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Is it too late (at nearly 40) to sort out my finances?

(11 Posts)
Mumite Fri 01-Jan-16 22:55:57

Before I start explaining, I should say at the outset I'm now living in the Republic of Ireland having quite recently moved here so please don't talk to me about WTC/CTC etc as it's all different over here!

Each year I try to review my finances, and I've done the same over this Xmas holiday. I am feeling pretty glum about it and it's probably not all to do with the money as I will outline briefly but I am trying to be very grateful with what I have rather than "the grass is always greener".
I qualified as a lawyer and worked as such for over ten years but due to being somewhat of an idealist I never took home huge salaries (although they seem larger now!) as I chose jobs with small charities instead of the corporate stuff etc. and quit being a barrister which was what I had originally trained as. I only managed to get onto the barrister training course thanks to a scholarship and found myself struggling with debt from the word go with the outlay of books, wig, gown, train fares to far flung parts of the UK etc. with promises of small fees further down the line! That wasn't the sole reason I quit which I'd say was more stress-related / not enjoying it. I also have a disability which took a long time to be recognized formally as such (in the UK) which has affected my working life but moreso in the way that I have tried to avoid undue stress / high stress jobs.

I am a single mum (always have been, no maintenance etc.), two DCs, 3 and 5. I am self-employed now working 25-35 hours per week and have been for 3+ years which allows me to tailor my work around my disability if necessary and be there for picking up children etc - how else I'd manage on F/T hours I don't know!

Earlier this year I took financial advice and realized that I was completely ruled out of getting a mortgage in the next 5 years due to poor credit history (major defaults on debts in 2010 - though not recorded until 2011/2012 by the banks - when I was off work sick for 4 months with the disability), due to debt currently (car, now paid off) and lack of a deposit or any prospect of saving for one. I looked at the special schemes etc.

It did upset me slightly at the time as many of my uni mates who have the same qualifications as me are now in expensive properties, and I would have been happy to consider buying the tiniest house but definitely no joy or prospect of getting a mortgage of any kind before age 50.

The problem is, I just seem to struggle covering what we need for our disposable income let alone saving. I recently got very upset thinking I won't be able to help my children with college fees and I'm determined to save something every month for that from now - but for 2 children I'd need 30,000 euros each ish looking at the websites and that would mean saving (by my calculations) 220 euros per month for the next 14 years (with 1.5% interest rate on savings) which would mean earning a lot more as I would have to pay tax etc. on the additional income - if I earned 220 more per month, after the increase in tax, I'd only actually get to save 90 euros of that. This isn't just the ROI system as I did these calculations provisionally for UK too and got similar results. I'm paid in euros too as I work for a European company so my money does feel worth more here!

I've felt like throwing those moneysaving advice articles at the wall which say things like, "get a lodger" or "stop buying your daily coffee". Although in the past I have rented via Air BnB it's not something I'd relish doing again as it's hard to balance guests with being the single mum of two small boys in a busy household, also the income is erratic. And I can barely remember the last time I had a coffee out of the house!

I really can't see anywhere I can economize except for paying off my remaining debts as quickly as I can - the major one is to shopping company, Littlewoods, as I bought a TV and a sofa from them a few years back and the interest is high, and a couple of smaller ones to friends and a bank overdraft which accrues monthly charges.

Some might advise me to get a better paid job as I probably could with my qualifications, but I just hate to think then of the stress I'd have in a 9-5 job with school/creche pick-ups, sports days, sick days etc. I console myself with thinking it might be possible when the boys are older but it will be many years yet before they can make their own way home after school or let themselves in with a key (and I don't want to wish these years away at all...)

I'm normally good at controlling my worries but I've been fretting such a lot about money lately. I guess for many years my career, then babies, alongside my health, have totally led me to take my eye off this ball and I've zero savings and a great worry now, not so much about covering our disposable income, which I know I can just about do every month, but ever saving anything for the future - either for the boys' college / a pension etc.

I'm sorry for the loooong rant but it's a NY resolution to at least address the worries here and see if there's anything practical I can do, so please let me know if you have any ideas, I will be so grateful.

Also I wish to add that I know some people don't have the means to cover the bare essentials and that makes me feel slightly "selfish" posting this; believe me, I've been there, especially when I was off work for 4 months and we were living on value baked beans and dependent on the food bank. But I'd just like to feel a bit more financially stable / savvy.

YeOldeTrout Fri 01-Jan-16 23:06:28

You need the moneysavingexpert website.

lazycoo Sat 02-Jan-16 00:31:09

To answer the question in your title: you can get hold of your finances at any time in your life. Whether you're able to achieve the college funding for your DCs in the time you have left depends on what changes you are willing to make. I read your post as quite defensive, as if you are concerned you might be asked to justify your decisions. You are under a lot of stress it seems. You haven't given any actual details of where you spend so it's hard to make any suggestions based on what you've said.

