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THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow
  • Chris Barrow

The insidious disease called debt

I’m a creature of obsessive habit.

Returning home from a typical week of travel, I first empty my suitcase.

Clothes and running gear into laundry basket.

Toiletries back in the bathroom cabinet.

Shoes in their rack.

Suitcase behind the door in my little walk-in wardrobes.

Second, I empty my Fjallraven Kanken rucksack.

Connect my Macbook Air to the big screen, wireless keyboard and mouse.

Put collected paperwork in the in-tray.

Put devices on charge.

Third, I gather the accumulated mail from the shelf in the hall.

Brown envelopes = expensive bad news.

White envelopes = information.

Coloured envelopes = junk and charity requests.

The contents of the brown and the white envelopes will be actioned over the weekend if they are personal (that’s where Sunday morning in The Bunker comes from), early next week if professional.

It irritates me that there are organisations like utility companies, lenders, mobile phone companies and the public sector who haven’t embraced technology and inform me that I cannot communicate with them by email.

As irritating as counting the number of “number withheld”, “no caller ID” and simply mysteriously numbered incoming calls that hit our land line and my mobile phone – none of which I ever intend to answer.

Equally, there must be some metric that tells direct mail companies that there are still enough people around who will open junk mail, read it AND buy whatever they are selling?

Which brings me in, a typically roundabout way, to the title of this post.

I’m a baby-boomer, born between 1947-1957 and thus a member of the largest and most affluent demographic group in the Western economies.

“We” were the biggest explosion in the birth rate recorded before or since and “we” have had a disproportionate effect on every decade that we have populated:

In the 50’s our post-pregnant mothers were prescribed slimming pills by their GP’s and became domestic drug addicts (my mother one of them).

In the 60’s we instigated a youth culture revolution and spawned The Beatles, The Stones and Cream (in the UK), flower power (in California).

In the 70’s we bought our first home and fuelled house price inflation (nothing more than the supply/demand curve in operation).

In the 80’s we were offered almost unlimited unsecured credit by greedy bankers and found it impossible to delay our gratification.

I recall that ended in tears, with the same banks investing overseas into speculative economies and losing their shirts.

Back in 1987 we suffered a stock market crash, the Mexican banks defaulted on their loans and, by the end of that decade, the UK banks were pulling back their loans and bankrupting the very people they had thrown money at just a few years earlier.

Neil Kinnock, then leader of the Labour Party, achieved the not inconsiderable achievement of being less popular than Margaret Thatcher at a General Election and blamed his defeat, in part, on what he called the “I want it now” society that had evolved in the UK.

As to the 90’s and the 00’s?

We baby-boomers have spent most of that time “finding ourselves” with alternative solutions to the materialism that had brought us nothing but stress.

For many, that has been a journey into marital separation, addiction as anaesthetic and second careers.

Yes – you can spot all three of those in the story of my last 20 years.

So here we are in 2015.

We are all connected. This morning I chatted simultaneously on the web to my youngest daughter on holiday in Cambodia, my eldest daughter in London surfacing from her graduation ball and two of my sons in Manchester.

We can send a camera 3 billion miles to take photographs of our most distant planetary family member.

Medical students are learning anatomy with 3D holographic glasses developed by Microsoft.

And on Friday evening I open an unsolicited colourful envelope from some outfit who want to give me a credit card and lend me money, without any due regard to my financial status or my ability to manage my finances.

In the small print, I read that the accompanying interest rate would range from 39.9% to 69.9% APR.

Clearly, a fool and his money are still soon parted.

Listen, nothing would give me more pleasure this morning that to pop down to the Apple Store and emerge with a new Macbook Pro fully spec’ed. Or, for that matter, an on-line visit to Amazon to order up that set of Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 On-Ear Headphones that have been popping up on my Facebook and Google pages every day for the last 3 weeks.

But I have a piggy-bank on the shelf next to my desk and part of my OCD arriving home routine that I haven’t mentioned yet is slotting £1 and £2 coins into it every time I descend to The Bunker.

Ever now and then it fills and I count out about £200 and treat myself, avoiding the cold sweat of buyer’s remorse that used to accompany my credit card purchases in the 80’s.

I have a question.

Shouldn’t there be a law against companies that offer unsecured debt at usurious interest rates?

Debt cursed my life for a long time.

How sad to think that someone, somewhere, this weekend will open that envelope, fill in the forms and inject themselves with a dose of that same insidious disease.

I was a child of the 80’s, with a trophy lifestyle – “Paper Thin” as so accurately described by Del Amitri.

He was a self made man Made a killing on copper mines He loved beautiful girls Got a taste for fancy wines And the suits he wore were paper thin

He built a big white house In the valley of the kings Took a beautiful wife Bought her every possible thing And the silk she wore was paper thin

Well, they travelled in style Paid cash for everything Had a beautiful child Had a champagne christening But as they raised their glasses in toast to him He saw the crystal was paper thin

So the shadows came Whispering words to him He sold the company out And cashed all those futures in But it all still looked so paper thin

Well, it was late one night And the rain was streaming down He called his wife’s name out Said honey, it’s over now I’m gonna burn it all I can’t take this any more But as he struck the match She took a pistol from the drawer She said I ain’t going down with you Pulled the trigger in And the bullet it passed right through Like he was paper thin

#debt #financial #money

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