Monday, 29 September 2008

Everyone needs a great financial advisor.

My natural instinct in life is to hate financial advisors. I have met a few in my short (yes short) life. I have normally had to resort to taking advice from these "sorts" when my financial life has turned to disaster. Most of the time when I have had to deal with any kind of financial institution this has normally ended with me either crying or feeling slightly suicidal... at times this has been replaced by pure hatred for the person who sits behind the desk gently tutting at my financial incompetence as they delve through the depths of my various credit cards statements questioning how I spent so much in such a short amount of time. Red faced I try to justify myself by stating that bank account had been emptied and I was forced to use my credit cards 2. I have a problem. I literally can't stop spending. It was either visit a financial advisor or go to a mental institution (I probably should have picked the latter) 3. I had no idea what had happened having been struck down by amnesia in the preceeding months. I could feel the judgement of me and my spending habits literally oozing out of the pores of this man. He looked disappointed in me without even knowing me and seemed bored with my excuses. Sure he'd heard them all before but there is a code of politeness. I do it with client's all the time. I listen to them knowing that they are justifying their actions and making themselves feel slightly better but the reality is they are lying and it's appropriate for me to seem to believe them at the very least in the first meeting!

So my experience of financial advisors is that they are generally judgemental, slightly smug people who look down their noses and sigh at the level of debt you have got yourself into as they wipe imaginery dust off their Rolex watch. Generally speaking they are making money out of your misfortune. This I don't mind as such as any advisory role does just that. If all was going well they would need you alot more. They would probably downplay your wealth and talk about wealthier client's they see and how to achieve this level of wealth. But the run of the mill people ... people like me... commonly known as "debt ridden scummers" are the ones that they can really vent their anger on without worrying about complaints. After all we need them much more than they need us!

Last Christmas as I stared at my credit card statements and spent alot of time trying to juggle my money in order to pay the minimum payments I knew it was only a matter of time before I would find myself again knocking on the door of the local financial humiliator to try to resolve my financial difficulties. I'm honest when I need help but there is something so very mortifying about going to someone and confessing your financial sins. I am the typical person who earns a decent wage but has a massive ball and chain that I drag around with me. The ball and chain is years of living on a low wage, student loans and credit card therapy. I needed help.

My friend suggested that I go and see someone at a place called Acorn Finance. I was slightly concerned that Acorn suggested they expected people to have little debts. You know the size of an acorn. I was a financial loser. The worst kind. As I had ignored it for far too long. I went to see Andrew (although I'll call him Andreas as the mediterrean name makes the process seem sunnier and alot less dark and painful). Within minutes I was in tears. I told him I was in a mess. Andreas was different from other financial advisors I had seen. He certainly didn't appear to be judging me and I felt as if he had heard it all before. Inside I have no doubt he was thinking "oh my god you financial incompetent!" but he hid it well and was friendly yet I totally believed what he had to say. Before Christmas I was sorted and relieved to think that I would be able to deal with my debts and not get myself into such a situation again.

So 7 months later when I was forced to get in touch with Andreas again I couldn't really see what I could say other than "I've really screwed up!" Ok so by the time I saw him he was a little more judgemental but this time I didn't cry. What was the point? He knew I was a loser so why become a pathetic loser? I wasn't crying when I was building up the credit cards again. And this time I had to accept real responsibility. It was hard. I took it on the chin... Ok I didn't. But I knew that I was just an idiot when it came to money and I would have to deal with my idiotic behaviour. IF there is ever a next time I know he will use 2 words and the first one will begin with P and the second word will be off... This alone makes me fear him. And I'll be honest this is not the sort of man you fear! He's funny and I suspect a bit of a party boy but the difficulty with this sort of person is you know that if you let him down again you would feel really bad! One evening after work I went to see him to discuss the loan arrangements for my new consolidation I arrived at the office after work to a barrage of bad language being shouted through the office. I was sitting in the waiting room as I listened to various c, f and sh words being shouted to a colleague and knew that this was the sort of unprofessional firm I needed to be involved with! These people were perfect for my financial needs! They were approachable and human. They hated their clients and therefore me and it made me love their ethos all the more! A rather embarrassed Andreas came round the corner and greeted me saying that he was unaware I was sitting there. But the reality was it sealed my loyalty to such a ridiculously helpful and hugely unprofessional approach. Now don't get me wrong I'm sure they can be very professional for others. I mean only today Andreas cancelled my appointment to go and hob nob on a golf course with some of his more important clients. His complete honesty immmediately made me feel like I'm in on a secret. I know the flaws, their professionality is wasted on me and I think they know that.

