Story 13: Never Assume

Cameron Laird

Cameron Laird

Published on: 14 March, 2022

Updated: 26 April, 2022

Vicki Wusche

Assumptions, Fear & The Ice Cream Van

And we're back! In case you missed it, in our last episode, we talked with the one and only Kaben Clauson, co-founder and COO of Pigeon Loans. That conversation was a good one; from it, we were entertained by numerous exciting tales. Stories of shame, anguish, pain, and ultimately triumph were the core themes of our discussion with Kaben. You'll hear stories about situations we've all been in before, straight from the source, so dive in and take a listen: Story 12: Sometimes You Just Need Someone To Believe In You

This week we got a chance to speak with and learn from personal finance guru, Vicki Wusche. In this episode, we get a very candid and entertaining recollection about how Vicki financially survived being a divorced single mother buried in debt and with nowhere to turn to. With her day-to-day life now dedicated to teaching others how to take control of their finances, Vicki shows us what it truly means to be resilient and committed against all odds.

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This Episode In A Nutshell

The power of money is a fascinating phenomenon. You either control it, or it controls you. Being smart with your money and knowing how to face financial problems is a skill we are unfortunately are not taught in the classroom. From creating budgets to tracking bills on a spreadsheet, never assuming your financial well-being is taken care of can make a world of difference in life. After finding herself pregnant, divorced, homeless, and buried under hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, no stranger to hardship, Vicki Wusche ultimately took control of her finances and found a way to make her money work for her. Listen as Vicki, one of the Telegraph's top 25 influential people, challenges us to face our financial struggles and fears head-on.

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Have a story to tell and want to be on our podcast? Let us know by sending an email to claird@pigeonloans.io.

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Audio Transcript of Story 13: Never Assume

Opening Monologue

Hello everyone, Cameron here, your host of The Chirp: A Podcast By Pigeon Loans. Hope everyone is having a marvelous March. We have an awesome episode coming up for you. For this podcast, I had a great conversation with a fascinating woman called Vicki Wusche.

Vicki is a property investor, she is a wealth strategist, a public speaker, she's an author. Right now in her career she is successful, she is wealthy. The UK newspaper, The Telegraph, named her as one of the 25 most influential people in property. 

But it wasn’t always the case. Vicki was kind enough to come on to The Chirp, tell her story of how her marriage came under financial strain and how she pulled herself out of it. Not only does she talk about her relationship with her ex-husband but also her relationship with money itself and what she believes to be the best way for individuals and couples to work things out for themselves when money and loans are an issue.

I pondered a lot after this chat but I will keep my own thoughts until the end. I hope you enjoy the interview and learn lots from the wise Vicki Wusche. Enjoy.

Cameron Laird

Eh Vicki, thank you so much for joining me today. You're very welcome to The Chirp. How are you keeping?

Vicki Wusche

Very good. Thank you very much!

Cameron Laird

Good to know. So obviously very excited to have you on. I did a lot of research on your areas of expertise. You're a great writer. You're an amazing speaker as well. Can you give us a brief synopsis of your expertise and your journey thus far as well? 

Vicki Wusche

Yeah, so I think probably what's really relevant to The Chirp is my journey with money. Rather than being an expert, I've had a lot of experiences from being in a position where I thought everything was fine to suddenly waking up one day, eight months pregnant and finding out we're being repossessed from our house.

And the irony is that that wasn't the first time it happened. I've had a lot of credit card debt. I still have a lot of credit card debt, but the difference between I had it and I have it is now I understand how to manage it. And I've got the full spectrum in between from counting every penny to playing credit card 0% games.

So yeah, I've had a lot of experience with money, with debt, with loans and obviously, that's why we're looking forward to this chat!

Cameron Laird

Fantastic. And you yourself personally, Vicki, can you tell me a story of back in the day where you've seen relationships or maybe a relationship of your own that's been affected by money and loans and how it's affected you as well? 

