Donald MacInnes: If someone like me could become financially respectable, anyone can
Donald MacInnes writes Tales from the Water Cooler, which can be found every Saturday on page 2 of i. And, although a financial near-imbecile, he writes a weekly column in The Independent’s Money section, also on Saturdays. He writes regularly on a broad range of subjects in i’s Freeview section and occasionally fills in on Simon Kelner’s daily column when emotionally up to it. @DonaldAMacInnes
Friday 14 March 2014
It is said that the only people nervous when encountering the police are the innocent. Law-abiding punters (who have not just butchered their extended family with a rolled-up copy of Kerrang!) are usually a jellified disaster area because they hardly ever have any doings with Her Majesty's rozzers.
As a result, they find themselves operating under a burden of imagined guilt – their backs aching from a non-existent sack of knock-off silver candelabras. Of course, your actual villains find themselves toe to toe with Ferdinand Fuzz quite often, so tend to be calmness incarnate.
That we may already know about this paradox doesn't count for much when one gets pulled over for a routine plod stop in the car and becomes a twitching mess of nerves and imagined guilt. Of course, such a reaction contrasts with the way we behave when faced with a credit check – where, if our fiscal house is in reasonable order, we should be okay.
That said, having outlined my youthful financial ineptitude many times in these pages, I had much cause to fear past checks on my creditworthiness. Wilfully ignored store card bills, threats of CCJs and everything short of a Santander-branded brick sailing through the living room window made my twenties an assault course of nerves and bounced cheques. I still shudder when I recall the amount of times I would make for the post office when short of cash. I wouldn't imagine it still happens now – cheques are about as 21st century as a spinning jenny – but you used to be able to write a rubber cheque to yourself that the post office would cash, as long as your bank card covered it.
This sort of nonsense meant that my credit rating throughout my twenties and early thirties was somewhere on the curve between -10 (meaning "this young man has a better than average chance of not paying you back") and -50 ("do not let this person leave your store without putting a tranquiliser dart in his backside").
Thankfully, as my maturity progressed (at the speed of a wounded bee crawling through a barrel of treacle), I began to put my house in order and to instigate direct debits for all of my bills in order that they be paid on time. After a few years of living resolutely within my means, I managed to pay off my debt and become a rather more respectable member of society.
That didn't mean I was cool as I waited in Dixons for the first credit check to be done on me for about a decade. No, like a reformed villain facing a grilling from the bizzies, I was shaking like a leaf. Thankfully, I passed. And I have passed every one since, including the one for our mortgage application.
I can only hope I don't go down that road again, but remember, if you do, there is hope. If I can become respectable, anyone can.
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