Whilst doing my 64 laps of the pool on holiday every morning I thought of brilliant ideas of content to write about. This being one of them. I want to share how I changed my money mindset over the years and how you might be able to as well. Much of this story is linked to life events, as much of our behaviour is. Enjoy the story. The truth.
We can be not great with money, and then change it up to be good. I was good, then not good, then good again. It’s totally possible!
I was so good with money as a teenager, I had a job from the age of 14 and worked a lot of hours, earning good money to pay for my social life and clothes shopping. I always had savings and took great pleasure in watching the balance grow.
There were two life events which changed it all. Firstly, my mum died when I was 16, which installed an element of a risk-taking reckless attitude to money. And then I went off to university at 18, without any formal money management lessons and winged it/messed up.
In the 90’s we didn’t have to pay for university, I know, SUPER lucky, thank you to the government for that, or rather shame on you for now charging students £9k per year in tuition fees. And I got a grant. My dad was retired so I had access to a full grant of around £2k per year. I got that first terms grant cheque, I’d never had so much money in my life and blew it ALL on a new stereo and huge Top Shop clothes haul.
Credit cards were opened and I always relied on overdrafts for my entire university time. I worked for most of the four years, sometimes in a highly paid £15 an hour job at M&S (whom I did my dissertation for in final year), but I still walked away from university with student loan debt of around £8k and several store cards, credit cards and a big overdraft that stopped being free as soon as I left university.
I should also add that my dad died in 1996, when I was 19, exasperating my hedonistic, risk-taking attitude. Life was for living and spending right? I might die, got to spend it before dying.
At the age of 22 I left university with a 2:1 and started working at HSBC as a financial analyst. Starting salary of £25k in 1999. A brilliant salary, worth £50k in today’s terms and I spent most of it. I was working in London, living with my well-off boyfriend in Kent, then we bought a proper family home in Essex. By the age of 24 I was mortgaged, a homeowner, a proper job in the city, amazing holidays and my first Louis Vuitton bag.
The money flowed; some went into an ISA (£25 a month!) but mostly it was spent.
I qualified as a CIMA accountant in 2001 and not long after moved from HSBC to Tesco to work in their huge head office finance team, starting salary £40k at age 25, 2002.
Life was running all too smoothly, it was time to shake things up and take some risks. I split with my boyfriend after five years together, we had turned into friends, no bad vibes. I relocated to Hertfordshire, buying my first house by myself and paid £160k for a cute two-bedroom house. The deposit was paid with the £25k my ex gave me when we sold the Essex house. We split so amicably, I last saw him in Stevenage outside Argos just after my eldest son was born, me pushing a new-born in a pram. He didn’t see me; I didn’t call out to him.
I was 27, with a great job and flourishing career at Tesco, who rated me highly, I was doing well. I quickly moved on relationship wise, VERY quickly. Six weeks after splitting with the ex I met my husband to be in a Southend nightclub.
I fell in love very quickly with a person who wasn’t quite who I needed. I thought he had financial stability, in reality debt, but I fell in love (or lust) and he moved into my house within three months.
But we were in love, money didn’t matter right? It didn’t matter that he earned less, I earned enough for the both of us. We went on incredible holidays, ate out at the best restaurants. We bought Hugo Boss and Ted Baker clothes.
The debt cycles went up and down, sometimes I would have £10k on credit cards, always 0%. Sometimes I would get a bonus to pay them down, but they were ever present and it just became normal.
My child-baring years. Three boys from age 30 to 35. My career stalled with the birth of my children. After my third I was working for EE, finally contributing to a pension and in a high paid responsible job working in London full time.
We were married when I was 22 weeks pregnant, aged 30, me thinking that I HAD to be married before my first born arrived. What a pile of rubbish, and an expense, that wedding cost me £10k.
My 30s were a bit of a baby blur. Pregnant, small babies, breast feeding, trying to work full time to throw into the mix. I always had to go back to work when the money ran out and the bills needed to be paid.