Vicki Wusche

Yeah, certainly. I sort of hinted at it in the introduction. So when I first met my first husband, or now my ex-husband, I was very naive. I had come from a family where we didn't talk about money, but I was aware of my mom's ability to save and to plan because when we had a holiday, she would buy things in advance for the holiday and stack it all up.

And I think I've either got either a, I dunno, like a genetic math skill or, if it's not nature, it's nurture. A nurtured understanding of money and planning and budget from observing my mum, but none of it was conscious. So I go into this relationship initially and moved into, at that time, my boyfriend's rented accommodation.

So of course he was paying all the bills so that when we got married and we bought our own house with a mortgage, I just assumed that he was paying all the bills again. That is the biggest mistake you can make in any relationship or anything to do with money is to assume. Never assume - understand absolutely everything.

And in the very first house we were in, it turned out we hadn't been paying the mortgage. Don't know why, he just didn't. And then my husband lost his job and then we couldn't pay the mortgage. And we managed to sell that house out from under the repossession. We then got into a second property and in the second property, somehow he did the same thing again.

And I look back at myself and I want to shake me or slap me and go, “What were you doing? What were you doing, Vicki when this was going on?” Well, one of the things I was doing was breeding and growing our baby. And the second time we were repossessed, I was seven months pregnant, and that caused me to have preeclampsia high blood pressure. And our baby was born early and I left one house literally with packing boxes because we couldn't get rehoused until we were actually evicted. And eviction means all your possessions have to go on the actual common pavement where people walk outside the property because they want you off the property before you can get something else.

And somehow in the miracle of the 10 days, I was in hospital with high blood pressure and everything, my now ex-husband managed to find a rental property and we moved in. So I left one house and then arrived at another house with a new baby. And we were bringing that child into a house that was bankrupt, that was repossessed, that was in loads of debt. 

We had some family, friends helping us out, but outwardly, if you hadn't been the person I'd asked to borrow money off of, we were having great holidays. We had a great car. We had the mobile phones, we would still go out for meals, so the trappings were all there and that's really where sort of ego comes into it and plays a role in the story.

Cameron Laird

You bring up interesting points as well about men and women and how potentially they both can handle loans and and debts differently. Can you speak to me a bit about these archetypes and how loans and debt can skew the mind of a of a provider and how it can affect relationships as well in that regard?

Vicki Wusche

Sure! Now this is not a hard and fast concrete rule, but typically alongside property investing… I'll mention that bit because that's the debt that I'm in now… What I do is I have a lot of conversations with people about what it means to live a wealthy life and how they can learn to use money better and to become more aware of money and the maths of money, money maths.

And so what I tend to find is that in each relationship, there is a provider, a financial provider, and there is a home nurturer, and this tends to fall with the male and the female roles, but it could equally be the other way round. It could be two females, two males, whatever, but whatever relationship you're in there is typically one who is better with the money, more aware of the money.

And there is typically one who is not so aware and not so involved in the day-to-day of the money. Now, the trouble is that if you are, let's say, the female and you're focused on providing for the family in terms of the nurturing role. So you may be on maternity leave or a part-time job or not working at all or something like that.

And you're assuming that your other half, the financial provider, who's probably got the better paying job is going out to work and earning enough money. If you don't ask those questions. You don't know. And not only that you might assume that but actually, you don't even know if they're any good with money.

So the relationship I was in. I don't know what he was doing. I don't know whether he was checking the money - I didn't ask. And it was clear that he couldn't have been any good with the money because we ended up bankrupt and repossessed, but I didn't ask and I didn't know to ask, and I didn't have permission to ask and I'm not stupid.

And how, how could I have been in that position? So it's very clear that there are these two roles, and they have different roles within the family. So there is the father, the mother, or that type of role, and then the relationship with money.

But on top of that, what I see is that when you start talking to couples and I start talking to couples, the man is struggling with the pressure. You men are under so much pressure to be men, to not talk, to not admit that you're struggling too. To not admit that you've got something wrong because that's classed as failure.

You can't talk to your mates. You can't talk to your partner because you either don't want to worry her because she's got a baby or you don't want to worry her because you don't want her to think differently of you, but what you're missing is that the female, the mother or the family nurture in the role is equally stressed either because they don't understand what's going on or because they don't have any money.

