Updated: Aug 18
Executive Assistant Ruth* describes her experience of being made redundant in 2016 – and what she wishes she’d known back then.
In her well-paid role as an Executive Assistant, Ruth had been managing to keep on top of bills, loan repayments and multiple credit card debts every month. But when she was made redundant out of the blue, the balance shifted rapidly and she started to struggle.
‘I was getting more and more depressed by the day. I just couldn’t face dealing with it all… I’d go to bed and it would just go round in my head.’
Universal Credit then provided Ruth with income of around £950/month, and she stuck rigidly to a spreadsheet for grocery items. But she was left with £50 to cover her food shopping for the month, and as her debts began to mount up, she became increasingly distressed.
‘I was getting more and more depressed by the day,’ she says. ‘I just couldn’t face dealing with it all… I’d go to bed and it would just go round in my head.’
Ruth felt a sense of shame about what she was going through. This held her back from talking to friends or family and she began to isolate herself more and more.
‘I dreaded the phone ringing, because I knew it was most likely to be somebody asking for money. I dreaded the postman coming with letters…I dreaded people knocking at the door in case it was a bailiff.’
By summer 2017, Ruth’s debts had risen to over £12,000, and she felt that something had to change. She saw Money A+E listed in a local magazine, and after getting in touch was introduced to Money Coach Montse, who recommended that she take out a Debt Relief Order (DRO).
The idea of this brought up negative feelings for Ruth, and she put off the decision for a couple of months.
‘I was always brought up that…to declare yourself bankrupt or go and do a DRO isn’t really what you should do. [But] once I did it, I just felt so much better.’
While she continued her job hunt, Ruth attended the Money Mentors course and began volunteering in the Money A+E office. For her, the fact that the staff had their own experience of money issues was a huge help.
‘It was just nice that everyone there had been through the same thing,’ she says. ‘Some people if they’ve not been in that situation, they don’t understand.’
'It was just nice that everyone there had been through the same thing.'
Financial education that she never had
Ruth credits Money Mentors with giving her a far better understanding of money – how you can save it, how you can lose it, and how to shop around. And what is really meant by interest rates and the small print on financial products – she now recognises a terrible credit card deal when she sees it.
‘I wish someone had told me all this years ago’, says Ruth, who received no financial education at home or school when growing up.
These days, Ruth is back in work, and has built up significant savings. This allowed her to feel financially secure during lockdown, even when she worried at times about losing her job. She was also able to cover some unexpectedly large bills without feeling stressed - the first time this has happened.
For Ruth, financial education is all about how you can improve your life and someone else’s. She has recently advised a colleague who was regularly having the ‘more month than money’ problem. Ruth describes this experience as ‘really satisfying – I’ve helped her.’ She thinks that we could all benefit from talking to each other more about finances.
‘There is just something about owing money…You don’t want people to know. You tell them everything else, you tell your friends about your health, your relationship problems, but you don’t talk about your money problems.’
*Name has been changed
If you are worried about finances, you can contact Money A+E for 1-2-1 support.
About the Money Mentors Programme
Money Mentors teaches budgeting and money management to school students and adults. It then trains them to pass this new knowledge on to their peers through presentations and mentoring. The course targets the issues of debt and poverty through working with Diverse Ethnic Communities (DEC/BAME) and disadvantaged groups.
Money Mentors is both a customised accredited ASDAN and an OCN London Ofsted-recognised course at Level 2 (equivalent to a good GCSE). Over 60 trained Money Mentors have reached more than 1,000 people and students in 2019.