Money! by Luke Martin-Jones

Ah money.  What a strange relationship I have with money.  From my earliest memories, I remember, I never had much money and to be honest never had a need to deal with it, in the same way other kids did.  I was given no pocket money as a child and as a consequence, never had to save.  I never had a bank account as a child, because there was no need. I truly believe that if lessons were given in school, on how to deal with finances, this would go a long way to helping children deal with the day to day need, to have a good level of understanding and achieve successful financial Management.

Bipolar brings another difficulty into sound financial understanding and planning.  It has been the biggest factor in my success and failures in life.  I have always been a person who likes to spend, spend, spend.  Not having a lot of resources as a child has always taught a binge and purge ethos where spending is concerned.  When I have it, I will spend it, in fact even when I don’t I will.  I do not understand the concept of ‘Saving for a rainy day’ or ‘putting a little aside each month’.

I only really noticed there was a problem, when I went to University.  Within the first year I had run up two huge overdrafts and maxed my credit cards.  I was spending money like it was the last day on earth.  I had a cheque book and unlike today, each cheque could be guaranteed up to £50.00.  I was often cashing cheques in The Student Union Shop or the local co-op!

I remember a representative from the bank turning up at my house early one morning.  My spending had got so out of control they wanted my cheque book back.  I just went to my room, ripped out half the cheques and handed the rest to a rather stern looking gentleman, gave him a wry smile and he left.  I know now during very manic periods I would spend out of control.  There was a lot of mania, a lot of spending, a lot of debt at university.

The next time I really noticed there was a problem was when I ran my own business.  It actually wasn’t the next time there was a problem, but rather when I started to notice there was a real problem.  I took on a business without thinking through the consequences of my actions.  I opened up a Business Bank Account and for a short while things went well. I owned a garage, shop and restaurant.  It relied heavily on passing trade.  So when road works began on the dual carriage way passing my business, we were doomed!  As Jason has said, I am probably the most unlucky person he has ever known!

I was taking ever larger amounts of drawings, which the bank mistook for the business doing well.  I certainly wasn’t going to tell them any different. I was given more and more lines of credit, totalling well over £150,000.00 at one stage.  I was borrowing money to keep the business going.  Credit and money was easily obtainable at the time, 2001, so I was really just doing what everyone else was doing.  I bought a brand new car, took three holidays a year and even went further.  During one manic phase, after watching a programme on Morning TV and discovering you could buy a house in a pub, as easy as a pint,  I went up to a place called Nelson and bought a house, because I could.  We then bought a holiday home just down the road from there and bought a house in France called Le Choix.

Now being financially illiterate, I was using all the takings from the three businesses, to fund an extremely lavish lifestyle, travelling to New York, Italy and Malaysia in one year alone, on top of the three houses we had bought.  I was such a spend thrift, I got addicted to Shopping Channels, in fact I would buy anything I saw, just because I had the resources to do it.  Of course one can’t keep on spending £5,000.00 a week, without the business doing well and making money to pay for my mania.

There were ever increasing lines of credit, an overdraft totaling thousands and another illogical decision to invest thousands in the Stock Market, without knowledge of the Businesses I was investing in.  It was just like picking names out of a hat.  Still I was on a high and it all made perfect sense to me.  Unlucky me strikes again. I invested £2,000.00 in Marconi shares, a few weeks later, they collapsed.  Being the unlucky person I was I invested around £20,000.00 in total exactly one week before 9/11.  The markets crashed and I lost the lot.

My accountant was useless.  Charging me £1,500 a month – well this was Salisbury and dodgy, useless accountants don’t come cheap.  Either I was good at hiding the mounting debt or he was really that bad that he couldn’t see it.  Anyway things just went along as usual, more spending, holidays to France once a month and expensive jewellery from TV shopping channels.

I suppose I knew the end had come, when Jason had to remove £10,000.00 from his credit card to pay the staff wages.  I just kidded myself it was a temporary blip.  More money removed each month to pay the wages.  I was paying Jason £30,000 a year, I had a full time chef and ten other employees, because I was too busy spending to work myself.

I had become extremely ill.  I weighed 7 stone in weight and was getting worse by the day.  I had debts totalling a quarter of a million pounds and my stress had reached dangerous levels.  I remember working in the kitchen of the restaurant one hot afternoon.  I felt so weak and collapsed.  I had had a mild stroke.  My Doctor told me if I did not give up the business I would be dead within the year.  Now mania makes you do things in the most destructive way possible. I did a runner, left the business and just walked away.  I could not deal with the legalities behind bankruptcy.  I buried my head and became extremly depressed.  I was a shadow of my former self.

Unable to work through illness, Jason became the bread winner and we had to survive on a less than a tenth of what we did before.  It was a dark time for us. I admit it now, but I even tried to stab Jason with a knife. It was time to be admitted to hospital. From 2003, really up until 2010, the process of diagnosing Bipolar began.  It was such a long time, with many medications and highs and lows, it was truly painful!

I am still a nightmare with money.  The last two years we wasted £10,000.00 on a lifestyle where those we trusted just took as much as they could.  I am glad that happened.  We had to learn for ourselves just how bad these people were.  I may have lost money, but I regained my life and the battles I fight now are real, not petty lies and dramas used to cause harm to others.

Still learning the value of money! Still making mistakes, still battling! That’s life.  At least I’m doing it with the man I love!

(First published on the 27th April, 2015 in Luke’s Blog called ‘Bipolarcoaster‘. This blog has now been published as a series of books.)

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