Seven years ago, my husband and I lost every single cent we’d ever earned. We’d been married for five years, we had two children with another on the way, and we were broke.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of losing it all. Even now looking back it plays through my head like a bad movie. There were tense silences, stress like you wouldn’t believe, stacks of letters of demand from energy providers and mortgage companies and even, shamefully, from my child’s preschool.
At first we thought it would be okay. The big bad Global Financial Recession had arrived. We’d seen it coming but like everyone else, never thought it would be as bad as it was. My husband’s businesses in property tanked immediately and instead of downing tools, accepting his fate and moving on, he chose to fight.
In the meantime I was nursing my second child in one hand and calling debt collectors with the other, begging for extra time and payment arrangements and asking them to please please please waive the late fee.
“If I can’t even pay the bill, how do you expect me to afford the late fee?”
The problem with being in business for yourself as opposed to being fired is that my husband wasn’t given any notice, wasn’t given a payout and didn’t even have any annual leave he could cash in. The money simply stopped. The bank froze his accounts overnight and then told him they were taking possession of his latest development.
His skin turned grey. He grew quiet.
They were silent months, the months during which we lost it all. There was no fighting, no talking, no comfort, no encouragement, just silence.
He refused to give up. He was going to get it all back. I wanted to believe him, but I knew it wasn’t true. I secretly put our home on the market and found a cheap rental near my parent’s house. I asked the universe for a job that would cover at least rent and food, preferably one I could do from home. And I got it.
It was the day we arrived home to a repossession notice that my husband realised we’d have to sell and we’d have to move. But it was like he was playing along. I was just so negative with all of my preparations for a moneyless future.
“The worst part of all of this isn’t the money Jo, it’s the fact that you don’t trust me anymore,” he’d say. “You’ve lost faith in me.”
I don’t trust you, I’d want to say, but I didn’t. At the end of the day it wasn’t his fault that we were losing it all. We were just in the wrong business at the wrong time and we were to become some of the nameless victims of the idiots who thought sub-prime mortgages were a good idea, until the practice nearly bankrupted the world.