Banker turned author after dismissal with family income of £ 2.5,000 per month

In our How I Manage My Money series we aim to find out how people in the UK spend, save and invest money to cover their costs and achieve their goals.

This week we’re talking to Micheal Whitmore, 54. Michael has just published his first novel “The Camel and the Butterfly”. He lives in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, with his wife Paula and 16 year old son Thomas. They live on £ 2,500 a month including savings.

I did a degree in Modern Chinese Studies in Leeds in the 1980s. During my year abroad in Shanghai, I met a man who was running a school in Japan and he offered me a job as a teacher. teacher after graduation. So after I graduated, I went to Japan to teach for a year.

I came back to the UK and did a Masters in International Studies in Leeds. At the time, we didn’t have loans and we had grants to help pay for living expenses. Previously we had to withdraw our money from an ATM on Friday night – and that would be our budget as student bars weren’t accepting cards. You didn’t have debit cards as such at the time, only credit cards.

After that I went to London to work for PriceWaterhouseCoopers (now PwC) as a trainee auditor. I started with £ 14,000 and did it for a few years. But I stopped working because I didn’t like it. I really wanted to write a book. So I went back to Leeds to be closer to my family, who lived in Lancashire. I ended up finding a job in telephone sales, which is where I met my wife.

At the time, she was studying law, but had decided to drop out of school. She was way better than me at selling over the phone, so she ended up subsidizing our relationship. After a few months there, I was hired by the NatWest graduate intern as a corporate banker; Paula had secured a place at the University of London to study English. I think I had a salary of around £ 20,000.

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We moved to London and first rented at Kensal Green. Then we moved to the East End of London and rented accommodation on Commercial Road, paying £ 250 per month. It was just us, it was not a roommate. That rent seems pretty cheap now, and by that time, in the 1990s, real estate prices had started to rise. I remember listening to conversations at work – coworkers who had older children trying to save money to buy housing but prices in London were going up so fast they wiped out their savings.

I was with NatWest for about five years at that time; Paula had graduated from school and worked in communications for a charity. We were getting married and I was offered a job at Credit Suisse. It was within the private banking performance management team. My role was therefore to analyze individual stocks and ensure that client portfolios were growing.

My salary was then around £ 35,000. In 15 years, when I left, it had become much more than that. In addition, I also had bonuses. In 2012 we decided to sell our house in Thamesmead, London. When we bought it in the late 90s it was £ 69,000 which seemed like a lot. We sold the house for £ 190,000 and bought a larger house in Wellingborough for £ 220,000.

We couldn’t have bought a house of this size in London for that. The only negative point, which was important, was that I had a four hour commute per day. Two hours in London, including the underground, and two hours back. Then I was offered a voluntary departure. I was only 48 years old. It was part of a restructuring. Paula and I sat down and determined if I could afford to stop working and finally pursue my dream of writing a book.

We were able to use some of the redundancy to clear the mortgage. We didn’t have a big mortgage because we had effectively downsized when we moved. Paula didn’t mind working, she wanted to advance her career, so the timing was right. Still, we had to sit down and watch what we had and what we could afford to do. Once we started looking at it, we realized we could; it takes a lot of money to live and work in London. You don’t realize it until you stop working.

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When we moved to Wellingborough our son Thomas was very young. I was out of the house at 5 a.m. I only saw him for half an hour a day on weekdays because I got home at 7:30 p.m. I was also spending £ 6,500 on an annual train ticket. If you factor in taxes, that was £ 10,000 of my salary.

We have never been extravagant. Until containment, we never spent more than £ 5,000 on a car. We had a Saab just before the lockdown. Then we bought a used Mercedes Benz for £ 18,000 which sounded financially ridiculous. It was a whim. But it turned out to be an unexpected investment and worth more now, so we are considering selling it.

We believe in cutting our fabric accordingly. My cell phone is three years old and we own all of our phones, it’s £ 24 a month for the three of us with a monthly paid SIM plan.

Our energy supplier is Bulb. We were drawn to their use of recyclable and renewable energy, but despite this our energy bills have dropped from £ 110 per month two years ago to £ 280 now. I really hope Bulb survives because they have such brilliant customer service.

Stopping work was not just about money. Right before I left Credit Suisse we did a talk and one of the speakers pointed out that our hours meant we were classified as “absent parent”. Since leaving the City, I have come to know my son. I walk to school with him and even pick him up, even when he doesn’t want me to. I got to know him before he was a teenager too.

I finally wrote my book – it took me two years, then another year to find a publisher. The past year has been devoted to retouching and sorting the illustrations. It has been wonderful, but difficult. Change can be scary. I would say to anyone who wants to write, no matter what their age – if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Michael’s book, The Camel and the Butterfly, Cahill Davis Publishing, is now available.

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