by Sofia S. 09 Aug, 2017

Today, 9th of August 2017, marks ten years since the beginning of the financial crisis which had devastating effects in the life of thousands and thousands of people around the world and filled the pockets (even more) of a few privileged people.

Back in 2007 I was about to become a freshman at University as classes were about to start in a few weeks’ time. I was 23 years old, determined to give my absolute best, focused and motivated.

I went to University a bit later than most people do but life happened that way for me and that’s fine. What matters is that despite all the adversity, I went and I graduated.

In July 2007 I was partying hard in Ibiza with three of my friends and we had the best time together. Memories I will cherish forever. 

However, I don’t recall having heard anything about a financial crisis, all I knew was something about a Wall Street crash back in 1920-something and obviously, that subject was completely outside of my radar. Investments? Banks? Nah. Not a subject for me. It wasn't until Lehman Brothers collapsed that I remember the general panic and that things really started to look bad. Or maybe I was just not paying attention before.

I completed High School with a Diploma in Pottery and Ceramics. At University, studied Marketing, Advertising and PR because at 23 years old I finally decided I wanted to be a copywriter.

I wanted to be the person that writes ads and creates content; I wanted to surrender myself to my artistic vein, to allow for my creativity to fully blossom and develop. I had come to the conclusion that my path was an artistic one and it was time to embrace my future. I had it all figured out. Even when I got pregnant with my daughter during the second semester at Uni, I carried on.

I took a gap year (school year of 2008/2009) because birth was scheduled for December so I couldn’t attend the January exams relating to courses beginning in September. It was the wise thing to do.

When I returned to Uni for my second year (2009/2010) my motivation was stronger than ever. I now had the cutest tiny little human who would be looking up to me and to everything I’d do, she depended on me and it was my duty to ensure all her needs were taken care of. I started to do everything with her in mind and solely having her best interests at heart. And that’s when things changed.

Things were not good at home and that’s as far as I will go in relation to exposing that part of my life. The only thing I’ll say is this: the worst things got, the stronger my motivation to succeed would get.

As part of my course, I needed to attend a Business class. It was only one semester but that Professor gave us two separate classes so in some ways they were linked. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say I had two business classes the same semester.

A few lessons into the class and I felt like I had seen God. What on Earth had I been doing studying arts all my life because that was so not the right path for me.

I landed a job at a Bank shortly after that and from there on, I became determined to learn as much as I could on my own because switching courses to Business or Economics was not an option. I didn’t had the funds and didn’t want to feel like I’ve wasted two years of my life. Especially when I had to take into consideration that I went to Uni later than usual.

I did countless online courses on platforms like Coursera and some of them were so daunting and full of jargon – not to mention the fact they were all in English – so I actually had to repeat a few of them until I could grasp what they were on about.

I started reading the Financial Times so I could understand what was happening in the financial world. I took advantage of a few colleagues that were much more knowledgeable than me to ask questions and learn from them. I became an avid reader of a Portuguese Business newspaper and slowly things started to fall into place and words I had no idea what they meant before, I now recognized and understand them.

I did all of this while looking after a new born, whilst working and whilst attending University. Talk about will power. Looking back, I have no idea where I got the strength from but I did it nonetheless.

I have been working in this industry for nearly 10 years now. I have seen people come and people go. I am blessed to be able to work in an industry that I genuinely love. There is not a single day that goes like the previous one. Everything changes at an incredible pace and if you stop, you become obsolete.

Ten years on since the beginning of the financial crisis, have we learned anything?

I hope so. I see firms committed to give the example from the top; there is more regulation; there is more awareness.

Do I believe that it will happen again? Unfortunately yes but maybe not as the ones we’ve seen before. The financial services industry business is the money business and the goal is to make even more money using someone else’s money. It’s called an “investment” and it can go right or wrong. You risk what you can afford to lose.

The problem with that statement is that the majority of people that cannot afford to lose are usually the ones that end up losing everything even though they have never placed a penny in an investment.

It starts with a family member losing its job. Then, one bill gets left behind, then another and by the time you realise you’re receiving a letter from the Bank saying you’re facing your home is being repossessed.

It’s scary to witness how the financial crisis has long been forgotten by the industry and yet it’s the complete opposite for consumers. People  that ten years on, on a daily basis still worry about a new potential crash and what effect will it have – again – on their families and how will they cope.

