By Catherine Watson
WHEN I told the bank manager my income, she looked amazed. And not in a good way.
A bit of freelance writing. A bit of rent. It didn’t amount to much. Any benefits or pensions? No. Any super? No. It didn’t look good.
I’d told them that as soon as I sat down. I didn't have a job or much income. I just wanted to know in general terms whether I could extend a loan for a few months until I sold a house.
“We’ll just get a few details first.” Name. Address. Occupation. I said I did a bit of freelance writing but I didn’t have a regular job. I’d already told them that.
Was I still working for the employer nominated on my bank records? Clearly not.
The young woman continued, reading from a script on her computer. What were my goals: travel? a new car? education? to build my superannuation? No, no, no, no. What were my retirement plans? Was I interested in wealth creation?
I peeked at her computer and saw there was a long way to go. I interrupted the flow. “I’m 62!“ I said. “I’m already there. It’s not the future, it’s the present. I’m living the dream.”
They exchanged a glance. It said: “Do you think she’s dangerous?” The bank manager steered the interview back to safer ground.
How much was I earning as a freelance writer? Not much. I’d already told them that. What were my living expenses? Rates? Power? Phone? Obviously I was living way beyond my means, and we hadn’t even got on to the booze and smokes. The manager kept wrangling the figures to see how much they could lend me and the answer kept coming back: “Zero.”
She looked at me sternly. “Would you like to make an appointment with one of our financial consultants?”
They looked hurt when I laughed. The younger woman glanced at her computer and tried a different tack. This house I was going to sell … was it insured? No, I mumbled. “I haven’t got around to it yet.”
“Is house insurance important to you?” she asked.
Where was this going? “A little,” I said cautiously. “Not very, clearly.”
“Would you like to talk to one of our consultants about house insurance?” she said triumphantly.
Ah! Thank you for your concern. No I wouldn’t. I really just wanted to borrow some of your money for a few months.
I was wasting my time and theirs. “Thanks anyway,” I said and got up to leave. But they weren’t letting me get away that easily.
The manager had one final suggestion: how about using my credit card to cover the shortfall until I sold the house?
“You mean it’s too risky to lend me money at 5 per cent,” I said, “but you’d lend me money at 18 per cent?"
“Hmmm,” she mumbled. I didn’t catch it. I beat it before they could sell me funeral insurance.