And they're having to provide for the children, they're aware of the child growing out of clothes or needing more nappies or a cream or anything, or activities and stimulation. So they're under their own form of pressure. And yet neither of you are talking to each other. 

Cameron Laird

Going back to your own story as well after your split happened, you were out on your own. What was your journey like then? Were loans a part of your life back then to stay afloat? What kind of methods did you use to create that path to financial success for yourself? 

Vicki Wusche

Sure. So that was everything. I used everything. So I was a single mum of two children under three when my marriage broke up. We moved into my parents' back bedroom and then we were lucky enough to get a council property.

And so I had to pay for everything, and I decided to go to university and the problem of going to university was that it took me out of being able to get a job. So then I didn't get a jobseekers allowance. So I was lucky enough in those days to get a grant. So I got a grant so that I could go to university.

Now the grant would come in twice a year and when that money came in, I had to budget. And somehow, naturally I did this and I don't understand why I didn't do this when I was married. Maybe it's because I assumed that’s what my partner was doing, but actually it turns out I had all the skills. I know that I'm actually very good with numbers anyway.

So I just cracked on and what I did was I would put my grant into a high rate deposit account, which meant I was only allowed two withdrawals over a quarter. So that was fine. I then got out zero percent credit cards and I put money on those credit cards, which then I could push out the debt into the future, but I knew when they were due.

And then I knew that I could clear those cards because I worked it out in the calendar. I knew that I could clear that card with a future grant, but that I wasn't going to then take the money out of my children's mouth by spending the grant money, because I could then use credit cards as a way to stretch, if you like, our monthly budget. 

So we've got to pay for food in a month, if you start spending with the credit card, but at the time the credit card bill comes in, it's basically 30 days later, the end of the month from when you start and then you don't have to pay the bill for, say, another 15 days.

If you buy everything on day one with your credit cards, you do your shopping and you do the expensive thing. So you stock up on your loo roll and your soap powder. And if you've got nappies and everything else, you don't actually have to pay for those things till 45 days later. And then what I could do is I could use the credit card to extend the money I had.

I used the nought percent to push things into the future. I had money that I put in deposit accounts, which is a little bit extra, and that's 60 pounds of interest that I got from saving my grant all the time in this deposit account. It paid for us to have a summer holiday. It was a bit of free money with all that money management.

Now I know that sounds really complicated and I am a bit of a freak…

Cameron Laird

Sounds genius!

Vicki Wusche

Okay haha! Thank you very much. But I was just thinking about your listeners going, “Oh my God. She’s sort of a lunatic.” You don't have to be that complicated. You just preferably use a spreadsheet because it just makes life easier.

But at the very least do what I did. So I'm so old that we didn't have a computer at home and a laptop in the first place. In fact, the Internet was only just being born. That's how ancient I am. When I was doing this, I had a notepad on the corner of the lap of the laminate worktop in the kitchen. And as I walked in the house I put my keys down and put my bag down, I took out the receipts for the money that I'd spent that day. And I wrote them down, even the 10p that I put in the phone box.

Again, if you're young and you're listening to this, the phone box was a red thing that we had to go to, to make phone calls in the old days.

Cameron Laird

I’m old enough for that, don't worry!

Vicki Wusche

Well you don't look it...but even 10p in the phone box I wrote down. And outside the school there was this damned ice-cream van that sat there every day and the kids would know. And so from primary school, when I used to take my little baby in the buggy to go and pick up my older daughter, I would work out which way we were going to walk based on where I'd seen the ice-cream van.

And then I would have in my mind what I was going to point out to her to get her to look in the opposite direction from the ice-cream truck. “Oh, look at that bed. Oh, that tree's in flower. Oh, look, there's your friend. Oh no, it's not your friend.” And walk them quickly enough away that the van was behind us because 50p each for each child, for just a little lolly that was sugar anyway, and they didn't need it, is a pound. 

