Your comments on the Spend it like Beckham programme.
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A reply to a few of the comments, if I may be allowed to defend myself, since I appeared in the show and was made to look stupid. The Panorama team edited the interview to make me look incredibly stupid and missed out an important number of points.
Firstly, the point I was trying to make is that I had just turned 18 when I went to university. The loans companies have incredible marketing tools at their disposal which they use to ensnare young, impressionable, irresponsible, immature students like I was then. I have no qualms with admitting I was stupid beyond words, but it was far too easy for me to get into debt. Now, if the government is willing to make it illegal for me to take illicit drugs so I don't bring harm to myself, then they should also ban me from getting into credit I cannot afford.
Secondly, when the credit companies lend you money, they are making an investment, just as if you invested your money in the stock market. What sympathy do you get from the financial institutions when your pension fund falls through the floor? They also make huge returns on their investments. Now, traditionally, the higher the return the higher the risk you take to get that return.
Thirdly, students are ideal prey for the credit companies. They don't want people who pay off their balances every month as they don't generate profit. They need people who will stay in debt to pay the phenomenal interest rates that they charge.
Finally, bankruptcy is there as a lifeline to stop the situation spiralling out of control. Desperation can lead people to do stupid things, like turning to loan sharks, crime or prostitution. It isn't a step to take lightly and your correspondent obviously doesn't know much about what happens during the process. It is a punishment for a first offence. The second time you will go to prison. I would be unable to get credit for a very long time if I did go bankrupt (and I'm not so yet), which is a good thing. I don't want to be able to get credit ever again. Believe me, I have learned my lesson.
I have not asked for anyone's sympathy, nor do I want it. All I ask is the chance to restart my life with a clean slate. With hindsight, university was a bad idea. But without students, you won't have technological advancement. In my case, I am researching new medicines for the treatment of cancer. Scientists are like gold dust, and the idea of getting into stupendous debt only to earn bad money as a scientist at the end of it (compared to say, sales and marketing types), certainly doesn't encourage more people to do it. So in conclusion, yes, I was an idiot but I'm trying to sort my life out for past crimes.
Andrew Caldicott, UK
I'm writing about the recent issue raised about credit being 'easy to get'. At the age of 17, one year below the minimum age to legally gain credit, I applied for a Barclaycard Visa Credit Card. I stated on the application form I was 1 year older than I actually was. 2 weeks later I received a credit card from Barclaycard with a £1000 credit limit. Sure something is not right here? Don't borrowers check your details before they give out credit? I'm now 18 and I'm paying off the debt made on the card now.
Matthew Phillips, UK
I found it very disturbing that we as a nation are so much in debt. However, would it not be more constructive to suggest ways of reducing such debts? I was also amazed at your example of the couple who live in Somerset who have accumulated such tremendous debts that they will have only £30 per week to spend on food in order to pay them off. How can they afford the food we were watching them eat on the programme on that budget? Surely they could downsize on their house and buy a smaller home to pay the debts off? If you want to make the point of people suffering as a result of getting into debt I think you should try to find a case of real hardship - there must be better examples than this.
I have several credit cards, but only use one at a time, as I look for the best deal, and that is NOT the interest rate. I'm looking for the best "cash back". Virtually ALL my spending is on the credit card and I pay the balance off every month and have never incurred interest. This year I expect to receive a nice tidy sum back from the card company. On top of that I have an offset mortgage, so my salary stays in the bank doing its offset thing. When the money leaves my account to pay the credit card bill, I get paid again a few days later keeping the offset balance up. I just use the credit card like a bank account. I'll bet credit card companies and the banks hate me.
Chris Hall, UK
I agree with a lot of the comments being made - however I feel strongest about Bankruptcy - why should people who have been totally irresponsible get to declare themselves bankrupt and then a couple of years down the line get back onto mainstream credit - surely that is giving out the wrong signals - people should be made to pay the money back or at least have a longer term where credit cannot be obtained. Also I feel that Lenders/credit card companies have a responsibility to their customers not to take advantage. Then again it comes down to each individual's common sense but then that's not always easy if you are vulnerable!
Good Programme. But, one thing we need to remember - that not all people are getting credit so easily. It's for the people - those who have good rating - also for the people who know how to change the answers for the questions which they ask. I thing credit cards are tricky way for the banks but, it's the customer's responsibility to make sure that they don't fall in to the credit cards. My annual income is 30K . I have credit worth 15K and I have been turned down for loans in two banks and for a credit card as well. So, it's not easy to get credit as easily as it described in the program.
