A successful author asks why she can barely pay for her supermarket shop
- Candida Crewe, 52, questions why she is struggling with money, despite being a well-educated woman who has always worked
- Expert Jasmine Birtles says women in their 50s are in ‘squeezed middle’
- According to a recent report, women have barely half the pensions of men
At Sainsbury’s, the choice of basket over trolley had been a deliberate one. The note to self had been only to buy absolute essentials.
I knew the bank account was in a perilous state but, too fearful to check the amount, I did not know precisely how much I had to spend. I soon found out at the checkout.
The contents came to about £30, but my card was rejected. As a queue formed behind me, I went through the humiliating process of taking out the eggs and cheese before trying the card again. Nope. So then, the coffee and a couple of other items came out.
I apologised to the woman who rang for a colleague to come and return them to their shelves. The bell seemed particularly loud.
When the card was declined a third time, I scrabbled in my wallet for cash. A grand total of 69p. But I suddenly saw my loyalty card and inspiration struck. I handed it to the cashier.
I had been resisting using my rewards on the card for years, but there was my saving grace: £27. I was even able to reinstate the eggs and cheese. The children would not go hungry after all.
It was a bad moment, but not the only one I have had of its kind. It doesn’t happen every day, but certainly every few weeks or months.
I do wonder how this came to be. I am, after all, a 52-year-old woman who benefited from a good education and who has always worked – admittedly self-employed – since 18.
I own my house in a safe area around the corner from a branch of Farrow & Ball and a Gail’s artisan bakery, for God’s sake. Nothing could reek more of a middle-class existence. And yet, in my case, in terms of wealth at any rate, it is all smoke and mirrors.
I have extremely little money. A couple of months ago my shower broke and it cost £385 to replace – £385 I didn’t have. A good while later, I am still feeling the financial ripples of that domestic disaster.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Apparently, 46 per cent of people in this country couldn’t lay their hands on £500 for an emergency without resorting to selling something or borrowing. The average debt per household is £54,740 (£7,000 of which is non-mortgage, meaning credit cards, loans and HP).
Women are on the whole worse off than men, especially women in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Certainly, according to a recent TUC report, women have barely half the pensions of men.
Seventy-one per cent of us have no idea what pension pot we will need to secure the retirement income we hope for.
Many women, like me, have no pension at all. I can’t afford to pay into one. So how do I think I am going to fund my future? I have no idea.
My head is buried so deep in the sand I am financially suffocating myself, convinced that someone, something, will come to the rescue, though, of course, it won’t.
This is all the more unforgivable because I am neither feckless nor stupid, yet in this respect I manage to be both.
Jasmine Birtles, 43, is a Cambridge-educated financial journalist and TV presenter. She has written 38 books and has two businesses.
One, MoneyMagpie, is an online site that gives consumer advice for saving and making money. She does not think it is as odd as I do that I am so cash poor… Read full article.