One a week is five quid, which is 20 pounds a month. 20 pounds a month was a week's shopping budget. I couldn't afford to waste that. So it's about getting smart. What's important in your life? Your family, you keeping a roof over your head, to keep food in your belly, having warm clothes on your back.

And the rest of the stuff is just dressing. And if you don't have enough money at the moment, then you have to cut back on the dressing so that you can stay in control of the money. And if I jumped now from being in debt and being bankrupt and being repossessed and having hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of debt, then I now still have hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of debt, but the hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of debt, I have now some of these credit cards, a lot of it is mortgages, but because I invest in property, I'm using money as a tool to make me money rather than not paying attention to money and allowing it to cost me money. 

And that's where it comes with a loan. Whether it's a loan or a credit card, understand what you need the money for. Understand whether it's to give you breathing space. And that's perfectly fine. It's a breathing space, but there's interest and there's a capital return. How are you going to pay it back? But if it's to cover the fact that you've got a bad spending habit, then, then no amount of debt is going to repay this for you.

Cameron Laird

This level of experience that you have this life experience, even from back in the day, it's just it seems to have contributed to your genius.

I could listen to these techniques all day. This skill set that you have, it's great to hear these stories. Fast forward to today. Obviously you work with your clients, you're a financial strategist, you help a lot of people, or you helped a lot of people coming out of COVID and the financial hardship that came with that.

Kind of interested to know where do you even start with that? How do you work with people mentally? Obviously I know you love your math and things like that, but where do you start with someone who's desperate, who's in a funk financially. And how do you work towards… obviously it's a bit of a broad question, but how do you start to work to get them out of it?

Vicki Wusche

Well, I could be flippant and say, “Well, first I have to get them to cry!” But it's about admitting that you are ready for help. And I think probably by the time someone agrees to have that call… although this isn't true because I have calls with people and then I know by the tone of their voice, I know by their facial expressions, they're going to do absolutely nothing that we talked about and we're going to book a call in and I bet you and I will win that. They're going to cancel that call with some reason beforehand. 

Cameron Laird

Is that a pride thing? Is that just not tackling the real issue?

Vicki Wusche

I don’t know because I haven't really had the chance to dig in. I think for some it is that they just don't want to face it. And I think a lot of it is fear. A lot of it is if I admit how much financial trouble I'm in, then I'll have to do something about it. And maybe what if there is nothing I can do about it and what if I'm going to lose my home? What if we're going to get kicked out of our home, even if it's a rental property, anything like that?

So there's some of that fear, but I think there's also a lot of pride. So one client that I spoke to. Absolutely love this man. He's so interesting to talk to. He's got an absolute heart of gold. His wife was sick during COVID and had to isolate himself in a position where he still got his base wage or I think a furlough payment, but he wasn't making the bonuses.

When you work in a job where you get a low base wage and then commission, you rely on that commission as if the whole amount was really your wages. And you'll have a lifestyle built on that and he couldn't afford to maintain the lifestyle. And so he's just one person on his own alone. Like most people were trying to make ends meet, trying to keep the house together and resorted to credit cards.

And that was fine, but he didn't think about the interest. And this is the interesting thing, and I'm not a financial advisor. You can get smart with a credit card and get a nought percent fee. But the nought percent fee comes with an admin fee. And the admin fee, if we say 4%, that is actually 4% interest because you're going to take out a credit card for a year and pay a 4% admin fee.

That's 4% interest. If you can get that credit card out over 24 months, that 4% admin fee becomes 2%. And it might be that if you're paying 4% admin fee, that there are cheaper loans that you could take and you need to understand the cost of the money that you're borrowing. He was just spending regularly on a regular card and not paying it back.

So he's paying an excessive 20% interest and he just didn't know where to turn to, how to get out of it. Didn't want to burden the wife. Couldn't speak to his friends - back to that. And I don't know that it was ego. Cause I would say this is the man with the least ego in the world, but still not knowing where he could turn to. 

And then we ended up having a conversation about different things. And then I said what I did, and because I said what I did, then what he did was own up in a sense, very cautiously. And I think it took us three or four calls before he finally would admit the full scale of the problem that he was in.

