Marguerite Valentine, Bristol

Back to the Black … how to become debt-free and stay that way

The author, of ‘Back to the Black’, Michael MacMahon, writes with compassion and some humour about being in debt. After all, he’s been there, so the experience has given him some authority, as well as an insight into the subsequent problems.

Michael takes the perspective of a coach advocating a rational approach to getting a grip on debt, which means facing the facts, analysing your financial situation, deciding on a personal strategy to make sense of what’s gone wrong, and what might work best for you to put things right.

He  considers why people get into debt; obvious things like a dip in the economy which if you own a business may create problems in investment or the less obvious, like the costs arising out of a divorce And then, of course, there’s ‘discretionary spending’, which is ‘spending ’ to buy things, which you could, in reality, do without.

I found his short case studies really interesting. He showed how some financial event, which in itself was minor, can, if not handled  properly,  snowball into something frighteningly out of control. He proposes three possible strategies, one’s choice depending not only on the factual circumstances but how one views working with each possibility.

The final part suggests strategies to avoid a recurrence. There’s also an extremely helpful list of resources, such as charities, templates for possible letters, and a glossary with explanations of financial terminology.

For those in debt, or fear the recurrence of debt,  ‘Back to Black’ is a straightforward account of what to do and where to go for help. The tone is reassuring, informal, and informed, and reading his book as someone with very little experience of financial matters, I found it interesting and it made sense! It can’t get better than that.

Marguerite Valentine

Nov 2016