A friend of mine ran up debts of well over £100,000 using credit cards and bank loans to finance a champagne lifestyle and mollify the trauma of a broken marriage. He moved to another part of the country and after a lot of threatening letters, phone calls and doorstep visits, the creditors went away empty. None of his creditors actually sued him presumably because the cost of suing is now so high; they merely wrote off the debts. In the words of Lord Dunpark, that eminent Scottish Judge: "You cannot get blood from a stone".
I have had many debt problems in the past with credit cards but I learnt my lesson years ago. I always pay off my only credit card and only use it for specific reasons such as travel and online transactions. Everything else I buy is cash or debit card. Credit cards are designed to be deceptive. The problem is the lack of controls in the credit market leads to indiscriminate lending of silly money to the very people who can least afford it. Rich people don't use credit cards for any other reason than convenience so the target market is obviously the least well off or even better the middle classes who only think they are well off. A better name would be "Debt Card" for credit cards and "Home Ownership Transfer Agreement" for the consolidation loan shark specialists.
Jon Lloyd, Channel Islands
Good programme, but when talking to the debt collection service they failed to mention about the new law changes in April 2004 when bailiffs for the first time in 100 years will have the power to force entry into your home. This will lead to even more sub-prime lending, with people trying to fend off the wolf from the door, but this time it will be real.
Getting credit is not always easy. I recently returned to the UK after 10 years on the continent. I couldn't even get a contract phone. My pension is significant but the only factor was: "How long at current address?". We live in a free economy : it's individuals who need to take responsibility.
Mark Jennings, UK
Not being able to imagine myself with money, I'd like to thank Justin Rowlatt for highlighting to me the dangers of taking on "credit", and intend to keep within my meagre means rather than make things worse for myself in the long run.
"Spend it like Beckham" - interesting programme. But it didn't seem to take account of the fact that lately many have been using the property market as an alternative Stock Market. Not so much 'equity in your home', but 'home(s) in your equity'? Therefore the picture gets wider still?
Maggie Brace, Wales, UK
With one exception (the couple), the general line taken by the programme was that people were exploited by greedy financial institutions, at one point asking an "expert" whether the student had been stupid, to which back came the reply that it wasn't his fault.
The fact however is that the student was incredibly stupid, deserves no sympathy from the rest of us and has absolutely no one but himself to blame. Apparent "experts" placing the blame elsewhere will only encourage a sense of grievance, and may even have been the reason why he has now shamefully walked away from his responsibilities.
And there lies the one point the programme failed to tackle. The debt that he was walked away from is going to be paid by someone, most probably savers who act in a responsible manner. Perhaps you should have asked him why he thinks it is fair to expect someone else to pay off his debts. Perhaps you should have asked him whether he would have honoured his obligations if the cost of not doing so was going to be the refusal of credit for the rest of his life. And perhaps you should have questioned whether it was right that personal bankrupts should find it so easy to get credit again so quickly.
I am amazed that in whatever so called exposes on debt / credit that the only insolvency item mentioned is bankruptcy. Why are the governmental options devised to assist people in this situation never discussed. Any employed/self employed or Ltd Co has options in the form of IVA's and CVA's - promote them. Consult a good recovery specialist. Not a licensed Insolvency Practitioner and take it from there.
Samantha Maeer, UK
A worthy topic shabbily handled. Did we really need a Beckham look-alike signing autographs (as who? - potential fraud here!), coupled with the largely pointless use of the man who found credit card terms and conditions interesting, who was reduced to the role of a comedy straight man. The programme was yet another on the theme "people are too stupid to be allowed to make their own decisions" which was appropriate when its approach was "people are too stupid to understand programmes on finance without silly gimmicks".
Rob Lee, UK
I would like someone to tell us where all the money or credit comes from which people borrow. Is there a big bag somewhere or is it, as some claim, created by the banking system? If so why can't the government get into the act?
C J Whitmill, England
I am always being sent letters over loans and credit cards. At present I have five cards but I pay off my bills each month. The credit limit on them totals about £16,000 and I am unemployed. I use them for the handy credit that I have instead of carrying the cash with me, but other people cannot grasp that they have to pay it finally. And families are broken up due to the debt burden that they mount up.
Brian Hughes, UK
I was very interested to see the "Spending it like Beckham" programme this evening. I have also been crippled by the credit process. I was a student who graduated the year of the September 11th bombings. I could not, along with around 75% of my fellow students, get work. I had credit cards which were unused at the time and due to an excessively low income used them, like the couple in your film, for living expenses. Though I hasten to add not a luxury lifestyle!
Eventually I got a job but within five months my mother had suffered two strokes and I am now her carer. At 33 I have very little life and no prospect of getting a house or for my long term partner and I to marry. I am unable to reduce the debts and walk around in shoes with holes and no winter coat. The only way to get these is by obtaining a Budgeting Loan from the Benefits Agency - yet more debt.
