We never had much money and as a child I always resented my parents for that. Of course, I feel differently these days. The benefit of age has made me understand that my parents did the best that they could for me, and I am incredibly grateful for that, but the truth is my values, beliefs and convictions surrounding money started to germinate from that council estate.
When I was a child it was all to do with materialistic wealth. Whatever my friends wanted I needed to have. I would spend hours around my friend’s houses playing on their computer games because my parents couldn’t afford to buy me one. Then one year when I was searching in my mother’s cupboards for Christmas presents I found a Commodore 16+4. I was finally getting my own computer and my parents had bought me the wrong one!
I also started to steal things when I lived in Reddish. I once got caught stealing crisps on my way to school and the shopkeeper held me there until the police arrived. My pockets were stuffed with Worcester sauce flavoured French Fries. The police officer made me give him my name and address and told me to tell my parents that he would be around later that evening. I was balling my eyes out. My Mum went mental when I told her, and then the policeman never showed up. I also remember stealing money from my friend’s house when I would wait for him on our way to school. I would buy myself sweets with the money.
At the age of 11 I moved to South Wales. In that first year I received one solitary present for Christmas, because the move had taken so much out of the family financially. It was a game called ‘Crossbows and Catapults’ and I bought it for my own son years later. Christmas is a big thing in the Valleys. Parents would go into debt to buy their children so much stuff. My new friends had black bags full of presents and there I was with just one game.
I would have to wear second hand clothes and the cheapest trainers on the high street. All of my friends would be kitted out in the best clobber possible. My father would come home from work and throw his dirty clothes on the floor for my Mum to clean up whilst he had a bath. I would go into his pockets and steal a few quid, which I would spend in the slot machines. My father realised that money was missing and set a trap to find out which child it was. I was caught red-handed. My stealing then progressed to the shops where I would steal electronic goods and then sell them in school. I would use the money to buy sweets, play slots and arcade games.
I moved away from my parents, for the first-time, when I was 18-years of age. At first I lived with a Greek guy called John before moving into my own place when I got fed up with his girlfriend eating all of my food. I was working on the Railway earning around £800 per month and I started to buy all of the things I wanted as a child but could never have. I got my first credit card and started to spend like crazy. Then one day the debt became too much and I left my flat without paying my rent and moved back in with my parents.
When I moved in with my ex wife at the age of 21 I was still carrying credit card debt. I started to earn more money, but the more I earned the more I spent. I also believed I had a ‘job for life’ and that security allowed me the freedom to spend whatever I wanted. I always held the belief that I could carry debt all of my life and pay it off when I retired.
I got married a year late and because I was embarrassed to ask my parents to contribute towards the wedding financially I decided to pay for it myself. To be fair my in-laws paid for the food, but taking the honeymoon into consideration my debt just blossomed. I was heavily into materialism back then. I remember buying a top of the range Bang & Olufsen stereo that cost me about £8,000 in credit payments.
I moved around the country a bit as I gained promotions from within the Railway. Each promotion would hand me about £15,000 in expenses and yet I still continued to have debt. I purchased my first house for £65,000 and over the years I added a further £30,000 in consumer debt and improvements to the house.
I then developed a gambling problem and before I knew what was happening I was the proud owner of five or six credit cards all maxed to the hilt. I eventually plucked up the courage to tell my ex wife about my deceit. It was the most shameful moment of my life. She trusted me to look after her and my son and my gambling had nearly cost us everything.
It was at this time that I decided to quit alcohol and at the same time deal with my gambling problem. Being in debt was putting so much pressure on me. I would erupt in anger and was very difficult to be around. Because my ex wife didn’t realise why I was behaving this way she probably thought it was her. It was a terrible time in my life. I felt completely out of control, sad and didn’t know how I was going to get out the hole I had dug for myself. I imagine the toll was even more complicated as the internal damage to my body was not immediately transparent.
I cut up the credit cards and moved as many of them as I could to 0% interest. I then went on a debt crusade. Any spare bit of money that I could muster went to pay the debt off. My son was growing up as well and so my ex-wife started a second job. I could see light at the end of the tunnel at last. Then strange things started to happen to me. I was involved in a few minor car accidents, as was my wife, and this provided us with money from thin air. I also received bonuses in work that I wouldn’t ordinarily have. Despite giving up gambling I continued to play poker, as I believe it’s a game of skill. I won a fortune during this time and all of it went towards the debt.
Then came one of the biggest decisions of my life – quitting my job. I hated my work at this time and knew I had a chance for redundancy. I bit my top lip, signed on the dotted line and left the business I have known for 19-years. I used the redundancy money to pay the remainder of the debt and after a long, hard struggle the only debt I had was my mortgage.
Not longer after leaving my job my ex-wife asked for a divorce and I agreed to leave my family the house and I took the money that was in the bank. It was the most heart-breaking moment of my life. My relationship with the woman I had loved for 20-years was coming to an end, but so bizarrely so was my relationship with debt.
These days I don’t owe anybody anything and because of this I am able to put 20% of my income towards investment opportunities, with the long-term goal of creating enough passive income to cover my expenses and live a wonderful life. I often think back to the times when I was buried deep in a hole. The times I never thought I would escape and realise that anything is possible.
I estimate that I have let £1 million slip through my fingers in my lifetime, and because of my preoccupation with debt have invested only a thimble full of coins.
So Should This Have Been a Bucket List Goal?
The stresses on the mind, body and your relationships that are incurred by debt are immeasurable. It shaves years off your life and causes irreparable damage to the ties you have to the ones you love the most. Money can turn you from a warm, loving and kind-hearted man into a lying, deceitful worried and scared old man.
I still have a terrible relationship with money to this day. I live in constant fear that I will never have enough and it still pays a pivotal role in the way that I behave with those I love. I am trying very hard to conquer this fear and learn to understand a life of sufficiency. I have a long way to go.
Always remember that debt is a choice. I realise that this may be hard to comprehend, but it’s the truth. There are people living on this planet that don’t even have a monetary system like ours. They manage just fine. Choose not to spend more than you earn. Choose to budget and spend accordingly. If you are in debt, then choose to stop spending your money. Put everything you have into debt, find yourself more work and stop having materialistic things ‘in the moment’ for the sake of your long-term health.
Here is some great reading material to help you get through your problems with debt.
Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Domniguez.
The TOTAL Money Make Over by Dave Ramsay.
The Richest Man in Babylon by George S.Clasen.
The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist.
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
Alternatively, if you need some one-to-one coaching on your financial issues then why not try my habit changing programme I like to call Lean Life?