And when we did it, It was like someone had just released all of that pressure prior to us calling. He's not even opening the post anymore. I've got him opening the post, we've got a spreadsheet. We know what the debt is. We know what his income is. And he then created a plan with my help to pay down the loans to work out which loan is costing him the most money, which credit card, which loan costs them the most money and how he can pay that down.

Cameron Laird

Using that strategy and that attention to detail and that spreadsheet approach and mentality. What are your thoughts on lending or loans between loved ones, friends and families and things like that? Are you an advocate for asking for help off loved ones?

And if so, what would be your approach personally? As in do you think that it can be done? Is it a viable way to ask for help and to solve your problems? And would you, most of all, apply that spreadsheet organization?

Vicki Wusche

I think you have to when you're going to go to family because, and that's not about ego, it's about shame now. It's not about fear, it's about shame. And I've got another client, a beautiful, talented woman. Struggling to get her business going here with COVID and everything else. She got into debt and she's got a very wealthy family that could basically give her the money, nevermind lend her the money. But the judgment that she faces when she has spoken to them based on past experience is stifling.

And she will not go to them to ask them for money. So again, we'd like to work it out the other way. So I think you've really got to understand your family. When I went to my dad, when I was first starting the property business, I said to my dad, “Look, I've got a business plan”.

He immediately said, “Are you in trouble?” 

“No, no, no. I want you to look at my business plan.” 

“Are you struggling for money? How much can I give you?” 

And so it depends on your family. Is your family judgmental or is your family asking how much they can do to help you? And I suppose that depends on how many times have you been back to ask!

If you've been back to your family a number of times to ask them for money, you've gotta be able to say, “Actually, what I need to do is look at the problem. Why do I keep having to go outside of my own financial circle, my financial house? Why am I having to go outside of that circle?” And this can apply to a loan or to family members in order to get more money.

What is the problem? And if you don't start with that spreadsheet, income and expenses, knowing where you are. Then is it fair to go to your family who are managing their own situation? If really the reason you're going to them is because you're not taking care of your money. You've got a bad spending habit, a wardrobe full of shoes (That might just be me) or necklaces or something like that.

But however you do it. If you go to them with a spreadsheet that says, look at the amount it's costing me. I don't know, 200, 300 in credit card interest payments, but I'm not managing to bring down the capital. If you could lend me that, say, five grand (for the sake of the number of five grand) I could put that 200 pounds towards paying you back and I could pay you back within this period, whereas I'd never be able to do that with a credit card. 

And yes, I know I've spent on a credit card, but I had to replace the car or I got pregnant and I needed a push chair and all the stuff for the baby. Another client, she adopted three children so there was a huge amount of expense when she took on these three siblings at the same time. And then she needed a plan and I helped work out how to pay it all back down. And again, she's done it, but I think it's because we don't talk about money enough, you know at home.

We don't talk about debt. We don't learn about math and that's what causes the problem. It's ignorance. Hmm. That's such a hard word. Ignorance. Ignorance as in we don't know what we don't know. We don't know that we're making a mistake and we don't know that we could do it in a different way.

Cameron Laird

I agree as well. And I don't think it's ignorance. I think it's ignorance in terms of the lack of education that's usually out there and how one thing we come across in The Chirp a lot is people aren't raised to handle student loans or they're not schooled on mortgages or all these things that kind of kick you in the face once you become a grownup or an adult and things like that. So I don't think ignorance is a wrong word in that regard. 

So Vicki, obviously the future I'm sure is bright as well. What are you excited for in the future in terms of your own career? And are you going to get back out public speaking and things like that? Are a lot of talks on zoom these days or what do the next couple of years look like?

Vicki Wusche

Goodness! Well, it will be nice to go out public speaking again, because I love that interaction of the crowd. To get there early, to meet a few people. And then when I speak, to be able to relate to their stories and use their stories in my stories. But what has made my life so easy is staying at home in 2020. I did 50 podcasts and I didn't have to leave the house. So I spent most of the time in the back garden and only just showed up on Zoom.

