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Archive for May 13th, 2021

So although that sounds pretty awful in terms of the length of time, 40 years….I didn’t always have debt.

Going back to the beginning, I got married for the first time at the age of 17. Back in those dark ages in South Africa I was advised to get married ‘In Community of Propery’, which basically meant I was my husband’s ‘property’ (49 years later I still don’t know what the benefits were, if any) – if I wanted to open a bank account or sign any documents, I had to not only have his permission, but I also had to have his signature.

This irked me for many years and when I finally left him and we divorced, I then had the freedom to do whatever I pleased. I didn’t immediately dash out to get a credit card, but I did open my own bank account and manage my own money.

The years went by and I eventually met my 2nd husband, who after we married persuaded me to take out a credit card to pay for baby stuff and fluff….like eating out 3 times a week. He fancied himself a posh totty without the funds to back it up. I was at home with my baby at the time and left him (trusted) to manage our finances.

He serviced the card for a while until one day a knock at the door heralded a representative of said bank who asked to come in, and because I was still really stupid in those days, I said okay. I even made him a cup of tea. 🤪🤪🤪 He asked for my credit card and a scissors, both of which I gave him 🤔🤔🤔 like I said….I was still very stupid (or naive, take your pick,). To my horror, he cut up the credit card and told me that it was Rxxxx in arrears (R =Rands and I can’t remember how much).

I was aghast and frankly shocked. But also very afraid…of my husband who was a fairly volatile person and I was really scared about what he was going to say. He responded exactly as I expected.

Long story short, I didn’t get another credit card, went back to work in due course and ultimately we divorced after a few years.

He wasn’t a reliable man and child maintenance was adhoc and irregular, and eventually came to a stop altogether.

But I worked hard, changed companies from time to time and worked my way up from being a debtor’s clerk to Personnel and Administrative Manager for a Courier company with 5 branches and the Head Office, which is where I was based.

I bought a house (mortgage) and a car (lease agreement) and ultimately moved to the coast (East London) as Branch Manager with the same company, after my Mother died (1984), with my daughter and a few months later my younger sister who was just 13 at the time.

Child maintenance from both my ex-husband and my sister’s father was intermittent and seldom enough to support 2 children in any great way.

But my salary was decent and we lived quite happily for nearly 3 years. I opened a new credit card account with an excellent credit rating, had holidays, went out for meals, bought clothes when needed, paid school fees for both schools, had birthday treats etc and I got promoted to Regional Manager of a new Division in the company and I traded one car in for another.

Without warning, and due to no fault of mine, 6 months later the company decided to close down the new division and I was retrenched (made redundant).

Now I was stuck in a very financially poor area of the country, rent to pay, a lease on a brand new car and 2 children to support with no prospects. A chaotic time followed and a few months later I had the first of 2 nervous breakdowns. I left home. And all my debt and responsibility behind me.

Skip forward a few years. I recovered and got a new job, paid off the debt. My daughter came back to live with me. I got another new job, bought a car and a house and acquired new credit cards.

Life went on. I moved my daughter and I to Cape Town in 1997 and still working for the latest company I again improved my prospects. Over the intervening years, jobs came and went. I bought a new house, kept the car, and although we struggled sometimes, somehow I always managed to pay my debts, even if some months were a really close shave and only my powers of persuasion kept us in our house.

Fast forward to 2001 and a series of events occurred.

The company I had been working for over the previous 18 months was put into liquidation after the owners had a falling out. My daughter reached the age of consent (21 in South Africa), and my sister (the one who came to live with me after my Mother’s death), was now living in Ireland with her husband, about to turn 30 and wanted someone from the family to celebrate her milestone birthday with her. Since I had no real responsibilities, I decided to go.

Worked for the liquidators till end of contract. Left my daughter looking after the house (still had a mortgage) and sold her the car (paid off by now). Cleared my credit cards and flew to Ireland.

I loved it so much in Ireland, the freedom!!!! So at the end of my visa, I flew back to SA, sold the house, paid off the mortgage and credit cards put my belongings into storage and flew back to the UK to start a new life with my ancestral visa. No credit cards. My daughter joined me in the UK 1 year later, but managed her own affairs.