Now to bring a new element of interbreeding to Jersey I then happened to tell Andreas that I was looking for a flat. He told me that his business partner David had a flat to rent. He called him in and I met David who looked like he had just woken up (it was 5pm) and told me his wife deals with it all. After Andreas telling me it was a whole £200 cheaper than it actually was (the lack of accuracy of figures may worry some when it comes to a financial advisor but it appealed to me... why should we get bogged down with accuracy anyway!!).I visited the flat and I now live in it. It is all a bit weird! I wonder if they really wanted me close? Did I have to commit my soul to Acorn now that I've messed up for the second time? Every purchase I make I now think about knowing that I will have to walk it into my flat past the house that David lives in. They've lent me money I have to be seen to be being sensible. It is the old saying of keep your friends close, your enemies even closer... I wonder if the same goes for debtors? It would seem also that Andreas has been to visit David at home and has seen my crap car and then because he knows that he has no real professional image with me he had the cheek to tell me it was crap! He back tracked soon after I told him I was willing to borrow more money to buy a nice car and all we had to do was re-hash the figures. Suddenly my little passion wagon was not so bad! Funny that!

And so I find myself for the first time feeling responsible for ensuring I don't let these people down. I owe it to their honesty and their lack of professional image. I will never find another firm like it I am sure. And ok so they have bothered to move me next door to them to keep an eye on me... which is a little over the top! But I guess it's good for me too... as the guilt of buying is more overwhelming than usual. I may start carrying purchases into my flat in the dark under sheets or black bags when everyone is asleep... it may be the only way to keep the shopping addiction going! The truth is that this is the kind of advice I need... no judgement but the fear of disappointing Andreas and David. However the commitment of a five year loan and living in this flat for possibly five years is not something I can envisage. I may have to escape the cell and move elsewhere at some point... I just pray I don't fall off the wagon. We all need a great financial advisor... but if you can't find one ... get one that at least has a lack of pompousness and the ability to make you feel comfortable. The best kind is one that really just acts like a friend who seems to be mucking around a bit. There is really no need to be all serious about it... we all know it's pathetic that I'm in this situation so let's just accept it... slightly scared I'm now thinking though I may have lost my freedom to these people...They are watching me... Acorn don't stifle me I want to be an Oak tree. Note to self I must read the small print and just make sure I don't have to hand over my soul as collateral for my loan.... oh so what if I do it'll be worth it I guess!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Excuse me... I think I'm lost on the road to nowhere....

As you all know I am now in my new flat. I have also mentioned it is gorgeous... I have a few problems like sky is not working yet and my internet is tempermental (stop muttering "let it go Clare" - I can't ok? Deal with it)but I am a little further away from work and therefore from town then I used to be. It is picturesque and quaint and most people will remark on what a lovely area it is! It is not unusual to regularly see a person riding their horse past my window and the sound of birds cheeping but PAUSE hang on just one second! I am not used to this!

I awake in the morning to the sound of these noises accompanied by the sweet sound of quite a busy road in front of the house. As you all know country roads mean one thing! Men driving like loonies, way to fast and swerving in and out. So I hear this noise and get out of bed cursing the world as I go and when I finally get in my car to get out on to that busy road I'm constantly dicing with death. The entrance to the road is a concealed entrance and has no visibility to see traffic coming either way. I should go back a step to say that the driveway is on a very tight corner so on maneouvering my way to get out of the gateway I'm then faced with a wall that is directly in front of me. With no power steering I huff and puff to move the wheel and reverse two inches, turn the wheel, go forward 2 inches, reverse two inches whilst turning the wheel and go forward again until I have cleared the entrance. This immediately leads me to being hot and bothered as I then risk my life to get onto the road. Honestly I am not exagerrating you cannot see a thing from either direction. This morning I decided to open my windows to see if I could hear a car and then nearly killed myself as my own heap of a car makes so much noise from the engine it drowned out the sound of oncoming vehicles! To be honest it's a game of russian roulette and it involves straining my neck and generally talking to myself saying "can I go, shall I go oh what the hell just close your eyes and go!!!" You can imagine my mood then by the time I get to work. To say that it is not worth even saying hi to me is an understatement. For future reference if you say hi at this point on my arrival I won't answer. Sorry I'm just not capable. Wait an hour and a latte and you may get a grunt... apart from that it's just not worth it. I'm being honest and I'm warning you.

