A Home Ower
Well, I just got a call to say that I 'am' (apparently) a 'home owner' (or what I call a 'home ower' - i.e. the bank owns a house, and if I promise to pay three times what it's currently 'worth' over the next 25 years without ever defaulting then I get to live there, or rent it to other people). Otherwise, they'll take it back.
You can see I don't get the concept, really. Wrong generation, perhaps, although even the people from my generation who built a house of cards would understand, and call it 'owning' something.
It's too much like magick for me. One day I have no money, no resources, no credit, no future, and then I sign a piece of paper (an IOU) and suddenly I join the propertied classes. NOT. In the movies, various mobs and mafias buy and sell debts, and then bully luckless and reckless gamblers into doing their dirty work, as the interest ticks higher and higher, and time gets shorter and shorter, and the IOU gets waved under their nose.
Check out Vulture Funds - for such people's approach to Third World Debt (buy the debt cheap, before it gets written off, and then sue for the total amount plus interest).
Somewhere to Write
Anyway, I mustn't rant on. Julie asked me to co-sign, and she's over the moon about owning a cottage in the hills. Shame she's partnered by such a miserable old buffoon. She assures me that Big Eric won't come around to kneecap me if I default, or fall into negative equity. I guess it could give me a place to write (finally) and walk the dog, and dream away. I just haven't even seen it yet!
Not yer typical Guardian Reader
I get a similar sort of sensation when I read The Guardian (which I do). I like intelligence, I like the total lack of language censorship, I like a loosely 'liberal' agenda - but I just guffaw when I read about the price people are willing to spend on clothes (this jacket's a snip at £349), wine (a cheeky little wine, and very reasonable at 14.99 per bottle, or £150 for a crate) or holidays (for only £3500 you and a loved one can spend 2 weeks on a luxury cruise - or, in The Guardian, perhaps exploring the ruins of Ancient China). Anything with more than one zero at the end makes me anxious, anything with more than two zeroes on the end make me panic, so numbers with 3 or 4 zeroes on the end (let alone 6-digit numbers) just throw me into denial.
Still, perhaps, to you, I sound like that paradoxical person - the homeless, scruffy bloke sitting on the floor, with a hat in front of him, outside Starbucks, reading The Guardian, and saying "Spare £2.50 for a cup of coffee, guv?"
I amuse myself when I write, at least - as I have no social life to speak of, and hardly ever sit around with people having a laugh these days. Most of my idea of funny just sounds grumpy and ungrateful to people, I guess. My heroes still include Diogenes the Cynic (you can read my take on that wonderful old anarchic and bohemian 'world citizen' in a piece I wrote for MQ called "Giving Cynicism A Bad Name"). You can find all my Maybe Writing in the Imperfect Index under BogusMagic. Or I have started listing my attempts on the website...under Writing.
Still obsessed with the money rant
Remarkably, statistics from Creditaction suggest that only 51% of the British population know the balance on their credit cards and 46% have no idea what interest rates they pay on debts and accounts or what they receive on savings.
Such a cavalier attitude to fiscal planning may explain why personal debt as a proportion of income has risen from 105% in 1997 to 164% in 2006; this is the highest level ever recorded in the UK and the highest in the developed world. By mid 2007 total UK personal debt was £1,345 billion and total mortgages/secured lending reached £1,131 billion.
Things people bad at numbers do not know:
For example, a £1,000 balance at an APR of 14.9% would take 19 years 7 months to clear and cost £1,116 in interest if paid back at a monthly minimum 2% level. Paying back at 3% each month brings the time down to 11 years 7 months and the interest paid to £545.
If you're so clever, why aren't you rich?
The classic snide line said to me, as the 60s kicked in, with the slogan Live Now, Pay Later to describe Hire Purchase (as they called shopping on credit then). In fact, (well, until today), as I didn't owe anybody anything I felt (looked at through my lens) richer than virtually everyone else in the country. They owed a fortune, and I hovered around zero (plus or minus £100). So how come I remain in the poverty group, and they all take holidays in The Bahamas?
A Rigged Game
No, I still don't get it. I may measure 'smart' on IQ quizzes, but I have no street smarts at all. I feel queasy at the mere thought of usury, and have always known that money is a rigged game where the 'bank' or 'casino' always wins by creaming off a chunk of the turnover, and then share out the rest among 'winning' and 'losing' punters. But gamblers don't expect to lose. I expect to lose. I don't have the fantasy that I win the lottery. If I buy a lottery ticket I just think of it as throwing money into someone else's hat.
Good Luck, mate!
I posted some of Tony Allen's material on the forum, which people whooped and yelled about...he delivered it in the 90s, but it seems just as topical now as it did then. I heard his act frequently, and it always made me laugh, and feel like someone sane had finally turned up on this god-forsaken planet (to get to hear the act a few times, without paying, I worked on the door for him a few times).