Taking off the yoke

I want to start from the beginning, so let me go back in time a bit to 2014.

2014 - The Bad Old Days

My wife and I had been married for nine years at this point. We had a deeply loving relationship and a beautiful boy, so in the most important respects, we were doing really well. But in one respect, we weren’t doing well at all.

And yes, of course, that respect was money.

Our joint income had gone up over the years and was probably a decent £65k or so before tax. But we were drowning in the consequences of having consistently spent about 10% more than we earned for almost every year of our marriage.

A big chunk of our income was going on debt payments every month, and a lot of that was interest. We were both about 40 years old, didn’t own our own home and had no real material assets other than a 15-year-old Nissan hatchback that was showing its age.

What was going wrong? Well, there was a spending problem, obviously. But there was also a communication problem. I was the money person in the family. I knew exactly what was happening to us and what the consequences were. But I wasn’t brave enough to confront my wife with it.

Whenever we started talking about our money situation seriously, she’d get really upset. I’d start thinking to myself, ‘Oh god—are we going to start fighting about money and then end up getting divorced? I know it’s happened to so many couples…’ Eventually I’d just chicken out and tell my wife that I’d fix it.

Each time, I ‘fixed’ it by getting a new debt-consolidation loan, applying for a new credit-card, etc. We sank deeper and deeper into the red.

Over time, I started to develop a fear of the post. I’d leave letters from banks or the HMRC for months without looking at them. Years sometimes.

You know those stories of people who let a £100 late-filing fine spiral into £1500 through late-payment penalties? Yeah, that was me.

I watched, helplessly it seemed, as more and more of our income came under the control of the banks and our dream of owning our own home slipped further and further away.

To be continued...


  • You can do this.  It looks beek now but you can do it. Keep talking and inform your wife. It will only get worst if you don't talk. It might not seem like it now but a problem shared, is a problem halfed. 
  • Thanks 1992saving. Mind you--that was six years back. Things are a lot less bleak now. I wouldn't say they're exactly rosy, but they're definitely a lot better than the bad old days of 2014!
  • 2015 – Learning the Power of Income

    Some people talk about having a lightbulb moment—a single moment in time whenthey finally ‘get it’. Mine wasn’t really a single moment though. It was more like lots of little moments over a period of years. Instead of a lightbulb going on all at once and flooding the room with light, it was more like lighting a candle here and a candle there, until eventually there was enough light to start seeing through the dark. I guess you could call them candlestick moments.


    My first candlestick moment was in 2015. I’d been listening to lots of interviews with people who had become really successful financially. I never went in much for the ones who had become rich through pyramid schemes multi-level marketing and the like and who were now trying to sell me their latest get-rich-quick seminar for only £2499 payable in twelve monthly instalments. I preferred the ones that had built a real business and now wanted to tell their story for free.


    And I started to notice something. These financially successful people were actually just normal people—even the wildly successful ones worth hundreds of millions or more!


    They weren’t superhumans who possessed some innate business sense. They were just average people who had learned a particular set of skills and a particular set of perspectives that allowed them to achieve much higher than average financial success.


    In other words, they were normal people like me—just further ahead of me in developing the financial skills and mindset needed to be financially successful. I started to feel like a big increase in income is something I could achieve.


    So, it was just a question of how. I knew that the best way to increase income was to build a prosperous business, but I also knew that was a high-risk strategy and that it required either a lot of time or enough capital to quit my day job. I didn’t have the extra time or the capital, and I couldn’t afford to put my family’s income at risk at that point. So, I’d have to do it the hard way, via salary increases.


    I was a teacher at the time, so I knew that I first had to become a manager of teachers and then a manager of managers of teachers. I started downloading JDs for jobs one level up from me. I’d make a note of all the skills needed, and then learn those skills through a combination of self-study and by asking to be on projects or to take on extra tasks that would allow me to practice the skills. When a management position came up, I applied and I got it. I then did the exact same thing with the JDs and skills for the next level up. A year and a half on, I applied for a higher-level position and got it again.


    By 2018, I’d got where I needed to be. In three years, I’d gone from a salary in the low 30s to one in the low 60s and our family income was just under £100k. But I'd also learned an important lesson about increasing income via the salary route. To get the bigger paycheque, I’d had to take on a lot more responsibility and all the stress that comes with that comes with it. I was also doing way more hours. In fact, I’m not sure I was really making much more per hour than when I was teaching; instead, I was just working a lot more hours in total at what would probably work out to about the same hourly rate (and with a lot more stress to boot).


    I knew that instead of climbing any higher up the pretend-corporate ladder of our education system, I needed to knuckle down, get the debt paid and then look for future income rises from starting my own business.


    There was a problem with the ‘knuckling down’ bit, though. When I started my income journey, I knew enough to understand that increasing my income was not a solution in and of itself. When my wife and I had first got married, we made about £25k a year and spent about 10% more than that. By 2014, we were making about £65k and spending about 10% more than that. I’d sworn that we wouldn’t get to £100k and just end up spending 10% more than that.


    And fortunately, we weren’t spending 10% more. On the other hand, we weren’t really making any progress on the debt either. I’d pay one credit card down, feel good, and then not really notice as another credit card balance crept back up to the same level. One step forward, one step back.


    We’d reached peak debt at about £70k (or £55k not including my wife’s student loan) when I got my new job in 2018, and that debt level  hadn’t really changed in the first seven or eight months of my new job. In a weird sort of way, this situation of rising income was really frustrating. When we were making £25k and couldn’t pay down our debt, I could sort of forgive myself. After all, there just wasn’t that much left at the end of the month after rent and groceries. When we were making £65k and were still deep in debt, I was a lot less forgiving of myself. But making £100k and still not able to pay down our debt? I started to think to myself, ‘Mate, what is wrong with you?’


    Fortunately, my next candlestick moment was about to hit.

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