Debt Counseling, British Style

The Financial Times has a witty piece on debt counseling in Great Britain. An excerpt:

wenty things I didn’t know before I worked as a debt counsellor

By David Gaffney. Illustration by Joe McClaren

1 You wouldn’t put all your soup in a basket, so don’t put all your debts in one

One easy payment, the ads say, as if a little light tidying were the solution to chaotic debt problems. Faced with insurmountable multiple debt, most people try to borrow their way out. This is like mending a leaking bucket by joining up all the little holes to make one big hole. Repeat this several times until you realise it doesn’t work.

2 In multiple debt land, time is geological

When I told my first client I would offer 31 pence a month off a debt of £12,000, she gasped. It would take 3,225 years to pay it off. “Don’t worry,” I said cheerfully. “Just think about it as being in debt for the rest of your life. Be positive: governments will fall, continents will shift, cities will crumble and be rebuilt, but your debts will remain standing throughout.” This, it turned out, was an insensitive way to explain the situation to my client. My bedside manner improved over the years.

3 It is legally permissible to laugh at bailiffs and drop milk bottles on their heads from upstairs

There’s case law to prove this. Bailiff law is like vampire lore. Bailiffs can come into the house only if invited over the threshold. Once inside they take an inventory of goods that they can return to remove. The courts can leave a bailiff on your premises to check you don’t move anything. This is called close possession and a bailiff has to provide his own flask and sandwiches. Bailiffs are not allowed to take away “wearing apparel in use”, so balance your plasma TV on your head and say it’s a hat. In one case, a landlord gained entry to a flat by jigsawing a hole through the floor from below. This was held to be lawful entry.

4 Debtors are expected to roll cigarettes from the hair of their dead pets

A bailiff hammering on your door doesn’t usually encourage you to stop smoking, but if you include fags in your financial statement, creditors will be as angry as if you were employing two personal pastry chefs and a private pole dancer. Creditors dislike lots of things, mainly things that you spend money on instead of giving it to them, things like pets and costly middle-class pastimes such as horse-tasting, dance-upuncture or aromabingo – anything that makes them think that you are having fun while they sit up at night writing your nightclub bills into a fat ledger.

5 The principles of debt counselling are that there are no principles

The debt counselling method is to maximise income, sort out emergencies like disconnection and eviction, then contact non-priority creditors – the credit cards, catalogues and door-to-door loan companies. Non-priority creditors don’t like debt counsellors. No one likes to be anyone’s non-priority. The technical way to describe the relationship between your client and his non-priority creditors is “F*** ’em, look after yourself, they’ll survive.”

The article continues. It is worth reading and provides a humorous look at the problem of debt on the other side of the pond.

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One Response to Debt Counseling, British Style

  1. I came across this blog – interesting read

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