I got a job, worked hard, and after a couple of years…acquired a new credit card and life went on. I went on holidays, bought whatever I needed and serviced my debts, building up a good credit rating.

Skip forward to 2005 and a chance meeting got me involved in Multi Level Marketing. All good so far. The training recommended telling family and friends about the company and ‘ideally’ signing them up to also become distributors. I flew to South Africa full of excitement and enthusiasm about the new opportunity, but had buckets of cold water (metaphorically) dumped on my head by various members of the family. And acquired a lot of debt.

I flew back to the UK totally dejected, but struggled on trying to make a go of the ‘business’. A couple of years later my daughter saw an advert for something called ‘Millionaire Training’. In those days I still had hopes of being ‘successful’ of earning enough money to become financially independent. So I went to the training and ended up joining another Multi Level Marketing programme. Both the first and now this were excellent products and I still use the one regularly, just not as a distributor.

After a few months of minimal success it was suggested that I attend a Tony Robbins event called UPW (Unleash the Power Within) and therein lay the seeds of my downfall.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of the 4 days…it was insane. I got to walk on fire, danced and sang, went through mind-blowing processes, and had my head turned inside out by manipulation…I mean NLP.

Despite my determination to not sign up to the ‘University’ course, by the end of day 4 I found myself handing over my credit card details to the tune of $10,000.00 One word. Four letters.

And that is when money started to flow (as he promised) just not towards me, but away from.

I spent a fortune flying around the world to the different courses. Health Mastery at St Andrew’s, Scotland. Wealth Mastery in London and finally Phoenix Arizona, USA for the coupe de grace….Date With Destiny. hmmm….

At his Wealth Mastery course we learned how to use OPM. Other People’s Money. Ergo the banks. So I did.

As each card got maxed out, so I applied to another company for a new one. My credit rating was still good, and because the whole shebang happened in less than 6 months, it took a while for the banks to catch up with my spending. Despite having gone through his whole programme, I still felt like I was missing something. I still could not sell a tube of toothpaste LOL never mind make a living from the products.

And so I went to this course and that course; Christopher Howard, Roger Hamilton (about whom I shall say as little as possible so I don’t get sued for libel), Dr John Demartini (the only course that actually had any benefits), Success University and many many others…paid for this course, paid for that course, and the next and the next and the next….one after the other, and so my debt mounted. I was still working, but I had taken out loans from one bank, applied for credit cards from another 3 and suddenly I was in debt to the tune of £35k!! And I came down to earth with a bump! 6 months. That’s all it took. From June 2007 till January 2008. And now I was in serious trouble.

In my desperation to ‘find the right’ product, I joined 8 different Multi Level Marketing companies; all with different products, none of which I could actually ‘sell’. One theme that ran through all of them was ‘fake it till you make it’. In other words lie. So I tried. To fake it. But I couldn’t. It didn’t sit right with me and I struggled…still throwing my income at books and online courses (all free course now, I’d run out of money), and listened to The Secret nearly 100 times until I felt I would go mad.

Finally in 2011 whilst struggling to pay my debts that simply grew and grew due to the interest being charged on my credit cards, I gave up all pretence at trying to ‘build a business’ put my head down and took on as much work as I could.

Around me, most of the ‘friends’ I had made at all the courses, were in debt, a couple of whom were in much deeper than myself, and some of them declared bankruptcy. I put the word ‘friends’ into commas because ultimately the friendships wore down and ended over the next few of years.

Meanwhile I had reached a dead end. I could no longer cope with my debt which had now reached the not so very comfortable amount of £50k…..the interest piled upon interest, upon the original debt and I was drowning. So I took financial advice. I approached a Debt Advisor who suggested that firstly I apply to get a refund on all the PPI I had paid the banks….largely successful it reduced some of the debt. One of the companies put me through hoops before finally conceding that they did indeed have to refund me.

I was informed that I could either declare bankruptcy, and various other options that I never took, or I could set up a payment plan through a debt advisory company. I chose the latter. I could not in all honestly walk away from my debt. And so, for the last 10 years, I have diligently paid off my debt in monthly increments, increasing the amount each year and paying more as I earned more.

