We have lived in our house for over 40 years now, but unfortunately we still have three mortgages on it. We moved here in 1975 with a very cheap mortgage – it should have been paid off by the time my husband was 60. However, we found that bills and the cost of living kept increasing and we were creeping into debt. We decided to come out of the cheap mortgage to pay off debts. However, interest rates went from 3.5% to 17%.
The debt continued to grow – we always managed to pay, but it was difficult.
We have a life insurance policy for my husband which we took out 18 years ago. My husband is now 82 years old and has cancer and a heart condition. Over the last couple of years the policy has risen from initially £266 a month to £517 a month. We have found this a real struggle to pay.
Facing difficult decisions with the wrong advice
A few years ago I was called into the bank by myself one day. I was told they were decreasing our overdraft limit from £7,000 to £1,000 and that I had to pay the £7,000 back. No reason was given and we hadn’t exceeded our limit.
I had no way of paying the overdraft off as we had no savings.
My mother offered to help on this occasion, so I told the bank I could get the money. However, the woman in the bank said as Mum had early Dementia it would look like I was defrauding her.
I found myself agreeing to take out a second bank loan tagged on to the first loan we had, making it £25,000 that we were paying back. They even sold me PPI although I got this back after only a few months. I really wish I hadn’t listened to her and had put my mother’s flat in my name as we had agreed. Mum’s money has gone now in order to pay for her care.
We continued to pay into my husband’s life policy but the increasing costs are making it very difficult. So we have decided to cancel the policy this month. We have paid in over £55,000 over the years, but the surrender value is only £1,717. We realise now that we had enough equity in the house that we didn’t need the policy at all – as it’s interest-only it could have been paid when we moved or when the house was eventually sold after we’d died.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing
I know now that we never should have come out of the cheap mortgage.
We probably should have downsized a long time ago to make sure we could pay everything off. But we have lived here 46 years, it’s our home and my husband has had health issues. We can’t face the upheaval.
This has all been an enormous strain on our life. We are looking into equity release but it’s not ideal as we want to leave some money to our son and granddaughters.
We have both worked hard all of our lives and while we have made mistakes, we also feel we received some bad advice.
We helped family when we were both working, and we were glad to do be able to do so, but we probably should have been better at working out our own finances.
I never ever thought we’d have such a stressful old age.
I am thankful as we’ve got a house and are not homeless, but I wish we had sorted our finances out years ago so we could have a less stressful retirement and enjoy our remaining years.
Rosemary, aged 71, is an Independent Age campaigner
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Independent Age