Simon Read: Pension mortgages, debts, splashing out for Christmas and the ghost meter

Don't go deeper into debt by spending yourself dry this Christmas

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The Independent Online

Have you suffered after taking out a pension mortgage?

Did you take out a pension mortgage in the 1980s or 1990s? It could be a decision you regretted – Mike Williams certainly did. He was advised to go for one of these home loans in 1988 and has ended up in a financial nightmare.

His story is shocking and I plan to cover it in detail, but in the meantime I’d like to hear from any of you who took out a pension mortgage. Mike thinks there’s a scandal afoot and, after hearing his story, I tend to agree. Please email me details of your experience.

The lesson of adversity is that you can talk your way out  

Reader Robert Johnson wrote in following my story last week about John Lush, who battled back from unmanageable debts of £20,000 to be able to save for a wedding and a home. “I am full of admiration for him, especially having the courage to talk openly about his experience,” Robert writes.

“It seems a world of difference now where many have been born into affluent times with high expectations. I was born in the 1930s and seemingly with no hope of a decent living standard. But good can come of both differing experiences.

“I doubt Mr Lush will ever forget what happened to him and it will help to ensure he stays on the promising path he has laid out for himself. I wish him good fortune.”

So do we all, Robert.

Don’t go deeper into the red slashing out this Christmas  

One in five people say they can’t afford to celebrate Christmas this year because of the cost. Meanwhile, one in three are actually dreading it for the same reason, according to the Debt Advisory Centre.

It warns that many of those borrowing to cover Christmas this year will simply be adding new debts on top of existing ones. But the best thing to do is budget and stick to it, and start saving now for next Christmas. To help, I’ve made a video explaining how to avoid going into the red this Christmas.

You can watch it at ind.pn/1xUJ9jl.

Ombudsman resolves the mystery of the ghost meter

My report on the problems engulfing the  energy supplier Scottish Power struck a chord with reader Mo Wright.

“I have been having a running battle with them since April year,” she said.

In fact Mo has never been a customer of the company, so was shocked when it began charging for a meter that has never been used.  “The property in question uses electricity only and we buy our supply from EDF,” she explained. “But Scottish Power just refused to accept that we have never been a customer of theirs.”

In frustration she turned to the ombudsman, an approach that paid off this week when Scottish Power backed down. It is now removing the meter rental charges it had imposed and making a £30 payment for the inconvenience.

“That’s thanks to the ombudsman service,” Mo said. “They have been brilliant – so helpful and prompt with all their correspondence.”

It’s good to hear that there is a part of the energy industry that does seem to work efficiently. If you need help, you can find out more at ombudsman-services.org/energy.html.

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