Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The joint account

A few years ago Mark married Eva. They celebrated their wedding in fine style and settled down to make a beautiful home for themselves. Mark, trusting and adoring set up a joint bank account and gold credit card in their new married name. Even at the wedding reception some of their closest friends, however, had serious doubts about the marriage and whether they were really compatible. They all agreed with the happy couple, though, that they could never, ever get a divorce.

Mark is a mature man, very sensible, even a little bit boring. He has a good business that generates enough income to pay the school fees and health insurance. He can even save some money for their retirement. Mark has never spent beyond his means so he doesn't have to borrow money. His business, although very steady and professionally organised, needs a good deal of working capital so he has negotiated an overdraft with the bank manager, Ms Wong, who he sees regularly. She regards him as her ideal customer and has made it clear that she would be delighted to lend more.

Eva is much younger and very beautiful. She is the cherished daughter of an aristocratic Mediterranean family. Mark was her only lover but she naturally inspires complete devotion. Eva is a self-employed travel agent, or "vacation consultant" as she describes herself. Her career has never been truly profitable and recently it has been increasingly difficult to find work. She isn't at all interested in keeping proper accounts so she scarcely realises that she spends far more than she earns. A couple of years ago Eva became obsessed with the housing boom and gambled unsuccessfully in property.

During the first decade of their marriage Mark has tried very gently to steer Eva towards a way of life more like his own with careful budgeting and such like. She has listened patiently and has tried hard not to upset him. Rather than ask him to arrange an overdraft on their bank account she has been financing her lifestyle on the gold card. The credit card company automatically takes the minimum payment each month from their bank account so that doesn't look too bad.

Not long ago Eva reached the credit limit on the gold card. You couldn't really blame her because the credit card company had actually lowered the limit following a shift in their commercial policy.  She promptly arranged a handful of storecards. Mark had warned her several times about storecards and the astronomical interest rates that they charge but it was either that or she would have had to give up all the expensive activities that she treasured.

When Mark found out he was utterly exasperated. Now he had to make a very delicate decision: should he pay off Eva's storecards so that she wouldn't be liable for any more of their punitive interest or should he step back and leave her to her own financial mess? Reluctantly he decided to take action.

Although it wasn't the time for their regular meeting, Mark made an appointment to see Ms Wong. She was charming and sympathetic, as ever, but couldn't altogether hide her surprise at the amount Mark was asking to borrow for "personal" reasons. She agreed the loan but at a significantly higher rate than she had been offering up until now. After he had left her office, still evidently unhappy at finding himself in this situation, Ms Wong placed a warning note on the bank's personal file for Mark and Eva.

To be continued.....

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