Page last updated at 23:17 GMT, Tuesday, 17 October 2006 00:17 UK

Debt diary: Final thoughts

Sayara Beg
Sayara Beg feels she has come through tough times
Thousands of people in the UK are struggling with ever-increasing levels of personal debt.

BBC News website reader Sayara Beg, 36, a freelance IT consultant from East London, has been battling to come to terms with her creditors since the summer.

In her final diary entry, Sayara reflects on the lessons she has learned from the experience.

Diary entry twenty-four

I've been back at work a month, my first pay packet is on its way - and I feel I and my family are winning through.

It has been four long months since I lost my job and faced financial apocalypse, and although things still are not settled I am making real headway.

It was a bit uncomfortable during the job interview because I had some stitches and had to pretend that all was normal

The key, of course, has been getting back to work straight after the birth of my child. Of course I wanted time with my baby but I have had to accept the need to earn cash.

Thankfully, my newborn baby has settled in well with my family and is surrounded by love. This comforts and reassures me, and enables me concentrate on sorting my finances out.

It is time to take stock.

Best-laid plans...

One thing I have learned is how unpredictable the future can be.

When my husband and I planned to have another child towards the end of 2005, we were financially secure.

Both my work and his restaurant were generating a healthy income, all payments were being met and the future looked rosy.

In spite of a lull at the restaurant towards the end of February, it would still have been financially manageable - albeit tight - because my contract was until October 2006.

Our plan had been that I would still have been generating an income until July before taking a month off for the birth.

I would then have come back part-time during September and October to continue to generate an income so as to meet all my financial obligations and have time to spend with my newborn.

The major change that really affected my future was having my contract terminated early because I was pregnant.

This tipped my finances over the edge. But instead of waiting for the red reminders I decided to negotiate with my credits.

Consequences

There maybe people out there who think: Tough, she over-extended herself and had to face the consequences.

Granted, my finances were stretched and I was investing in buy-to-let property. But where else are you supposed to invest these days? Personal pensions, what with mis-selling scandals?

Like many Britons I was earning enough to keep things going. It was only when I lost that earning capacity that I faced such horrendous problems.

Some have asked why I didn't sell my property. That was easier said than done, and I was in serious difficulties for a short period of time.

I feel that I am fortunate in this situation, in that I was able to get back in to work and prove that I am capable of getting back to meeting my financial obligations quickly.

But I do wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn't been able to get back to work so quickly.

I shudder to think.

No way out?

I am lucky: there is a way out for me.

But what about people who become ill? Or whose wife or husband leaves them in financial trouble?

They are failed by this system, no doubt.

Crucially, I wanted to test the banks' promises that if someone is in debt difficulty they should get in contact and negotiate.

I did this. I have lost count how many budgets I put together, how many call centres I have called.

In most instances, I either got no response, mistaken response, complete indifference or urgent demands for payment.

I have come to the conclusion that once lenders find that you are in debt difficulty, rather than talking to you about how the situation can be sorted - trying to understand that each person's circumstances are different - they simply shout as loud as they can so to get as much of their money out as possible before the borrower sinks beneath the waves of bankruptcy.

Nevertheless, I am coming through this now.

Diary entry twenty-five

As if to kill off my bright mood, I receive another batch of default notices despite the fact my first pay packet is imminent.

This time it's my current account and business loan provider which hits me with more charges and loan default notice.

They were the first lender I contacted way back in May, when my bank manager told me that perhaps now was not the best time to have a baby.

I have been passed from pillar to post by them, explained my situation dozens of times but received no understanding - just penalty charges.

They had been happy with my business for six years. But as soon as I told them I had a problem, I was shunted off to some nightmare world of collection specialists and call centres, where no-one had any power to halt the whole process.

When this is over, it will be the last I ever deal with this bank and in future I intend to never recommend them to any family or friend, for personal or business.

This is about the only revenge a consumer has.

So how do I see the next few months panning out?

My objectives are to resume payments with all my creditors as I had being doing right up until four months ago, and pay off my arrears to clear off anything that is outstanding.

I will get there, I know I will.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by the BBC unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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