Why would we rather talk about sex than debt?
It appears debt is still the UK’s dirtiest word. In 2015, research from University College London suggested that debt is a more uncomfortable topic for us Brits than sex. The study found that people are seven times more likely to tell a stranger about their sex life than discuss what is in their bank account. Fortunately, since then, there have been national initiatives to help start a conversation about money.
Have our attitudes progressed in the past four years though? Recent research would suggest otherwise. In 2019, Lowell – a company which helps consumers and businesses manage credit better – surveyed 2,000 people about their attitudes towards Britain’s most taboo topics. The survey found that religion, mental health and infertility were all more socially acceptable topics than finances and debt.
So clearly us Brits are still going mute when it comes to money, but what are the benefits of starting a conversation around something as uncomfortable as debt?
Why should I talk about it?
The Money Advice Service warns that not talking about finances could hurt the people around you. For example, if you are keeping money shortfalls from your partner it may affect their credit score and future financial stability.
Another important reason to talk about debt is that it’s the first step to a solution. Many people don’t realise there are a lot of options for people in debt. No matter how big or small the issue – there’s always something you can do to stop it getting worse.
Start the conversation
Here are our top three tips on how to tackle the taboo:
- If you feel you’re “bad” with money you may be embarrassed to talk about it for fear of judgement or looking stupid. To get over the initial hurdle, start by talking to someone you feel comfortable with. Most people will have had money troubles at some point in their life – it’s often never as bad as you think once you open up.
- People may also avoid a conversation about money because it’s a bit of a “boring” topic. It’s not as fun to talk about as sex and doesn’t stir the same emotions as politics does. However, money has a significant impact on the quality of your life. That doesn’t mean you need lots of it to live a good life, but rather that knowing how to be smart with the cash you have can really help. Setting aside time each month to talk through with a partner is a great way to get financially savvy. You could do something you both enjoy after as a reward. There are also plenty of budget apps now which make your finances easy to keep track of!
- Often people may be concerned that talking about their financial situation would worry close friends and family. If it seems too overwhelming to speak to them, it could be a good time to seek professional advice. There are many organisations which specialise in helping people find the right debt solution.
What are the solutions?
When deciding on a debt solution, it’s important to keep in mind that the right one will depend on a variety of factors including your income, employment status and whether you own a home. Therefore, a debt solution which has worked well for a friend may not be the right one for you. Different debt solutions in the UK include an IVA, a debt consolidation loan, and bankruptcy.
IVA stands for individual voluntary arrangement. This is an agreement between you and the people you owe money to which sets out how and when you will repay them.
The amount you pay back each month will be based on what you can afford and is worked out with a professional known as an insolvency practitioner. This could leave you with one, reduced monthly debt repayment. Then, at the end of the arrangement, any outstanding debt is written off.
A debt consolidation loan allows you to borrow a specific amount of money which is equal to or more than the number of debts you owe. This means you can pay off your existing debts immediately and just have one creditor to pay at the end of every month.
Most people have heard of bankruptcy. If you are failing to make repayments when they fall due, and it seems unlikely you will ever pay them back, then bankruptcy is an option to consider. However, going bankrupt is not a decision to be taken lightly; it can impact getting a job in certain sectors and there is a significant social stigma surrounding it.
We’ve talked enough about debt – now it’s your turn
From student loans to credit card bills, many people are in some degree of debt, so it’s certainly not uncommon. Debt is often a complicated issue, but together we can help dispel the stigma surrounding it.
The editorial unit