Mortgage meltdown: As one door shuts, another one slams in your face
Talk about a perfect storm. A couple of months ago, everything in the garden looked rosy. To be honest, I was feeling a little bit smug, having – against the advice of the supposed experts – decided to fix my gas and electricity prices last autumn, just as they began their ever-upward trajectory.
That coupled with my smallish mortgage, on a 2.19 per cent five-year fixed deal, and a useful second income from my modest stock-market portfolio, meant the cost-of-living crisis was more something I read about in the newspaper – or of course wrote about – than something that affected me.
What a difference a few weeks makes.
The bad news began in August, when my energy supplier informed me my deal would run out in October, just as the weather would be starting to turn. I was given two not particularly palatable options, accepting the variable rate, which would have seen payments double, and leave me at the mercy of future price rises that the experts said were inevitable – or, even more fun, opting for a 12-month deal that would see by bills soar by 250 per cent. Decisions, decisions.
Of course, I knew it was coming, and that my fixed-rate deal couldn't insulate me forever. And footage of the suffering in Ukraine should remind us all to keep a sense of perspective. Even so, it did seem a bit of a Hobson's choice, with nobody seemingly able to offer any advice about which options were best.
They say it's the hope that kills you, and for a few days, when Liz and Kwasi promised to fix the cap, it looked like it wouldn't be so bad after all.
But, as Theresa May used to keep telling us, there is no such thing as a magic money tree, and everything comes at a cost. And the cost of last week's 'fiscal event' appears to be mass panic in the mortgage market – just as my five-year fixed deal comes to an end. Cue an urgent call to my financial adviser, who happened to be on holiday in Cornwall.
Of course, not being a fan of bureaucracy, it has meant a frantic scramble to find my old bank statements – and extended periods listening to easy-listening lounge music as I joined the queue with hundreds of others all doing exactly the same.
While I'm still waiting to find exactly what the lie of the land is, it seems that some of the more sensational headlines have exaggerated the problem somewhat. I will be a little worse off, but it won't be catastrophic. It will probably wipe out all the benefits of last week's tax cut and energy cap, though, which pretty much defeats the point of the whole thing.
And coupled with the rising cost of almost everything in the shops, it will inevitably mean a tightening of the belt over the coming months.
I realise I am one of the lucky ones. I still expect to comfortably meet my outgoings, even if it means a drop in disposable income, and the small nest egg I have built up over the years should shield me form any bumps in the road. Indeed, that is a good lesson for everyone: live frugally, put something away for a rainy day, and invest for the future from a young age. Manage your own finances with fiscal responsibility, because you certainly can't rely on the politicians to do the same.
And the nice little second income from the stockmarket? As I write, the FTSE 100 has tanked below 7,000 for the first time since March, a year-on-year fall of 7.3 per cent.
As the former Villa and Wolves manager Tommy Docherty once said, "one door shuts and another one slams in your face."