Impoverished middle classes turn to pawn – and Jesus

Yummy Mummies are pawning their Chelsea tractors to pay the school fees

Want to know just how hard up the ex-affluent middle classes are these days? Look no further than Sloane Square. The parent company of one-time Chelsea housewife favourite the General Trading Company (GTC) has just gone into administration. This is the store that held the wedding list for both of Prince Charles's weddings. Then look to the big banks where, says the FT, Goldman's bankers are being forced to pay for repairs to their BlackBerries if the damage is deemed to be their fault. Merrill Lynch bankers have, presumably to their horror, been asked to cut back on private jet trips.

Then to Liverpool where, says Zoe Brennan in the Daily Mail, the credit-crunched population is "never too posh to pawn". Here, "professional yummy mummies" turn up daily to swap "beautiful pear-shaped" diamond engagement rings, Cartier watches, Range Rovers and the odd "erotic carving" for quick cash lump sums. Why? To pay the school fees, "the deposit on the villa, the flights to the Caribbean" or even to make the odd mortgage payment. It is, says Hayward Milton of pawn broker Miltons, "beautifully simple" and "gets people out of a hole". Until they need to redeem their property, that is. You have to wonder what makes people who haven't got the five grand they need for school fees now think they'll have it next month given the state of the economy. And if they don't, they won't be seeing their diamond rings again: pawned items generally get auctioned off after six months.

It is, I suppose, too late to start suggesting that the residents of Liverpool shouldn't have bought so many rings and erotic artworks in the first place, so it's good news that The Daily Telegraph is taking a more proactive approach to getting the middle classes through these tough times. You could, it suggests, "take up dog walking" (£10 an hour), "rent out your driveway (£75 a week), become an Avon lady (you get £1 out of every £5 in revenue), or, if you really are desperate, you could become an "artist's model". Personally I'd rather give up the villa in the Caribbean, but clearly not everyone would.

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The more ambitious might like to look to the US for inspiration. There, Joel Osteen, otherwise known as Reverend Feelgood, works on the basis that God wants all-comers to Lakewood, his mega church in Houston, to have, as Portfolio magazine puts it, "a decent cash flow" something he claims they'll get if they turn much of their money over to Lakewood and their lives over to Jesus. It's certainly worked for Osteen. His church, "the most financially successful in the US", currently pulls in around $1,600 a year per member of the congregation ($76m in total last year). And his personal fortune is not to be sniffed at either: according to Portfolio, he earned $13m from his last book advance alone.