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Even before his girlfriend left him, Rob had accumulated a substantial debt from the student loans for his two degrees, a BSc and a Masters. But it was after her sudden departure four years ago - "One day she just walked out" - that things really went downhill.
"I fell apart a bit," he says. Rob could no longer afford their house and began to get into more serious financial difficulty. "I can't say that I wasn't to blame, though I wasn't enjoying myself," he says. Rather, paying off his several student loans by taking on new credit card debt created an immense financial strain.
One of the most stressful things for Rob was the constant phone calls from debt collection agencies, who would often call in the evening when he was in on his own. "I'd feel my stomach twisting into knots every time I heard the phone ring. Who wants to live like that?"
Rob eventually got in touch with a charity that advises on debt problems, which referred him to Phillip Allen and his team of IVA experts (link to about). His case was handled by "an absolutely amazing lady", who was always helpful and was never judgemental. "It was never a case of 'you naughty boy'," says Rob. In fact his IVA adviser continued to handle his case even when her job changed and she took on new responsibilities. "That meant that I spoke to one person the whole way through," he says.
His seven creditors (mainly banks and credit card companies, but also the Inland Revenue) agreed to an IVA on his £23,000 of debt at a little below 50p in the pound. "That turned my life around. Now I was paying much less each month than before and in those days I was only paying interest - I wasn't really touching the debt."
The relief was just "fantastic", he recalls. "Once the meeting had happened, the creditors had agreed and everything had been gone through, I slept at night again. That was something I hadn't done for months before."
Although Rob had very little left over after his monthly IVA payment (link to 8 steps), he became much more aware of his spending and earlier financial naivety. "I could do more or less all the things I wanted to, even on £50. It was difficult, but if you were careful you could manage it."
This was a revelation for Rob. "That completely re-educated me. I don't see spending money as a way of letting my hair down now - it's about getting the situation right, not about how much you're spending."
Rob took strength from a 60-month wall chart that he drew up and stuck on his kitchen wall. "With every repayment, I would cross another month off. I found that very satisfying."
Three years in, Rob has started his own business and knows that the end is in sight. His new business has been financed entirely from its cash flow. "I haven't borrowed a single penny along the way," he notes. Similarly, he refused to start a bank account with an overdraft facility. And his wall chart is still up in the kitchen.