I still had my holidays, but if I wanted to plan a trip, I took on more work and paid for them upfront. I budgeted my income very carefully; I definitely didn’t attend any further courses (?), I seldom went out for dinner or to the cinema and fortunately I loathe shopping for clothes anyway, so managed to save a little on the side each month by being exceptionally careful with my money. And my trips were always on the ‘cheap’…cheapest travel, cheapest accommodation (sometimes in really shitty places), hardly ate anything while there and didn’t spend money on keepsakes or trinkets. My only luxury has been books. I saved all the money I earned from night calls, or working over bank holidays, and some years I worked over Christmas and New Year….double pay = more money to save. My biggest luxury this last year has been my virtual challenges, but they have also been a way to keep my sanity by pushing me to get out and walk.

When I stopped taking on long-term assignments I lived in shared accommodation, and for 18 months I had no dedicated home at all….but stayed in B&B’s between bookings. And slowly but surely I whittled my debt down over the years. A few years ago I offered decent settlement amounts to a couple of the banks, which were accepted, and subsequently increased the payment amounts to the others. By the beginning of 2021 I had finally reduced my debt to below £5k and today, I made the full and final payment on the very last amount still outstanding. £521.88 to be precise.

As of today, I am finally debt free. I don’t owe anyone a single penny. It is a huge weight off my shoulders.

I know this post has been different to my usual posts, but I felt it was necessary to say…for me. I feel an overwhelming sense of achievement at having finally settled my debts after 10 years, and really really proud that I didn’t take the easy way out and declare bankruptcy back in 2011.

I guess my experience could act as a cautionary tale too. Don’t live on credit. Especially don’t pay for personal development courses with a credit card, and don’t ever subscribe to the fallacy of OPM. It may well be ‘other people’s money’ to begin with, but ultimately, you will have to pay it back. I believed everything they said in those courses, and whilst I may have learned a lot, none of it paid the bills.

I have managed to live without a credit card for the last 10 years…and I will continue to live my life without a credit card. It can be done.

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So hey….I did it!!! Yesterday; Faversham to Sittingbourne along the Saxon Shore Way 😁😁😁 9 hours. 30.06 km. Holy moly what a long day. If I add on the distance from home to the station and back, I can add on another 2.5 kms. The last time I walked 32km on any one day was 4 years ago on the Portuguese Camino in Spain…destination: Caldas de Reis. I swore to never do such a long walk ever again 🤪🤪🤪 Hah. I’m very comfortable with 16kms, so this is a bit of a stretch, but hey, it’s done. Now I can concentrate on the next section; Sittingbourne to Rochester….

I’ll do a proper write up in due course, but for now, what I really wanted to tell you about were all the abandoned boats I saw along the way; boats of all sizes, their rotting carcasses littering the creeks.

I wondered why they were abandoned? Who abandoned them? What were their names before being dumped, and why have they been left there to rot.

They are beautiful in their various stages of decay, but how sad. I’m sure they were beautiful craft at some time, sailing proudly along the channels, brightly painted, flags fluttering in the wind, decks alive with chatter.

And now, they’re lying there, forlorn and forgotten….too sad. This post is to honour all boats that get dumped and forgotten. In order of appearance, these boats were seen in Faversham Creek, Oare Creek, The Swale, Conyer Creek and Milton Creek.

I’d love to know their provenance and how long they’ve been lying there….

Long may they rest in pieces and provide food and homes for the fishes.

Extra image of previous two boats from a different angle.

I’ll try get my post up as soon as I’ve caught up with the Thames Path posts, the Pilgrim’s Way posts (2 years ago 😱🤪🤪) and the initial stages of the Saxon Shore Way I’ve already walked. 🤞🤞🤞 Thank you for your patience 😁😁

And yes, after walking 30 kms, I’m feeling every. single. one. of. my. years. 😂😂😂 but lots of vitamin C, Aloe Heat Lotion paracetamol and feet up…I’ll be right as rain…😉

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