Между тем дополнительную пищу для тревоги дал прозвеневший недавно звонок в виде потерпевшего крушение банка Northern Rock (четвертого по величине в Альбионе среди дающих ипотечные кредиты): что будет, если цены на жилье резко рухнут вниз? И многие окажутся в ситуации, называемой "negative equity" - т.е. когда жилье будет стоить меньше, чем невыплаченный кредит. Об этом лучше не думать... Впрочем, вероятность такого развития событий не столь велика - все-таки высокие цены на жилье в значительной степени определяются спросом на него, который далек от удовлетворения.
Сандра Парсонс отмечает: предыдущие поколения англичан отличались повышенным, чтобы не сказать чрезмерным, благоразумием, и долги для них не были проблемой, т.к. они в них не залезали. Но и стандарты их жизни были много хуже. Ныне же средний класс среднего возраста - сознательно или бессознательно выбирает лучшее качество жизни здесь и сейчас ("generation of jam today and bread tomorrow"). Ну а потом все, наверное, так или иначе образуется... Автор - не экономист, и не приводит цифр (и я не буду перегружать ими этот пост). Она пишет об ощущениях и настроениях...
Buy now, pay later
Is that really such a Rocky road?
by Sandra Parsons
The only people I know with any connection to Northern Rock are some friends who have what I think is known as a “draw down” mortgage. It’s a loan, based on the fact that their house is worth more now than when they bought it, which allows them access to up to £100,000 at any time. The idea is that they will use this money for school fees (currently £9,000 a term for two children).
What they don’t have is any savings, in Northern Rock or anywhere else. They are not alone; none of my other friends does, either. Over the past few days we have watched goggle-eyed as people queue for hours outside the beleaguered bank to withdraw bucketloads of money.
Several of my friends have the increasingly fashionable interest-only mortgage. They fully accept that when they reach retirement age they won’t own their homes, and are banking instead on selling up and down-sizing to a small flat. My own mortgage is a repayment one but I panic about paying it off because the only way we have got through the past decade is by remortgaging every few years (and no, we don’t have a loft conversion, a new kitchen, or a garden big enough for the trampoline that my children long for).
The brutal truth is that far from having it all, my generation is in danger of ending up having borrowed it all. We were sold dodgy endowment mortgages in the early 1990s that turned out to be almost worthless. We have been hit by huge stamp duty and a significant number of us pay out enormous sums of taxed income on childcare and private education, which when we were at school was not a middle-class option.
But then, when we were at school, many things we take for granted today were not a middle-class option. Drinking wine with dinner was for special occasions, not something you did every night. Buying a coffee was something you did when you met a friend, not a twice-daily event. Going abroad for a summer holiday was not a given and skiing was only for the rich.
Our parents lived within their means. A new three-piece suite was a once-in-a-life-time event, they didn’t take out loans, wouldn’t contemplate hire purchase and certainly didn’t have an overdraft. They had no compunction about saying, “We can’t afford it”: I can still remember being told I couldn’t have the bedside lamp from Habitat that I wanted for my 14th birthday.
From the age of 13 I worked every Saturday and for much of every school holiday, all the way through until the end of the Sixth Form. It inculcated a work ethic that I – and many of my friends with similar up-bringings – have followed ever since. But along the way we have made a mistake. The mistake has been to believe the aspirational hype that surrounds us, from TV ads (remember just how big that Oxo kitchen was) and sitcoms (how much would that My Family house cost were you to buy it today in London? Around £2 million would be my guess) to glossy interiors magazines.
We have thought that if only we worked hard enough we could have it all, and the truth, of course, is that we can’t. That sort of lifestyle is affordable only by the rich: the City workers with their bonuses, or the successful entrepreneurs, or those with family money. It is not ours by divine right, although we have somehow allowed ourselves to believe that it is.
You could go so far as to say that we have been encouraged to think like this. Far from being told by those who govern us that debt is a sin, we live in a world where students are expected to take out loans, while our former Prime Minister’s mortgage on his postDowning Street home is of such eyewatering enormity that it makes most other people’s seem piffling. When I bought my first flat 16 years ago I was allowed to borrow two-and-a-half times my salary. It is not uncommon today for people to be allowed to borrow five or six times their earnings, not because the banks are profligate but because property is now so expensive.
For those with money in Northern Rock, the Darwinian survival response, as Anatole Kaletsky put it so eloquently in The Times on Monday, is to take your money and go elsewhere. Faced with the worrying prospect of an economic downturn, and with the words of Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, ringing in our ears (to the effect that the British housing market is going down, painfully) the Darwinian survival response for those of us without a cent in Northern Rock or anywhere else should be to take our children out of private school, and move out of the city and into a more measured life.
But that is precisely what I, and my friends, won’t be doing. We know that we’re lucky to be worrying about paying the school fees or the mortgage at all, when basic survival – how are we going to eat tonight? How will we pay the rent? – occupies the minds of many more.
By comparison, our worries are sweet. We consciously opt for uncertainty: our parents made sacrifices to pay off the mortgage and have a debt-free old age in their family home, whereas we increase the mortgage and gamble on selling the family home to ensure a debt-free old age. Whenever we read a news story that says the retirement age will be raised to 70, we heave a sigh of relief – to us it represents precious extra time to pay off the mortgage.
And yet . . . is it so very bad to have to keep on striving? Aren’t those of us fortunate enough to have homes also fortunate in having a purpose that keeps us from dwindling into a complacent, dull middle age? Once you’ve got it all – the new kitchen, the loft conversion, the big garden with the trampoline – what then gets you out of bed in the morning? Our attitude to money reflects our state of mind. We are the generation of jam today and bread tomorrow, but that’s surely better than no jam at all.