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Tony has a very honest and frank story about his relationship with money – how he battled a gambling addiction and the steps he’s taken to change the way he manages his money. He calls his financial health a “work in progress”. Read on for his full story…

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I live near London, but I’m originally from Crosby in the North West of England. Currently I’m giving my time to a campaign that’s raising awareness of gambling addiction and bringing about regulatory change to protect children and adults from gambling-related harm.

I understand the consequences of gambling addiction only too well, having become addicted to fruit machines as a 10 year old child when I was first introduced to them in the seaside town near my school. Now in my mid-forties, gambling addiction has consumed most of my adult life, and I’ve lost my home and family twice along the way.

During those times when I have had a career, I’ve worked for some amazing companies in leadership or project management roles and lived in various parts of the world – and I’m passionate about my family, creating a fairer society and the great outdoors.

Tony Franklin profile photo

You’ve turned your financial life around from a very difficult situation. Would you mind talking us through it?

I would rather describe my financial life as a work in progress. I have a lot of debts as a consequence of my gambling addiction and paying them back and restructuring them is a lengthy process. I don’t have a pension, a home or any other assets.

How would you describe your relationship with your bank and finances at the time?

I didn’t have a healthy relationship with my bank. Credit was fuel for the fire – of gambling – and my financial relationship with banks was all about keeping the credit bubble just afloat enough to sustain my gambling. At times I had some very big paychecks coming in, and this unfortunately helped enough to keep the credit flowing, even when signs of disorderly finances were visible.

What was the trigger to you making the positive changes?

Because of the complexity of my struggle, this isn’t an easy question to answer. The consequences of gambling addiction are ultimately living a disordered life that feels a bit like a cauldron of chaos, affecting everything from family, friends, employment, and financial relationships through to health and even keeping a roof over your head.

Since my early twenties, I’d accepted that I had a gambling addiction and I sought help to get well and recover from it. Unfortunately there were a number of factors that prevented me from overcoming this sooner, but when I did find the right support, that helped me to find the right tools to better navigate my life and my finances. StepChange, Money Advice Service or the Citizens Advice Service are good places to start for support.

How did you go about doing that?

It sounds simple, but I just kept picking myself up and trying again. Never give up!

How did you come across Starling, and what made you choose us?

I’m very interested in the challenger bank market as a whole, as I feel that they offer more far more innovation whilst seeking to be much more financially inclusive than the mainstream banks. In addition I’ve been looking for a bank that could develop spending controls for gambling transactions. It was this research that led me to find and approach Starling Bank.

I love the app’s features, like the security controls that I’ve found I can also use to add extra friction on certain payment methods, for example, switching various card functions on and off.

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Which features do you find most helpful with managing your money better?

Even though they weren’t purposefully built for that, I’ve started to use the security controls as a way to help me slow down the process of spending money, and to avoid making impulse purchase decisions. For example, you have the ability to make the debit card active or inactive at the touch of a button, and even to switch off different transaction types like card present transactions, ATM withdrawals or online payments. In any case I receive a notification almost instantly whenever I use the card which would alert me to any unauthorised spending.

I also love the goal functionality for saving money, and in particular the way that the savings balance is kept separate from the displayed available balance for spending. I use this function simply to save one month ahead for paying my rent but it has allowed me to get ahead for the first time in my life.

Starling saving Goals app screenshot

How’s this changed the way you manage money?

Starling’s app features have really helped me to think about planning ahead financially rather than spending simply because you have money in your account today.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to kick start a change in their financial lives?

Most importantly, ask for help from a money advice organisation such as StepChange, Money Advice Service or the Citizens Advice Service, if they’re struggling to pay priority bills or debts.

If they are spending more than they are earning on a regular basis then they need to make savings rather than borrowing more. I’d also suggest that they use the Starling app’s spending insights tab to analyse expenditure and see if they could cut down on unnecessary spending.

If we asked you to share your top 3 learning points what would they be?

Gambling can cause serious financial harm and other serious life-changing consequences. Think before you take part whether it is worth the risk of addiction. Educate your children on the risks so as to discourage them from getting involved.

Live within your financial means and don’t borrow money for frivolous spending.

Keep informed about your credit score as it plays such an important part in everyday life, from being able to rent a property through to buying a car on finance.

Follow Tony on Twitter.

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