Being Sunday yesterday I decided that I would have a little drive around to get to know the area. I was hoping to drive and come across a nearby shopping mall that no one had mentioned existed and maybe a big supermarket like Tesco which was open all hours of the day and night. The dreams in my head filled my heart with delight as I risked life and limb to get onto the main road. I drove aimlessly whistling to myself. I stayed straight first of all and then did a few right and left turns. Easy enough to remember on a small island? Twenty minutes later I realised that I probably should have bought camping equipment as I was totally lost. I didn't recognise anything as I drove through country lanes covered with trees and wondered what would happen if a spaceship lifted me up and took me and my car into space. No one would have seen me to know where I was. It was completely deserted. An hour and a half later I had discovered two things. One - I have no sense of direction whatsoever and in fact I was tempted just to leave all my possessions and rent a new flat and start again as I would probably never find my way back to my current home and Two - I live in the middle of nowhere! There is no shopping mall. No secret big supermarket. In fact there was not much of anything. How could I get constantly lost on an island that is so small? I always pretend that I am pretty good at directions. I often impress my mum with my ability to get places (though not when I offered to drive her and my auntie to my cousin's wedding and due to a few unfortunate turns on my part they ended up arriving half way through the ceremony! They were the first ones out though so this meant they were the first ones to the reception.... so don't think they had anything really to complain about!)

So here I am in the middle of nowhere. I realised whilst I was driving that probably one life skill that is pretty essential to be successful in life is to have a good sense of direction. I mean we are ruled by directions. Not just to get us from a to b but also in life. Where is this relationship going? What direction in your career are you taking? Answering direct questions. They are all about routes that are taken and they get us to where we need to be. The problem is my sense of direction does cause friction in my life. As I am constantly lost it means I take longer to get there than anyone else. This is whether I'm going to work, trying to grow up or in relationships. I put the time in. Everything takes longer than I'd expect and when I don't know the right directions I guess (with some confidence) normally taken the wrong route first. I do though eventually find my way and upon arrival I find the rest of the world has not only passed me by but they are waiting for me and slightly pissed off about my late arrival! But does it really matter how I get there? I don't arrive in style, I'm normally stressed and bedraggled, late and frowning but I make it. Isn't that what's important?

It is quite nice though living in the middle of nowhere. It's quite anonymous and makes me feel like I'm a little bit of a secret hiding away in my little flat... But to be a hermit like Howard Hughes I suspect it is more appealing if you have lots of good stuff to keep you amused like SKY TV for instance.... I have a need people! Until this need is met I will continue to moan! Or even internet that is reliable. Maybe even a nice car to drive round nowhere in! It's the little perks that make nowhere bearable surely?

And so as I get back on that road tomorrow... sorry IF I get back on that main road tomorrow... it really is that dangerous!... I know that the only direction I'll travel at 8 am is towards work but on the way home who knows? I will continue my quest to find something remotely civilised on this island... remotely modern... It's like being in a desert and seeing a mirage and praying it stays there by the time you get there... that's how I feel about shopping malls or supermarkets.... it looks like it's there... you can see it... you imagine getting out of your car and wandering the large expanse of aisles and aisles of various food, drink and if you are lucky books, clothing, stationary and DVDS but as you approach it disappears before your very eyes... You don't know what happened to it or why it is not there anymore but it's gone... God giveth and god taketh away... the problem is often it leaves us with being on the road to nowhere.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

I want my life back... sky tv I miss you!

Once again my poor blog has been neglected and I have probably lost all my readers in the process ... so for my brother and sister who are no doubt reading this and already know this information I'll bore you again.

