What happens when a life of riches plunges to rock bottom in an instant? A reader shares her dark secret.
My family is the kind you envy. I grew up in a big landed house, with two maids and a driver.
Even when I was a little girl, I loved to go shopping with my mother – we could spend all day doing it!
To give you an idea of how much we shopped, assistants at the designer boutiques used to phone us when a new shipment came in, so we would get the first chance to buy the best pieces.
I was always daddy’s girl and he spoilt me. When I wanted a sports car, he paid. When I wanted to study overseas, he paid. Needless to say, he also always willingly paid for my shopping sprees.
And I love my dad – not just because he paid for everything, of course. I loved him because he took good care of us.
My dad had inherited a family business from his father and built it up into something much bigger. Sometimes he would talk about the business, or he would come back tired from a trip, but if mum or I asked about the business, he would just laugh and change the subject.
And you might be able to guess where this is going…
Some months back, my father had a heart attack and passed away. It was so sudden and shocking.
But then it got worse.
We had barely finished with his wake and funeral when the phone calls started coming from lawyers and creditors with claims that our father owed money. They said the business was not solid and some of them were really rude!
We spoke to our lawyers… And gradually, the terrible truth came out. The business had been in trouble for a while. My father had borrowed large sums of money from institutions, from friends – and even from some family members.
To cut a long story short, my family is not rich anymore. In fact, we are bankrupt. We had to sell our home, our furniture, the cars… everything.
My mother is completely devastated. She had not just lost her husband, she had lost her entire life. High teas, luxury fashion and charity galas were a thing of the past. For one thing, we didn’t have the money!
Furthermore, she was too ashamed to show her face, so she just stayed home facing the walls of the house she would have to leave soon.
I know this makes me sound very spoilt, but I’ve never had to count every cent before. It was been very hard on both of us – and it was even harder not being able to tell anyone what was happening.
My mother made me swear to save face. So we pretended we were ‘choosing’ to live a more ‘simple’ life.
Just the other day, I told a friend who asked me to lunch that I preferred just coffee instead. I joked that I worried about getting fat from too many lavish meals. I didn’t tell her the real reason – latte is cheaper.
Maybe the truth will come out eventually… perhaps when we move out of the house? In just a few months, my life had become like a bad TV drama!
Sometimes, I wish my father had confided in me. I’m not sure what I could have done, but for a start, I could certainly have spent less.
Now, when I look at all the material luxuries I splashed out on, I just want to scream.
From The Singapore Women’s Weekly, August 2017
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