‘I had to change my ways to clear my debts’
Carol Pritchard, 35, is a magazine journalist who lives in London. She was £12,000 in debt but with a bit of dedication managed to wipe the lot.
‘My spiral of debt started when I took out a £7,000 loan to pay for an MA course and then on top of that I started paying for everything on credit cards without, if I’m honest, keeping track. I wasn’t making major purchases, but I would eat out all the time and get cabs rather than the tube. I didn’t realise that it was creeping up quite so high, so I never felt stressed about it. I called it ‘manageable credit’ and viewed it as a necessary consequence of city living.’
Wake up call
‘I got made redundant a few years later and as I’d been with the company for a few years, I was given £10,000. I decided that now was the time to start getting myself on track, so rather than just live off the money and do nothing, I took every freelance job I could get, even boring ones, so that I could use the money to pay off the credit card debts in one lump sum.
‘It did mean that if I wanted to stay debt-free I needed to change my ways. I stopped drinking so much, stopped eating out all the time and I’d leave early enough to get public transport. I still had my loan to pay off but I steered clear of credit cards for quite a while after paying them off.
‘Two years ago, I got another £10,000 after my then partner bought me out of the house we’d bought together. I put it into high interest ISAs as they paid more in than I was paying in interest on the remainder of my loan.’
‘Then the recession kicked in and the interest from my ISAs went down to 1%, while the interest on my loan remained high. So I decided to pay off my loan with part of my savings. I felt scared doing it – I like to know I have rainy day money, but it just made more financial sense to do it that way.
‘I know I’ll feel better having an extra £120 every month that isn’t paying off the old loan. I have learned from the debt experience. My credit card does have £1,000 on it but right now I’m not paying interest. When that changes, I’ll pay it off in full. Being in debt can really creep up on you, and before you know it you’re in trouble. I’m looking forward now to saving for something I really want.’
Carol’s top tip
For others in a similar position I would advise you to think about where your finances are at right now – can you pay off high interest loans with no-return savings? It’s not a savers market right now, so make the most of your money by using it to work for you.’
I’m finally doing what I have always dreamed of’
Ex-banker, Marcus Fedder, 50, originally from Hanover, Germany now living in London, pursued his literary dream and is now writing his second novel
‘There is more to the world than just making money and I think many people who used to work in banking will take the current economic crisis as the starting point for new careers doing what they’ve always dreamed of doing – like me.
‘I was in banking for 21 years and held several senior positions, but for a long time I harboured a dream of writing novels.’
Moved to write
‘It all began in 1997 when I became fascinated – or rather shocked – by the war going on in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was a situation everyone thought would never again occur on European soil: genocide, concentration camps and hostage taking of a whole city.
‘That same year I decided to travel to Sarajevo to research what was going on, with a view to writing a novel about it. I had written a couple of short stories before which I had shown to friends and they’d given me pretty positive feedback. This had spurred me on to pursue my writing.
‘I was still in banking at the time but would write in the evenings and during holidays. As a result of the limited time I had to write, it took me several years to complete my first novel, Sarabande, which was finally published in December 2008.
‘Lord Paddy Ashdowne, the former High Representative in Bosnia said Sarabande said about my book. It is a ‘most poignant and sad tale which is evocative, moving and well written’. So, it’s doing OK, although it hasn’t hit the best-seller lists yet.
‘I have left banking altogether now because, owing to the recession, the bank I worked for basically decided to pull out of the areas I was responsible for. I could have stayed on but it would have been in a smaller role and I didn’t want to do that.
‘Being a novelist doesn’t pay that well, so I’ve set up a hedge fund with some partners instead – I wouldn’t be able to survive on the money from my book yet.I am glad that I experienced the world of banking as it was then, but now I can pursue my true passion.’
‘I wanted a change of career’
Charmaine Warman, 36, is a single mum from Southend-on-Sea with two sons, Conner, 11, and Owen, five. She’s currently training to be a plumber
‘I’d been thinking about a change in career for some time, not least because I want to earn more money. I love DIY and I’m a hands-on, practical person so when a couple of friends said why don’t you become a plumber, I thought why not?
‘It seemed a particularly attractive option as even during times of economic hardship people need plumbers. Plus you can earn good money and work for yourself.
‘At the moment I work in an optician’s- I started as a dispensing assistant about 15 years ago but now I am in the office doing the finance and invoices, which does get a bit boring. I like meeting people and that’s another reason I thought plumbing would suit me.
‘I researched courses online and applied through the New Career Skills website (www.newcareerskills.co.uk). I had to pay £5,000 for my chosen course so I extended my mortgage. The training is home based, which suits my lifestyle as I can still work and pick up the kids from school. Sometimes it’s hard to fit it all in, but I’ve enjoyed it so far.
‘For the practical work, I go for five one-week sessions in Southampton while my mum looks after the kids. You can take up to 18 months to complete the course and then you’re a qualified plumber.
Setting up alone
‘Once I’m qualified I would like to set up my own business. As I balance the books in my job at the moment, I don’t think I’ll find that aspect of running a business difficult. I want to aim my business at women who are home in the day with their kids, who’d prefer to have a woman come round.
‘My aim is to earn more money than I do now but I’m not expecting to make a million in my first year – so long as I have enough to live on, that will be fine for me.
‘My boys think it’s brilliant I’m doing this – it’s not something many women do and they love to try and help me study. I have had a few comments from people – most are encouraging – but older men seem to find it difficult. One told me that if a woman plumber came to his house to fix something, he’d shut the door in her face!’