According to a friend who sold a successful consulting business a few years ago, the problem with employing middle-class Britons, unlike Americans, is that there’s a summit to their ambitions. Once they’ve earned enough money to trade in their BMW for a Porsche, install a new kitchen and create an attic room with a dormer window, they start taking it easy. ‘Those are the only three things they really want,’ he says.
As a freelance journalist, I’ve abandoned all hope of owning a Porsche or getting the attic done. But after living in the same house in Acton for 15 years, I’m finally remodelling the kitchen. Or rather Caroline is. When we bought the place in 2008, it had been done to quite a high standard in the style known as ‘Victoriana’, which meant William Morris wallpaper, antique-glass light shades and a small, dimly lit kitchen with a utility area facing the garden. This was the height of fashion in the late 1980s and will probably be bang-on trend again when we put the house back on the market in ten years’ time. But my efforts to persuade Caroline to wait out the fashion cycle came to nought. She’s managed to save a bit of money since going back to work and she’s decided to spend it on a new kitchen.
I loyally pretend that this was a ‘joint decision’ when talking to the children, since it will mean a huge amount of inconvenience. But in truth I wanted Caroline to spend her nest egg on paying down the mortgage. It currently stands at over half a million and our fixed-rate mortgage of 1.14 per cent ends in 2026. If the standard variable rate in three years’ time is the same as it is now, we’ll have to find more than £40,000 a year.