And look at us! You're in Barcelona and I'm in London and it's so easy to do now. I have been recording my own podcast, so that'll be coming out. It's called A Wealthy Life. And that comes out in March 2022. So you can have a little look at that one. But I think really it's just the opportunity to help people understand the maths of money.

How to live a wealthy life and really pick up on those skills that we never got at school, but we all need, because just small changes in our lives can give us so much more joy. Not only because it gives us something pleasurable, but it takes away something stressful. So a small change has twice the benefit, really, whether it's investing in property, which I spend my time helping my clients do, or having conversations with people. Setting out a wealth strategy for them, which is what I was doing just before I spoke to you, speaking to a man whose goal is to then move to Portugal and we're going to look at. How much it's going to cost for him to live in Portugal, which is what he and his wife want to do when they retire.

How can I help him prepare financially? So he's got the income so that you can go and live out there in the way that he wants. And it's those sorts of conversations, which is so exciting. It's helping people change their lives. And how can that not be the best job? 

Cameron Laird

Vicky, this has been fantastic for those who want to get in touch, learn more about you, em what is the best way to find you?

Vicki Wusche

Yeah. With a name like Vicki Wusche. It's so easy. If you can spell it, you can find me. So the hardest bit actually out of this is Vicki - it's V I C K I. Make sure it's with an “I”. And my surname, which is W U S C H E. And then you can find me on social media. You can find me through my website, which is vickiwusche.com.

There are loads of resources there. If you want to go to VickyWusche.com for some resources. You'll find things from spreadsheets to workbooks to help you sort of think through all of this money stuff, as well as going to Amazon and finding the books. 

Cameron Laird

Fantastic. Well, listen, it was an absolute pleasure. Loved hearing your very wise points on everything like that about debt and more so just kind of relationships and why we act certain ways when we're under financial stress and it seems you help a lot of people.

So thank you so much, best luck in the future. And I can't wait to listen to your new podcast as well!

Vicki Wusche

Thank you very much, Cameron. Thank you very much for the conversation today.

Outro Monologue

So shoutout to Vicki for telling her story. An example of a person who has taken their life experience and channeled that into a profitable career for themselves. What was most shocking to me and what really stuck with me was Vicki talking about her social programming in a way. That she didn’t give much thought to the structure of her relationship with her ex-husband in a financial sense.

Her ex-husband was the breadwinner, Vicki was busy having and raising children, and without much thought, left the financial responsibility to her ex-husband. And what was powerful, after the marriage broke down, was Vicki shaking herself out of it. Realizing that, not only did she know she could look after herself by being smart about money, but that she was also insanely talented when it came to math and numbers of it all as well.

To be that self-reliant and self-empowered is most admirable, and this was echoed at the end when she spoke about her client who is under financial strain, despite the fact that her family are very wealthy! Vicki used her own relationship with her Dad as an example saying how some families are just very different from one another when it comes to those generosities and those loans. 

Some parents will do as much as they can to help their kids, especially when it comes to lending them money. But if that trust is gone, if that privilege has been abused one too many times, then that relationship isn’t there. And I felt that when Vicki went to her Dad with her business plan, he was willing to give without thought, but Vicki wanted to do it properly and by the book,  using a business plan.

My main take-away from this interview was when Vicki spoke about the “why” of asking for a loan. Vicki spoke to the importance of being organized when asking for a loan, to keep yourself in check for loan payments, having a spreadsheet so everything is accessible.

But she said that if you’re borrowing for the wrong reasons, because you just need more expendable income, because you have mad spending habits to begin with, then you are setting yourself up for disaster.

If you’re taking out a loan from whoever, you need to be organized, you need to follow the terms, but the loan has to be for the right reasons. It’s ok to ask for help, but take care of your money!

That’s all for today everyone! Big thank you to Vicki for joining me, special thanks to you all for watching and listening. As usual, my inbox is always open for those looking to tell their story. I will see you all at the end of March for another episode of The Chirp. Until then, stay sensible. Take care!