up the pieces.  I really do feel resentful about that one.  Maybe there is some Karma in there somewhere that I had to take responsibility for the mess they made.  It will take time for me not to be cross on that score.  Im working on it.

Obviously there was paperwork to be filled in, and a county court hearing, not that I was required to attend but to be honest I felt really ashamed and have done so for five years, ashamed that I had to do that, ashamed that I hadn't been able to manage and pay for everything, but why should I have  felt like that when it wasn't my fault.  Why should I have been ashamed to hold my head up in front of my friends and my family and even my own children, what is it about our society that makes people feel this way when something happens beyond their control.  I think others are far too quick to judge and to come to conclusions without knowing the full situation.  I also think that the call handlers at the credit card companies and the banks should be trained to be more compassionate and sympathetic towards people in these situations.

Mind you, its opened my eyes to the world as it is.  I have become quite hardened at fighting companies on the phone.  To turn around and tell the local council that they have a choice over whether I pay my council tax or feed my children as I have done in the past is not something I would have done five years ago.  To have to say to the electricity company, your prices are too high that's why I cannot afford to pay my bill in full and don't start ranting at me because its only going to give you a headache, you cant cut me off when Ive got children and I will pay when I have the money and not when you tell me I have to pay, again is not something I would have done before but desperation does strange things to people.

So yesterday was the last ever payment, in a few months all the ends will be tied up and I can finally move on and walk away from the mess that became my second marriage.  Yes I loved him, I probably always will but I cant forgive him for what he did to me and our children and there in lies a difference.  I may sound like a bitter woman, Im not really, I have a lot of love and compassion for the people in this world, my heart goes out to anyone struggling as I know so many of you are at the moment but please be aware that you don't have to have the latest gadgets for your children, they will survive without them and bring them up to understand that the most important things in this life are a loving family and being kind to others.  Those are the things that mark us as human beings, not how many computers, tablets, I phones etc that we possess.  It needs to change out there and I for one will be working hard with my own children to make them aware of this. 

There are two sayings which I have tried to work to all my adult life, I will leave these with you in the hope that they will help and offer you some guidance.

"Do as you would be done by"  and "Life is mostly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone, kindness in another's trouble, courage in your own".


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