I would suggest you do two things:

1. visit the debt free wannabe section of moneysavingexpert's website and post a statement of affairs (a breakdown of your costs). There are some amazing people there who can say what looks too high and what you can do to remedy the situation.

2. get the free trial of You Need A Budget (ynab) and spend some time using it and watching the tutorials.

the time invested and the willingness to make changes will be worth it for your and your DCs' future.

slightlyglitterpaned Sat 02-Jan-16 01:13:43

Would second advice to go to moneysaving expert website, but would suggest that it sounds like what you're struggling with at the moment is trying to think about everything at once - of course that's overwhelming and depressing.

When my partner was financially a bit fucked (big debts, part-time job barely covered repayments with no money for food etc, depressed and unwell), reading Motley Fool forums helped to prioritise. Called the snowball effect, feels like barely any difference to start with but once you pay off the highest interest rate debt, it eventually frees up more money to pay off next, etc. Doesn't have to be a massive amount more, just that it's going to the right place IYSWIM?

Sorry if that's not what you were looking for - it does sound like your instinct to pay down debts first is sound. But would also say it gives you somewhere to focus - you can realistically only tackle one bit at a time right now with health and responsibilities for small children.

Mumite Sat 02-Jan-16 12:31:36

Thanks both for the practical suggestions. I do remember Motley Fool from previous money planning a few years ago and will go back to that, thanks for the reminder.

Lazycoo sorry if I sound defensive. I have already been on a CAB plan for 5 years which helped me to get down debts which were in their thousands (from barrister study and having to relocate several times due to an abusive contact around ten years ago, plus pay for psychotherapy...) and now my debt is well under £2K but I guess I feel defensive in some ways as I really don't think I can shave anything else off ...

So it does feel (to me) like it comes down to a choice between getting a higher paid, more full-time job (which some might feel is logical given my post-grad qualifications etc.) and staying on low-pay and making small changes (like paying off the highest interest debts first) so i can spend more time with the kids. I HAVE had lots of empathy for my situation but also quite a lot of people saying go for the first option here / justify why I don't want to so I guess that's where the self-justification comes from! (And possibly from feeling a bit stressed, but the stress isn't overwhelming, just run-of-the-mill money anxieties and juggling all the balls of single motherhood).

I appreciate the advice anyhow and will definitely do as you both suggest as a means of attacking this problem!

lazycoo Sat 02-Jan-16 14:52:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Mumite Sat 02-Jan-16 15:55:34

Thanks lazycoo, I'm definitely going to try the MSE statement of affairs.

I'll practise my sweet smile and thanks to your "may have to relocate" advice (I've relocated three times for job/childcare reasons in the past three years! grin)

Thanks though.

TheClacksAreDown Sat 02-Jan-16 22:13:43

Well the bottom line in these situations is that your fundamental options are increasing income or decreasing outgoings. And in the nicest possible way you're lucky to have both options potentially available even if you'd rather not have go down the higher paid role. The MSE debt free wannabe boards can be very helpful in cutting costs but they can be a little brutal about what they view as unnecessary expenditure.

BahHumbugs Sat 02-Jan-16 23:19:52

OP, just a quick reply but there will be MN on here from Ireland, who could give advice on similar things to Tax Credit etc.

Mumite Sun 03-Jan-16 21:22:09

Thanks both. Clacks yes, I am lucky looking at it from a certain perspective as I have some choices. I've spent a lot of time on money-saving forums (though not yet done the advised statement of affairs) and I would be very surprised if there's anywhere else I can reduce outgoings. One idea "in real life" is to get a job using my legal skills that is only a few times a year e.g. some kind of board member of something (she says cluelessly!) which will not eat up loads of time but where I could save any money obtained, but not rely on it as a usual income source. Apparently there are such posts in the not so lovely world of coroner's inquests etc - but I realize I am lucky to have options; a few years back when I was much more at the mercy of my disability, I felt much less so. Appreciate all the advice...

Geraniumred Sat 09-Jan-16 21:57:26

Your post reads very much as an either/or. Either I do high paid work and get very stressed or I do low paid work and suffer on hardly any income. I think what you need is a life redesign rather than just thinking about money. What is your tolerable level of stress? Could you use your qualifications in a way that didn't make you stressed, but brought in a reasonable level of income? Don't dismiss, for example, working online - there is quite a bit out there for qualified people. Piece yourself together something that looks better than what you have now. You have done a lot already. Are there no family friendly places of work where you are?

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