Tuesday, 6 January 2015

6th January 2015 - Who pays the Ferryman?

Thought for the day : "I've got a mate who won't stop going on about his orthopaedic shoes. To be honest I think he's built them up too much!"

Like most people, one of the biggest events in a financial life is taking out the mortgage for the house. Most manage a repayment mortgage, paying interest and a little off the capital as you go along - this seems to be preferred method for companies and individuals.

Back in the early days of working as a policeman, there was not much that you were allowed to do to supplement your wages. Previously, if we were short of a few pennies I would work in a bar or do someting to get a little more money in.. As police officer these were not allowable.

Over the years I tried writing a few children stories. I was always told that the "Wombles" was rejected 112 times before making the author a millionaire. But those were the days of typing a manuscript out with two pieces of carbon paper, with your name and page number at the top of each, in double spacing, and with tippex to correct the occasional spelling mistake.  After your manuscript had been away twice and returned, it looked like a rejected manuscript - and the thought of retyping was a huge commitment. No computers. Spell Checkers. Auto-correct. Not necessarily the Good Old Days!

As technology went on, the Spectrum 48K provided me with the option of self teaching a few computer languages, including zilog - the language of the Z80, basic and working on the ROM disassembly of the machine. I wrote my own compiler in Basic before there were commercial versions, and painstakingly converted instructions into Hexadecimal, back into decimal and then religiously "Poked" the code address by address into the machine and saved it all on a C90 tape.  I remember being delighted when I created my first multi-screen machine code Game "Noah" with an unheard of  256screens, 56 pairs of animals and a change in the story of the world dependent upon which animals you failed to save....     I remember selling that game to at least three companies that later went under - "The Ark" and "The Flood" were other titles.  My great advances in computer graphics and game were all thwarted by the arrival of "Manic Miner" on the same platform, and sadly across Commodore as well....

Wikipedia tells me that : "Manic Miner is a platform game originally written for the ZX Spectrum by Matthew Smith and released by Bug-Byte in 1983. It is the first game in the Miner Willy series and among the early titles in the platform game genre." 
 I remember him winning the Golden Joystick Award - but more important for me - as the inventor of the first Sprite Mechanism for character generation upon the Spectrum (they said it wasn't possible to duplicate the Commodore 64 specialism but I did it!) it took the whole game genre into a different direction. Platform games were the way forward from then on. It is now available on iPad and iPhone as well as on Mac and PC using special emulation software.

Grudgingly I must admit I spent hours playing the game !!! I rarely play games these days.
Sadly none of my games make the Wikipedia list of the top Spectrum Games though I recall some good reviews in the early days...  I may find some reports in a box one day - the games and the old Spectrum are certainly in a box...

But, though a few pounds came in for each, all of which helped the overall Sewell Finances, it was not really enough to get us out of a Police House.

Until Susie decided to work for an insurance company - Confederation Life. And was very good at what she did. The children were very young and we decided on a live in nanny - which meant that in the end she was working very hard to pay a babysitter, and long hours did not really give a return altogether.
But it did mean that she understood the mortgage market - at that time!

She managed to sell us a Mortgage, at a time when we had an overdraft and very little income, two children and a husband working shifts. It was an endowment Mortgage, which was about the same cost as a repayment mortgage, but at that time you got full tax allowance for the interest part for the repayment - so in principle, it should provide more disposable income throughout the period of the mortgage, and the endowment would of course provide a greater amount on pay out at the end of 30 years than the value of the mortgage - giving a nice nest egg for retirement.

Successive Governments took away the tax allowance. The Economy took away any chance of the endowment reaching the target price. Transfer of Mortgage to new house, extensions and upgrades to the house increased the mortgage itself. There never was more disposable income. The endowment failed to meet 2/3 of the value of the original, but when it matured it was put into premium bonds. There was always a chance of Ernie the Premium Bond monthly million pound give away...   

So January 1st 2015 saw the end of the Mortgage period. £75,000 to pay on an interest only mortgage.
Well prudence and some wiggling of money, some money from the Crimson Moon, and the target was found.

Speaking with the Halifax, they gave me completion figures if I paid before January 1st. If I went over the target date, I would be charged at £8.31 a day for interest. I had £40,000 in Premium Bonds... Now Ernie chooses his numbers on the first of the month - so it seemed a good idea to let the money run for a couple of days - after all we would be kicking ourselves if we had the lucky "big winner" bond... it would only cost a couple of days... So I paid the first part of the mortgage before Christmas...

