THE bankruptcy hit me hard and to be frank, I didn’t see it coming.
I am far from being a capitalist and have never put much stock in material things. But to lose everything, including my home, was one life blow too many. And at the age of 50 it did not give me any time to recover.
I bought my first house way back in 1981, when I was aged 25, and over the next quarter of a century grafted and worked hard for everything I accrued.
When I moved in with my new partner in 1999 I had already seen my assets stripped by a previous partner. But I was not in debt and knew I could always get a mortgage or bank loan. With my new partner we had a healthy combined income and soon bought our first home together and sold it for a small profit.
We married in 2003, and with a mortgage we could easily afford we bought a good sized family home. So we fed our salaries into one joint account and I added my new wife’s name to my three credit cards.
All went well for the next two years but in the autumn of 2005 I caught my wife cheating with another man… it was the end of our short marriage.
We went our separate ways and agreed to put our house up for sale.
But I had no idea how hard life would become.
My new home in Wales was over 200 miles from our family home in Tyneside and I left my wife to deal with the viewings for our property, negotiate any offers and open the joint mail.
That was my downfall.
Five months after I had moved away I made an unannounced visit to the family home. My wife was away and I used the opportunity to pack some belonging to take back to Wales. But I was not prepared for the surprise when I opened one drawer in the dining room… it was full of unopened mail from our bank, building societies and credit card companies.
I sat down and began to open the 30 plus letters in some sort of chronological order… I wish I hadn’t!
We had missed at least five mortgage payments, all joint credit cards were maxed out and our joint bank account was overdrawn and accruing daily charges and interest. The second revelation was more sinister. Only my payment transfer had entered the joint account each month.
It was a financial nightmare and the last few letters I opened revealed warning notices of court action, demands for immediate payment and repossession.
It was all too late.
By September the house – which would have been a financial lifeline – was in negative equity and the debts on the joint loans and joint credit cards were crippling. My salary was now not even enough to keep a roof over my head.
I was lucky in that I had a very good friend who was a solicitor and his advice probably saved me from a worse fate… I had to file for personal bankruptcy and let the mortgage companies take the house.
It was a crippling decision, but I had no other.
One October day in 2006 I stood in front of a county court judge to be declared bankrupt. Our family home was repossessed just two weeks later. One month later I was finally divorced from my wife.
I lost everything.
I was discharged from my bankruptcy in April 2007 but for the next three years had to pay a sizeable monthly amount to my creditors. I was not allowed to have a proper bank account or credit card for the six years. My credit blacklisting was only fully lifted last month.
Yes I should have been more savvy and kept a better check… but hindsight is a perfect science. Life has a way of playing an unexpected hand and sometimes it just isn’t fair.
Yes, I have had battles in my life and I suppose if I put bankruptcy into context with surviving child sexual abuse, cancer and alcoholism it is a minor hiccup.
Now seven years on I have reshaped my life, refuse to use a credit card and am never overdrawn. I use money to live, I do not let money use me.
At the risk of sounding like a cliché: life, love and happiness is far too important for that.
Or as Bob Dylan once wrote: “Money doesn’t talk, it swears”.