Has anyone tried to live without money

He used to dream of other things, says Michael Hihn. He wanted to drive a 5 Series BMW, go on vacation to the Maldives, buy jewelry. That was not even two years ago. Today he answers the question of what he would like for the future: "Food, light, heating, an account." How could it possibly come this far?

Michael Hihn has been a self-employed floor layer since 2004. It went well, he made 100,000 euros in sales a year, took out loans to pre-finance tools and suppliers. Then came the shock in 2006: lymph node cancer, 50 percent chance of survival. Hihn spent half a year in the hospital - and defeated cancer. From a financial point of view, things went downhill from then on. Demands from the tax office and suppliers were waiting for him. He hadn't canceled his business while in the hospital, maybe that was a mistake. His debts totaled around 15,000 euros. Before the illness it probably wouldn't have been a big deal, but as a craftsman he was not performing at his best so soon afterwards. He was unable to service his loans in time.

In 2008 the tax office seized his bank account, and a few weeks later the Deutsche Bank terminated his account. From then on, it was hardly possible to work as a floor layer. Hihn could not pre-finance material, and many customers did not want to pay in cash, maybe they found that dubious. "From today's perspective, I was finally caught in the downward spiral," says Hihn.

Around half a million people in Germany involuntarily do not have a bank account, consumer advice centers and debt advisors estimate. The most common reasons for this are account attachment and entries with the Schufa, says Marius Stark, spokesman for Caritas debt counseling. The Schufa collects information about how creditworthy a person is. "People without a bank account are excluded from normal economic life," says Stark. You can't get a phone contract today without a bank account, let alone an apartment or a job. "Explain to your potential employer that he has to pay you your wages in cash."

"Below the subsistence level"

Living without a bank account is expensive. Every transfer to a third-party account must be paid in cash at the bank, which costs ten euros at most institutes. Rent, ancillary costs, repayments - at the beginning of the month, fifty euros are straight away from the unemployment benefits that Hihn has been receiving since 2009. He pays the electricity bill directly at the municipal utility's payment machine. When he has enough money to spare.

"People without an account often live below the subsistence level," says Klaus Hofmeister, head of debt counseling in Munich. In addition to the costs of transfers, the Federal Employment Agency also keeps a few euros if it has to pay out unemployment benefits in cash. Others had the money transferred to their parents 'or friends' accounts. However, this made them liable to prosecution, says Hofmeister. There are also problems if the account is also attached. Then it doesn't matter who owns how much money in the account. "The rightful account holder is involved," said Hofmeister.

Hihn's mother and his partner at the time were informed by the tax office that the use of the account by someone other than the owner would have criminal consequences, he says. "I felt like a leper." He tried to open an account with other banks, with Sparda-Bank, Stadtsparkasse, Hypo-Vereinsbank - no chance.