Only I found that there are restrictions in using your own money to pay a bill when the numbers are big. I do not really object too much - I suppose it does safeguard me a little, but as soon as I went online to pay - I found that I was restricted to payment of £20K maximum. (a day). But Christmas was coming and bank holidays were looming and I wanted to get the payment in - other than the premium bonds which might bring me a million  (hope springs eternal!)
So I did the first transaction. And waited a day  for the second transaction. £37K down !!!
Daily interest would be less but there was not way of checking over the Christmas Period....
Premium Bonds were easier. Once more on line I found that there was an option to withdraw all your money and still keep the account open, but more importantly they give you the option to withdraw "After the next draw!!"    Now we are talking.... A sensible Government Ploy at last...

Now, more investigation tells me that Ernie actually chooses the winning numbers and I am later able to find a website where the "Big" winners are listed - all bonds winning form £100,000 to a million.. Sadly I was not there! But this was listed on 3rd January. So I closely watched for the money to appear in my account - after all the draw was completed so why was it not transferred?
5th of January came and went.
I was now 5 days in to the additional interest payments and not a milionaire!
6th of January and the money was in the Bank !!!

I am not silly. I phoned the Halifax and spoke to a nice young lady who seemed delighted that she was speaking to someone paying the mortgage off. I do not know, but I go the impression that she had a morning of  speaking to tearful defaulters who found Christmas the last straw in financial disaster. 

Apparently, though they had not told me when setting up repayment before Christmas, the £50 repayment administration fee (which I had found a little annoying - but thought was par for the course with financial institutions) was not now required as the mortgage period had finished! So all their suggestions that it was cheaper to pay in advance was not quite as accurate as they made out.... 

But I was soon furnished with the final figure if paid off today...  Yes!! Right down to the 54p!

But !!  I had forgotten the £20,000 limit for on line payment... silly me !!
So a call to my Bank  - National Westminster, to arrange it via phone - speaking to a person rather than trying to do it on the web...  After a few abortive tries to get through  "please press 1, 4, 7 and the number you first thought of"  and resorted to repeating a mantra of "Customer Service Please" to the pleasant "reassuring" recorded voice and voice recognition software... I explained my problem. But sadly, I could not pay off this way either. Telephone banking has the same £20K restriction that the web has...
But Fear Not!!!
"Pop down to your local branch and they can transfer with something call Chaps rather than Bacs ..."

So - off I trot with my mortgage forms and the exact price - down to the 54p.
Now I like my National Westminster Branch - they are very friendly. And they have a desk where you can call if you have an on-line enquiry that does not require cash to be dealt with - so I made a beeline past the queue of customers waiting for the tills...
Yes - says the nice lady - that is exactly what we can do... And did I bring my identification??
Passport or driving licence with a photograph would be fine!
Now they never mentioned that on the telephone and I was there with my bus pass and my debit card !
Apparently the photo on the Bus Pass is not sufficient !!

It all looked as though I would have to go back - when the lady has a brain wave....  "Does Abi know you?? She knows everyone!!!"

Now I should point out that I often call into the Bank, and also into some other ones where I have treasurer duties. But it is fair to say that my welcome in my local branch is always personal and friendly. The teller in question, Abi her name badge says, and may be Thomas - I never really enquired, always calls to every customer in a cheery and friendly fashion - and always calls me by name before I get the card out - so she can't be cheating. Now I have a fairly distinctive pony tail for a sixty year old and perhaps a slight tendency towards the eccentric, so I may be quite memorable. But whenever I am near the counter I can hear that she is the same with any customer. Her colleague obviously recognised this about Abi.

I got up from the desk saying - of course she does ... We walked to the head of the queue and I waved at Abi - who was dealing with another customer and shouted "Abi... Do you know who I am?"
She looked up and said "Of Course .. Hello Mr Sewell" Smiled and went back to her customer..

My teller was now happy to proceed based upon personal recognition ..  so back to the desk with my redemption figure - including 54p..
Until she explained that a Chaps transfer incurred a charge of £23...

So.. If I wanted to complete today I would have to pay the Bank to pass my money onto my mortgage company!!   This did not seem economic... Worse scenario, it would have been another £8.31 per day interest - and it would have to be a lot less than that by now!!!
With pleasantries, I explained that I was damned if I would pay that sport of charge for transferring my money and with a thank you to my assistant and a wave to Abi - I made my way home to transfer my maximum for the day over the web.. but sadly not the 54p which would take me over the limit..

So - though I had thought that I would be clear of my mortgage today and the house would be mine... Instead I will have to go through the rigmarole of the number buttons tomorrow with Halifax to find what the final figure is tomorrow - and whether they have received the money !! It will not be 54p I am sure ...

But all in all - a day that could have been one of frustration was made better by the smile of one young lady in National Westminster - so a very Happy New Year to you Abi - and keep up the good work!!!

Oh - I checked my premium bonds again just before midnight, and found that they have now listed the winners from January - I won £25 - better than a kick in the teeth - it will cover the additional interest..

Still dry - so lifting a glass of Diet Coke - Cheers...



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