By the time my littlest one was two I decided to shake things up again. I was hardly seeing my children. I was paying my childminder up to £1,200 some months, all for this career, and maintaining this middle-class lifestyle. House, holidays, clothes.
I set up Mrs Mummypenny. A website and Facebook Page in 2013. It was a hobby, a side project, something to keep me amused in the early mornings when I would wake up before the house did.
It started to grow into something, something with potential. Lots of people supported me and told me it was a top unique business idea. I despised my corporate job and controlling female boss (without kids may I point out) and the life that went with it. I didn’t want to be forced into this life where I HAD to earn £80k a year to pay for the 200k mortgage and expensive lifestyle.
I orchestrated a compromise agreement in a restructure and left EE in 2015 with a 40k pay off. This was the money I needed to pay the bills for the first two years of running Mrs Mummypenny full time. Except that money burnt a hole in my pocket.
This is 2015 and I still hadn’t learnt money management. We spent 10k on a two-week family holiday, we spent another 5k on a Las Vegas holiday, I spent £1k on a Prada bag. The money ran through my fingers like water.
The thing with a spender, as I was, is that we really need a saver to balance us out. To help us rationalise our spending decisions and say no. I have never ever had this person in my life. I have never had anyone to stop me making rash, expensive, risky decisions. Funnily enough now, my kids do this. They rationalise my decisions and say no mummy that £1,600 Prada bag is half a holiday. Good point DJ. I took it back, yes, I bought a bag for £1,600, but I took it back.
By the age of 40 I had three small boys who were 10, 8 and 5. My business was doing okay but I had £16k of credit card debt, I could not afford the repayments. I had a lightning bulb moment after my 40th birthday holiday/party and made it my mission to pay off that debt. This was the start of my financial revolution.
And I went public with it, until that point, I had been hiding my debt from my building readership and followers on Mrs Mummypenny. I starter to document my debt repayment journey, sharing the ups and down of the two-year progress.
I intended to pay off the £16k in 16 months. That was totally unrealistic. Summer holidays got me, my income went down being self employed and the costs of looking after three children for six weeks went up.
From 2015 to 2017 I worked like a dog to increase my income and save as much money as possible to pay off that debt. And by April 2019 I did. And I wrote about it for The Financial Times and The Sun, check out the difference in stories!
I was back in control of my finances and my life. I had another epiphany. That my marriage was over, we were different people to when we met aged 27. This was June 2019, when it ended. Divorce proceedings were started straight away, although he refused to leave the house until finance had been agreed and money transferred. Those ten months were officially ground zero, too difficult to talk about.
By March of 2020 the money side of the divorce had been agreed. I was staying in the house and buying him out for £110k. I extended my mortgage with Santander, thank you, thank you Trussle for sorting out the re-mortgage and Santander for lending me the money. It all happened three days before lockdown.
And then we went into lockdown. I had a huge mortgage that felt a little uncomfortable when I said the number I owed out loud. But my business was doing well, and lockdown ended up being a successful time for a personal finance expert. My business grew significantly, my profile grew, I started doing lots more TV, Radio and Newspaper work which then drives well paid corporate work.
I began moving towards financial stability and my journey towards independence. I had a solid emergency fund in place of three months essential expenses. At least 12k a year went into my pension plus money into my S&S ISA. I paid off my balloon payment on my hybrid car and was outright owner in September 2021. I was officially consumer debt free in September 2021.
2022 and 2023 have been the best years of my life. I am happy. My boys are happy, not without difficulties of divorce, but generally happy. I have amazing friends who have supported me 100% throughout the last few challenging years and my whole life. I have a business that I love and brings me happiness every day. And my love life, well it’s been a dating journey with ups and downs and fun.
I am pleased to report that I am well on my way towards financial freedom. And I have found my personal finance way. I relearnt everything and am living proof that you can go in the wrong direction, but then right yourself, if you are prepared to make some big changes and big decisions. Believe in yourself, do what you love and don’t let anyone stop you or reign you in.