A happy new year?

Do not pursue what is illusory – property and position: all that …can be confiscated in one fell night.

Printing schedules being what they are – and Christmas being what it is – I’m writing this some weeks ahead of publication. Still, I don’t think I’m taking too much of a punt in assuming that the financial state of all our affairs will be pretty much the same mid-January as it was mid-December. (Or slightly worse, taking the traditional Christmas spend into account).

And, in the spirit of Christmas, it’s often nice to think of how things are affecting other people too, especially those in more unfortunate circumstances.

That irritating friend of a friend, for example, the one with the £48,000 BMW and the job in the City who never stops going on about how much money he makes and how much his house cost.

The lady you overhear at the gym, who’s got 20 buy-to-let properties in “up-and-coming areas” plus several in places the budget airlines fly to and who believes in “making debt work for you”.

The couple across the road who treat their house like a piggy-bank, constantly re-mortgaging it so they could go on ever more exotic holidays, wear the latest designer togs and replace their kitchen every two years.

The elderly couple who don’t believe in buying things until they’ve saved up enough to afford them and who are funding their retirement from their pension annuities and a lifetime of savings.

The bank bloke’s huge mortgage is now crippling him, the lease payments on the BMW aren’t helping and he can’t sell it because it’s worth a tenth of its original cost. Plus, the half a million quid bonus he was counting on was in bank shares, which are now more or less worthless.

The lady from the gym has 18 properties without tenants, on the market and none of them are shifting.

The couple with the cash-cow house are wondering whether or not to hand back the keys and have swapped Ocado deliveries for Lidl carrier bags and Harvey Nicks for TK Maxx.

The elderly couple have seen the income from their savings plummet while their gas and electricity bills soar inexorably.

We’re in this mess because bankers were in too much of a rush to lend too much money to people who couldn’t really afford it and who spent it on things they didn’t need. The trouble is, those people who didn’t buy into the spendaholic culture, who did the sensible thing and saved for a rainy day, are now suffering just as much as everyone else, arguably more.

The government’s response to a crisis that was started by too much borrowing and spending seems to be to borrow themselves in order to encourage us to spend even more, with no real ideas of how to get the housing market moving again.

To cap it all, I’ve just seen an advert for a bank which is pushing its impartial budgeting service to customers. Stable door and horses anyone?

This comment appears in BMJ’s January issue. To comment, login here

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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