Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Eighteenth century Irish statesman, author orator and political theorist Edmund Burke once said, "Bad things happen when good men do nothing" and I cannot help but wonder if over the last seventeen years of marriage my “doing nothing” was pivotal to our subsequent financial demise.  

When I retired from the financial services industry on grounds of ill health in 1998 I handed the bread-winning reins over to my husband, confident my financial reputation was safe in his hands.  At the time, I was half way through my pregnancy with our second child and suffering from exhaustion and chronic migraine brought on by over work, along with hypothyroidism and something which was later diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

At the age of forty and on the recommendation of my very supportive GP, I moved from a business life in the fast lane to one with my family and home at its center.  For the first two years we were supported by my accruals from the insurance industry and an income protection policy which paid out in the event of my ill health.  My husband was confident he could use the time provided by this short-term financial safety net to build a business using the capital we already had and in so doing take over the responsibility of providing for our family.  He showed me his figures for a ten year plan which involved selling our seven bedroom house together with my former matrimonial home to fund a “buy to let” portfolio which was to replace my income.  The balance from the sale was to provide seed money for a property development business he planned to run alongside the lettings business.  His research was extensive and his figures were both realistic and plausible. This supporting evidence, together with his track record for the successful refurbishment of two previous properties led me to believe I could relax into my role of housewife and mother for the first time in my adult life.  
Ten years on I was still basking in the knowledge my husband’s carefully constructed business plan had proved to be a successful one.  I was further encouraged to buy into the illusion of affluence when it was suggested we pay school fees well in advance so as to enjoy a discount. We enjoyed regular visits to our beautifully appointed apartment on the Costa Del Sol and commissioned a high quality finish for our sixteenth century grade two listed barn conversion which was to become our home. The sad and untimely demise my mother-in-law from Motor Neurone disease left my husband with additional capital of £200,000 in the summer of 2007 providing me with no reason to think we had any financial problems.

Within a year I discovered my husband was contemplating taking his own life with his shotgun and we were one million pounds in the red with not a single asset to our name.

When I exchanged my status as a business woman of integrity for the role of house wife and mother I had no reason to believe that, along with my financial integrity, I was giving up my right to make informed decisions about borrowings in my name.  Now, nearly three years on from the “Grand Opening,” I realize my husband made a permanently life changing decision when he risked my much valued reputation along without our home, our livelihood and our financial future and chose to withhold information from me about our joint borrowings. It is my belief he was suffering from mental health issues resulting from his unresolved grief following the long period of illness and the loss of two of his closest family members. Circumstances of which our lender and mortgage broker were both fully aware of at the time.

However, the Bank of Scotland had no such  excuse and they chose to remove my right to the information which could have saved my home and my financial reputation because I was married to the co- borrower. Instead, through unadulterated negligence, they joined forces with my unstable, grief stricken husband and set in motion a course of events which  I continue to pay the consequences of today.

Having made this enormous contribution to our financial demise the Bank of Scotland  now tell me it is I should who pick up the cost of their mistake. Before this act of gross negligence, I had a good reputation which was threatened by my husband’s bad judgement.  However, the ugly business practices of the Bank of Scotland have not only turned my family’s difficult circumstances into impossible ones, they have also relieved me of my financial reputation along with home and financial future and while it may well be true  bad things happen when good men do nothing, I have learned many things since finding myself in such unfortunate circumstances.  One of them is I am not, and never have been, comfortable with doing nothing.

These days I now find myself wondering what the going rate is for a reputation. To me it was priceless but it is almost certainly worth a lot more than a £217,000 shortfall.

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