It’s a cruel business the money business so I guess it’s totally legitimate for people to ask me why am I in it? How can I associate myself with such practices? The answer is simple. I genuinely believe I can make a difference. No matter how small. I believe in fairness and in righteousness. I believe in doing the right thing so I don’t mind being associated with such industry because if more of us believe in the same thing as me, maybe one day, thinking about a financial crisis where people are left to starve and homeless for no fault of their own will sound surreal and impossible.  

Thankfully, I know I'm not alone in this. I have met so many great people, so many professionals that are a tribute to this industry and profession.

I act in a way I know I will never have to bow my head in shame and in a way that it won’t disappoint my family and have their values judged by others due to my actions. I will never act in a way that will make Diana ashamed of being my daughter. I will always do what my heart tells me is the right thing to do. 

One can dream and, so far, all my dreams have come true.

Like I said. Motivation.

 

More posts

Mortgage Part I

  • by Sofia S.
  • 07 Jun, 2016
After two years of no letters, I’m now writing two days in a row. Let’s see if I can keep up with regular posts. As I wrote yesterday, I promised that I would write in relation to the part-time I got recently as I am saving money to buy a house.

Firstly, it’s important to state that buying a house doesn’t come cheap in the UK, especially in Bristol. Only last year, the house prices have risen a ridiculous 6.7%, meaning that Bristol is just behind London and Cambridge when it comes to increases in house prices. This means that the average price of a house is now around £220,000.00 (yes, two hundred and twenty thousand pounds for your average 2 bedroom house. I know, trust me, it kills me too.).

One of the problems with this? The initial deposit banks require you to have when you’re looking to take out a mortgage is rarely less than 10% of the value of the property. So, even if you are looking to buy a property worth £200k, you’ll still need to have £20k in cash to put down immediately.  

Another problem with this? Wages don’t rise 6% per annum, which makes it very complicated for people to save the necessary funds in order to give their 10% deposit. Just out of curiosity, the latest figures from the ONS (Office for National Statistics) dated early 2016, show an average wage growth of 2% per annum on weekly earners and obviously, the BoE (Bank of England) monitors this closely for signs of inflation.  

But back to mortgages as I struggle to understand why would anyone be so fascinated with these figures as much as I do! Most of the people who are now buying a property are either buying it off from their parents with a lower yield (ie their parents have a lower rate of return by selling it to their son/daughter than they would if they were to sell it in the market), allowing them to get a mortgage with a much more substantial lower deposit and also secure a lower interest rate as they are technically getting a bargain. If they don’t keep up with the re-payments, the house gets repossessed by the lender who can then sell it at a lower price than market price in order to arrange a quick sale, but a price high enough to make a profit out of it. Same as it is everywhere. The higher the risk, the greater the interest rate you have to pay to a lender.  

If your parents don’t have a second property you can buy off from, but have savings then it’s “Mum and Dad’s Bank” entering the scene. Parents either give or lend to their children the 10% they need to purchase a house. Some Inheritance Tax advice is sought here as there may be tax implications, but I’m not going anywhere near that subject here.

If you’re like me and don’t fall under any of the two categories I just described, you proceed to get a second job – no matter how shit it is – and try to save as much as you can. You know your effort will be well worth it in the end.

There are Government schemes for savers if you are a first time buyer which can help you get on the house ladder; unfortunately I’m not eligible as I committed the big, huge and massive mistake of buying a house in Lisbon a few years ago and because of that I am now faced with this challenge: save enough money for a house deposit with no help at all.
There are a lot of variables one needs to take in consideration whilst contemplating the possibility of buying a property. Working in my industry I am probably biased but… Location, location, location!

A property is an asset which has a value attached to it and the location is something that will either make a property increase in value over time or conversely, decrease it – which in that case you’ll have what we call “negative equity”. It doesn’t mean you’re in debt, but you are left with an asset (and paying for it - your mortgage), but no it’s no longer worth the price you initially paid for. Like cars. Cars always go down in value. So making the right choice in relation the location of a property is a big factor to take in consideration.

A funny thing about the UK system when it comes down to renting a property (or owning it actually!) is the council tax. The council tax is what we refer in Portugal as IMI (Imposto Municipal sobre Imoveis) with the “slightly” difference that it’s paid by the tenant, not the home owner. The amount of council tax you pay is directly connected to:
11.      How many people live in the household;
22.         The value of the property.

The council tax bill is the citizens’ way of helping to pay for local services like emergency services, rubbish collections, libraries, schools, street lights, etc.

But I am deviating from what I wanted to write in the first place… My part-time job!

I’ll have to leave it for another time. Next post. I promise.
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