Is talking about debt the last taboo?
We’ll openly talk about religious and political views, sex, and our mental and physical health, so why is talking about money worries and debt still such a taboo?
We’ll hide it from our family and friends and, in many cases, even our partners for fear of embarrassment. But why when it affects so many people?
According to Satista, the average person in the UK had £8,000 worth of unsecured debt last year and six million don’t think they’ll ever been free of debt. That mirrors our figures with 69% of the people we speak to living in a budget deficit, with their household expenditure exceeding income by over £200.
And we know that living with money worries is hard. It can cause anxiety, panic, and depression. It can ruin relationships, lead to drink and drugs problems and leave some contemplating or even attempting suicide.
But we also know that opening up and talking about money worries can be transformational, bringing relief and hope to someone’s life and making you feel less alone - no one ever regrets seeking help for their debt. What they regret is not doing it sooner.
With cost-of-living pressures mounting, soaring energy and food prices and high interest rates, more people than ever before will find themselves facing money worries in the coming years.
So, during ‘Talk Money Week’ (6-10 November), we believe it’s time to start the conversation. We need to talk about debt.
Make sure you’re prepared
You should think about what you want to get out of the conversation before you start it, and perhaps practice by saying things out loud. If you think you’ll get nervous and forget things you want to say, write them down as prompts to ensure nothing is missed. Make sure you choose a quiet place to talk where you won’t be disturbed and a time when you’ll all be relaxed and not rushed.
Asking for help or starting a conversation can be difficult no matter the situation. You might be witnessing someone close to you struggling and feel helpless, or you could be the person with the problem.
You could use something that comes up on TV, such as adverts for credit cards or loans, as a prompt or things lying around, like a pile of unopened bills.
Here’s some ways to start the conversation to help someone:
- I know talking about money can be awkward and challenging, but I really want you to know I’m here for you.
- I’ve noticed that you seem upset and stressed at the moment. Is there anything I can do?
- You seem to be having a hard time with money – would you like to talk about it?
- I’ve had money problems in the past so if you’d like to talk, I’m here to help.
If you’re the person struggling with debt, remember you’re not alone. Here’s some ways to ask for support.
- I’m having some issues with money, and I think it would really help to talk about it with you.
- I’m having a hard time. I’m not really sure what to ask for, but I’d like to talk to someone – can you help?
- It’s been a tough for me recently and I feel like I can talk to you and trust you.
- I haven’t been doing so well recently and I think I need some extra support and help with my money. Would you be able to help?
Ending the conversation
It’s natural to feel relieved a difficult conversation is over. But it’s important to follow up and move the conversation forward.
If you feel that you or the person you’re speaking to needs more formal support, remember there’s free, non-judgemental help available visit www.moneywellness.com
Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.
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