I would also gravely disagree that modern debt collectors take a different approach. I am constantly threatened with court action, insulted and generally threatened that I will be reduced to nothing. I have suffered very bad depression, and stress has caused many ailments. I never intended to not work or not pay my debts - I always have done; but no-one could foresee a situation like this. Coming from a single parent family I also left university with a £15,000+ student loans debt. I have been made to feel a worthless individual by those who have money and a job and this has made me suicidal. Who on this earth has the right to make anyone feel like this? These debt agencies make you feel like they own you and will bleed every last drop of blood from you.
The debt may be a serious problem, but it would be interesting to investigate the damage these collection individuals do to people. As a full time carer for a sick and elderly family member, I do a pretty worthwhile job saving the tax payer money - for that privilege I get £25 per week. What chance do the many people like me have of ridding ourselves of debt? And what chance of a liveable life on such a meagre income?
We need personal responsibility rather than a police state telling us how to spend our money. Having said that, lenders need to work on making the terms and conditions of their loans more easy to understand.
Gregory Roumeliotis, UK
'Enjoyed' the programme if you can call it that. Makes a dire warning. I do find the 'business' of credit cards a strange one though. Rather like the drug game if you like. I don't want to sound like a puritan or a sour faced moaner but if you have no interest in drugs then no matter how hard someone tries to sell them to you, you can always refuse. And the same with credit cards.
I use them for my work as a self employed person and have built up my credit limit. Each month I pay them off. Again, I am not a puritan and will party like anyone else. But is it not a little about self control and the inside confidence that you don't need to spend spend spend to have a good time and to feel good? Don't get me wrong - I agree spending on good cars and holidays can cheer you up, but is it not hollow? Why did the student feel the need to spend lots of money on having a good time and spend loads whilst "on the pull". Is that to say the girl he was after was into his money or him?! Why not go to a prostitute?
It is very old fashioned to say "live within your means", and I am careful to never say it to my big spending friends for the taunts I will get but is it not an old value worth considering? Ouch, do I sound like an old whinger or what and I'm only in my early 30's. Go watch the film Fight Club. You'll get my drift.
Panorama unfairly put all the blame on lenders in the programme. The lenders are there because there is an opportunity to make money. All borrowers are informed of the cost (i e the interest rate) beforehand. All the rules of the game are in the fine print for full reference. Just like any other contractual agreement. Very basic procedure and relationship indeed.
This is a capitalistic and open society. The lenders are there because they should. It is the general public - "middle class" or "low income" or "students" or any other group that Panorama referred to as victims - that are stupid, stupid, stupid. If adults don't know the difference between plus and minus, I regret to break it to you so bluntly but they are simply sheer idiots and are entirely to blame themselves.
Justin Rowlatt's report tonight highlights how easy it is to obtain credit nowadays. Interest rates have been very low encouraging more and more credit card debt in particular. What people forget when taking out credit card loans, is that interest rates will rise causing difficulties with repayments in the future. The nail was hit on the head with the couple we saw, whose circumstances had changed. This is when the trouble starts and indeed the reality hits and hits hard as we saw. All of the experts gave good advice I thought, and we should all heed the warnings that were given.
Steve Fuller, England
It's true how easy it is to get a credit card and the irony is people who need it don't get it. I, like thousands of other international students spend each year in UK about £15000 to £20000 but we are subject to harassment even though we deposit such large sums of money in the bank. Meanwhile, the bank does not even give us a credit card with a £500 facility in an economy where half the transactions are better made through credit cards. The UK definitely is bureaucratic and is in the medieval period compared to other economies. Wake up!!!
Bysani Vijay, UK
The article on credit cards slightly misses the point. Contrary to its parting shot, I think that a large number of people do pay their credit cards off at the end of every month. I seem to remember it is about 30%. You should quote the real figure rather than make a generalised assertion.
And in that lies another fact you miss, that credit cards penalise the poor but benefit the rich. Those that can pay them off each month without interest find them convenient and profitable. I get about £300 cash back a year from my egg card and never pay a penny towards the cost.
Those on low incomes get ripped off by usurious interest rates and are encouraged to enter a spiral of debt that they can't get out of. In effect, they and retailers are paying for the middle class' air miles and cash back. I hope your programme covers the fact that it is much more expensive to be poor than it is to be rich.
Paul Brett, UK
I would like to see credit cards renamed to something more suitable. With pre-pay mobile phones came the phrase "credit your phone", meaning to pay money in advance in exchange for air time. This dilutes the meaning of the word credit. "Loan card" seems to be the best alternative.