In recent weeks I have moved out of my flat and into a new one. My new flat is a lot bigger than the previous one and upon viewing it I immediately decided that it would change my life. No more lying on the floor with my lap top plugged in with lots of wires. This time I was going to do it properly! This time I would have the ability to sit on my sofa (did I not mention it came with a sofa in the flat which is large and soft! -I wasn't aware that sofas could be soft and that you could lie out on them!) I moved in with excitement. The flat is a two storey one bedroom flat which also has a mezzanine floor (a posh word for a half floor which is kind of pointless but nice)in the living room. The first question I asked was "does the flat have sky tv?". As the landlady nodded I knew I had found a HOME!

I have now been living in this flat for 2 weeks and to be honest I'm confused. Don't get me wrong the flat is a dream but somehow I have managed to get myself in a situation where I am no longer lying on the floor next to my laptop but I'm sitting in a dark corner underneath the staircase to the mezzanine floor between the sofa and my tv. There is no room for me to lie down. There is honestly no room for anything. This is the only place I can put my lap top as I don't have wireless. This means that whilst I'm writing this my feet have gone to sleep as they are all caught up underneath my legs. I'm also surrounded by wires and I can't watch TV at the same time.

So has Sky changed my life for the better?... the answer is no. Why I hear you cry? Well my miniscule TV has been moved to my bedroom! Someone at work was selling a 26 inch TV for £10. I assumed it must be broken or else a gift from god. When I arrived to pick up the TV I realised that it weighed as much as a man with a serious obesity problem and as I lugged it down the stairs in high heels and put it in my car I realised that the chances of me getting it out of my car was unlikely. However I managed to get it out several days later after of course, I noticed that the car was struggling to go uphill from the weight of the TV in the back which I had cunningly covered in the back seat with a sheet. I did not want anyone breaking into my £160 car to steal my £10 TV! After getting the TV into the flat I whistled lightly as I prepared for Sky to immediately come on. In my head I started to plan my evening of watching MTV and american sitcoms. So why could I not get it to work? Why does god giveth and taketh away? Surely this was too unfair?

For the next 3 days I tried everything I could think of ... unplugging various leads, cords and plugging in various wires to anything I could find. I invested in a long plug extender thing so that I could have more than two things plugged in at once in the hope it would help with all the items I intended to plug into the area next to the TV (ie my laptop and stereo). But nothing... no sky. I could get up the menu titles but then it would say no signal. I contemplated moving out there and then but I am faced with reality - Sky and I are not meant to be together. I just don't understand it. We are perfect for each other. The mindless programme watching suits my numb brain perfectly and I long to spend quality time with cable tv!

Apart from that my new flat is lovely. I am still at the stage where everything is kept perfectly in place. I even bought new sheets for my bed to make it look extra nice! Ok so the bedroom is about quarter the size of my previous bedroom and therefore I feel a bit like I'm sleeping in a box... but still it looks nice.

Along with that I have no microwave which is a big problem for someone who is as lazy as I am. I wonder how anyone lived without a microwave before? Thank god I didn't live in a time before microwaves! And yet I somehow feel as if I'm living in that time zone now.

I have a place to park at my new flat too! This is an amazing feeling! I no longer have a ten minute walk to get to my car! I just look straight out my front door and there it is...the little car! And ok so I did tell everyone when I moved here I would get the bus to work to save money rather than paying for car parking near work and OK so, as of yet, I've not managed to get the bus as the temptation of hopping into my car and getting to work without having to deal with looking at other people on the way to work on a bus is just too appealing! I can't stand the thought of sitting on a bus listening to some woman (you know the kind the one with the incessant chatter? The one who names people you have never heard of and assumes the person she is talking to knows who she means. So she'll say "Pat is going to come and stay and I said to Julie you know you really must come and see me soon" and some poor sucker will be listening politely wishing she could find the off button for the obnoxious woman who just can't stop spouting out crap particularly as she has never met Pat or Julie or in fact this woman!) You see even the thought of it makes me irrate so why would I put myself through it! Why not just admit that I have not got the patience or the inclination to sit on a bus?... or even run for one as I'm sure to be on the brink of missing it every morning and I will then have to half heartedly run for it before giving up and deciding I may as well just be late for work again!So as long as my car continues running I will be in it on my way to work scowling but in the privacy of my own car!

And so I've realised that everywhere you move has it's own problems. After complaining for a year that I was always lying on the floor in front of my laptop I am now doing the unthinkable which is so much worse! I'm sitting upright at my laptop... it's like torture. Someone save me from a life without wireless and sky tv! I've done my time... give me my life back!