Foggy’s Story

When 55 year old Foggy took a gamble and paid more than he could afford for his daughter’s wedding, he found himself in debt crisis. He tells us why going through an IVA had made him stronger.

When I took out an IVA in 2009, it was the first time I’d been free of credit card debt in more than 30 years.

I got my first credit card in the late 1970s, just when the consumer credit boom began. I was in my early 20s and I had a good job, so there was never any problem making repayments.

Keeping up with the Joneses

There was a lot of pressure to have the same as everyone else, so when I approached the £2000 limit on my credit card, and the company offered to increase my credit limit, I’d always find myself spending up to the maximum.

To be honest this went on for most of my life. I took out loans for things that, looking back, seem quite frivolous, like new furniture and cars. I sailed close to the wind, and the credit card companies were all too happy to finance this, but I could always manage the repayments, so I never got into any real trouble.

Borrowing in hope of a payrise

The mistake that took me to crisis point was in 2008. My daughter was getting married and I wanted her to have a great wedding- as every dad does. I was due a pay rise at work, so I took out some extra loans, figuring I’d be able to afford the repayments when my salary rose.

I worked as a civil servant, and after eight years of hard work, I was due to move up to the next pay grade- it was our department’s policy.

You can probably guess what happened next- the department changed its policy, partly due to government pressure, and I found myself in a mess. I know some people go into denial at this stage, and ignore the letters from the bank, but it was never like that for me. I realised I was in trouble and I set about finding a solution.

In-depth research

I quickly did some research (unfortunately I didn’t find the IVA Forum until later) and chose RSM Tenon to arrange my IVA. They told me I owed £53,000, which was a huge shock. I thought it was about 2/3 of that, and at the time I was earning £17,000 a year.

My wife also had credit cards debts- nothing like mine- so we went for an interlocking IVA, and it all went through relatively painlessly, but I felt so guilty. I remember when I was a child, my dad took out a loan of £400 to buy a car, and he acted like it was a terrible thing to do, and paid it off as quickly as he could. I was too ashamed to tell anyone we had an IVA.

It might seem like a strange thing to say, but the IVA changed our lifestyle for the better. It was like harking back to simpler times. Money was allocated to all of our outgoings, so we always had enough money left at the end of the month. It was the first time in years that I didn’t go into my overdraft. We did have to cut back a bit- if we were invited out for a meal with friends we’d often say we couldn’t get a babysitter because we couldn’t afford to go- but we always knew the essentials were taken care of. It took a weight off our shoulders.

Family solidarity

My six year old son was great. Children are put under an enormous amount of pressure from an early age these days, but he never badgered us for the latest designer clothes or a mobile phone.

As a family, saving money and hunting for bargains became a bit of an obsession, and it forced us to question whether we really needed things, or just wanted them.

I’d advise anyone having money difficulties to stop and think about whether they need something, or just want it, before they make a purchase. If you want it, but you can’t afford it, it’s really important to wait, and save up. I’ve always been really into cars, and one of my main hobbies was buying kit cars and putting them together, or fixing up old cars. I had to give this up completely during the IVA, because the cars weren’t something I needed.

A young lady I know of has a lot of credit card debt, and has recently inherited some money, and she’s thinking of using it to go travelling, rather than paying off her debts. It can be so tempting to reach for a better life, but unless you do it using your own money, you’re just setting yourself up for unhappiness later on.

Spending with care

You can learn to live within your means. It’s painful at first, then it becomes second nature. Less stuff does not mean less happiness, you just have to get out of the mindset of ‘keeping up with the joneses’. I still live the IVA lifestyle now, even though I completed my IVA earlier this year.

Personally, I think going through an IVA teaches you a lot. The other options, such as DRO’s and Bankruptcy, might seem more of a ‘quick fix’, but for me it was important to go through the process of paying off at least some of what I owed. They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and this is exactly how I feel after completing my IVA.

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Lesley’s Story

When Lesley’s husband was made redundant, the couple found it hard to leave their high-flying lifestyle behind. After months of credit card bills, stress and arguments, they decided to go ahead with an IVA. She shares her story.

My husband and I were always pretty high earners, and we had a great lifestyle to show for it. He worked as a factory manager, and as an experienced teacher, I was also relatively well paid.

When he got made redundant in 2008, he had to take a much lower paid job. Our income dropped dramatically, but we didn’t change our lifestyle. It makes me cringe now, but we pretty much carried on spending at the same rate.

You might wonder why we didn’t cut back a bit, but we always just thought that things would improve. We thought we’d have more luck after Christmas, or he’d find a new job after Easter. We were used to doing well so that was what we expected.

Peer pressure

At one point we took out a consolidation loans to pay off our credit card debts, but rather than cutting up our cards at this point, we built the debt back up again.

The trouble was that all our friends had high flying lifestyles. They’d take holidays abroad just six weeks apart! Sadly we fell into the trap of trying to compete. We were terrified that people would think badly of us. I used to ask my husband ‘What would they think of us if they knew?’

My husband has always been the sort of man who likes to be a good provider. If I walked past a shop and saw a dress I liked, he’d say ‘go on then, you have it’, even if it was hundreds of pounds. I don’t drink, but he enjoyed a night in the pub, and could easily spend £50 in a night.

Arguments

The pressure money puts on you is unreal. My husband and I were arguing all the time. We were in ‘panic mode’ and we weren’t really listening to each other. I remember he suggested an IVA and I was horrified- I wouldn’t even talk about it.

It was several months before I admitted I felt an IVA was the best was forward, and by that point our relationship really was at breaking point, and we were scrimping on food to try and make minimum repayments and avoid a CCJ.

IVA relief

Once we decided to bite the bullet, things became so much easier. We were actually better off on the IVA. We knew that one portion of money was for food, another was for energy bills, and so on, so there was so much less to argue about. We treated it like a project, and tried to make the money go as far as possible.

As a couple, we’ve changed so much. We’ve gone from strength to strength. We communicate better, and we think things through together. I don’t regret taking out an IVA for a second, although I would advise people to do their research, and make sure they get the right IP.

Children and your debt

We’ve got four children aged between 19 and 30, and we only told the youngest, as she was the only one it impacted.  The eldest three had a great lifestyle as they grew up, but as my youngest was 15 when we took out the IVA, we couldn’t give her the same.

She was gifted academically and got into a select school, so everyone she was surrounded by had money. She couldn’t go on the school ski trip, and she had to make to without iPods and posh clothes. The kids all used to throw pamper parties, and I had to tell her we couldn’t afford to host one at our house. It was difficult to see her missing out, but I honestly and truly think the experience has benefited her.

We’ve always been completely honest with her, and we told her the situation we were in. As a result, she’s got her head screwed on when it comes to money. She had a Saturday job from age 15, and now at university, she has a student loan but no overdraft, and she saves a portion of the income from her part time job.

It makes me smile, because she’s only 19, but she knows so much about finances and IVAs. We completed our IVA in January of this year, and as a thank you to our daughter, we send the equivalent of one month’s full IVA payment in February.

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