Sunday, March 30, 2008

And I'm Supposed to Feel Sorry for You Because.....?

By Linda Keenan

Fourth in a Series: Victim 4

The current economic crisis has many victims, and one of them is the wall next to my couch, where I literally fling the paper or magazine in disgust as I read yet another sad-sack story of average people who have finally figured out they can't afford that vast manse on the hill, the tricked-out home theater, the his-n-her Hummers. My poor, abused wall, that Money Magazine really lands with a bracing thud.

So this is my own occasional series that I call "And I'm Supposed To Feel Sorry For You Because....?" in which I pluck a tale from the news, and fricassee the latest "victim"* of the great overspending horror show. If I sound like a lemon-sucking shrew, well, on this topic, I am. And this time, we go global.

Today's Victim: The British! Some U.K. debt-heads were featured recently in the New York Times**. My commentary is written all in Britishisms, and as an incorrigible yob from America, do be a luv, and correct my phraseology if you are, actually, British.

Debt-Gorged British Start to Worry That the Party Is Ending

At one point, Alexis Hall had more than 50 pairs of designer shoes and handbags. {"Wot, you think I'm going to fanny about looking like some slag like Amy Winehouse? Take a running jump!"} It never occurred to the 39-year-old media relations executive from Glasgow that her £31,500 in debt ($63,000) would be a problem.

"It was so easy to get the loans and the credit that you almost think the goods are a gift from the shop," {Brill, Lexi, just brill.} "You don't fully realize that it's real money you are spending until you actually sit down and consolidate your bills and then it's a shock." {Whingy cow. Chuffed as nuts to see she's gob-smacked by her bills. Finally.}

As the United States economy weakens, many Americans are being overwhelmed by personal debt, but Britons are even more profligate. {"Worse than those ghastly, tubby chavs in the States? You're daft."} For most of the last decade, consumers here went on a debt-financed spending spree that made them the most indebted rich nation in the world...{Queue up for the dole here, Brits.}

Since many younger Britons have never lived through a period of slow growth, few now see the need to hold back on borrowing, not to mention saving. {I'm knackered just reading this.} "The general mantra is spend now, think later," said Jason Butler, an adviser at Bloomsbury Financial Planning. {"Yep, everything's just tickety-boo. Nothing to throw a benny about."}

To her parent's generation, Ms. Hall said, owing money beyond a mortgage was "shameful," an admission of living beyond one's means. {"Mum was tight as a duck's arse. And for feck's sake, her outfits are sooo antwacky".} Debt was also more difficult to get. That changed in the late 1990s when American lenders pushed into the British market with new lending products, borrowers bombarded with offers for low- or no-interest loans and credit cards. {"We give you Americans Hugh Laurie, and what do we get back? Your shite lending practices?"} As the perception of wealth grew, the social stigma around debt disappeared. {"Debt? Stigma? Oh, bollocks, Man U's on, and I fancy some footy and pints."}

Andy Davie is a case in point. Even after he had racked up £70,000 in personal debt trying to keep his business afloat, credit card issuers kept increasing his credit limits. {"Pardon, where's the loo? I'm getting the screaming abdabs. Need to vom."} "You tend to use credit to pay for credit and as far as the banks are concerned you are fine," said Mr. Davie, 41. {His wife has a shirt that says "I'm With Wanker".} He was finally forced to declare bankruptcy. {"Had a good cry on Primrose Hill after that, and lost my knickers, my actual knickers, but that's another story".}

Though still painful, the process made the prospect of defaulting slightly less daunting. "Rather than showing up at court you just fill in an online form and speak to someone on the phone," said Mark Sands, director of personal insolvency at KPMG . {"No more bother than picking up crisps at Tesco!"}

According to a survey ... less than half the population saves regularly, and more than 39 percent said they would rather enjoy a good standard of living today than save for retirement. {"Saving is just tit-boring, it must be said."} Ms. Hall said she was among that 39 percent. {Abso-bloody-lutely.} She recently took out new loans, planning to repay her existing debt. But she ended up spending the money on more luxury goods instead. {This twonk is one sandwich short of a picnic.}

This year, she published a book about her experiences. She said she did not expect the book's proceeds to repay her debts, but it may help the growing number of people in similar positions cope with theirs. {Aces, Lexi. That just takes the biscuit.}

Original here

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