One of the greatest anxieties for adults facing debt and money problems is not talking about them. High cost loans and the constant tide of demands on a person’s money, means a small money problem can rapidly become a big one if they don’t seek help.
It is common that people grapple with money problems for months or even years before they ask for outside help. As research has shown with other resources such as foodbanks, advice services are often approached only as a last resort. A sense of personal failure and shame are incredibly powerful forces.
However, with a relational approach, we are working to change this by making talking about money a norm. We are training concerned individuals to spot problems early and introduce alternatives. We aim to stimulate a healthy and sustainable shift in the climate around money.
Talking about money isn’t easy. Whether we’re comfortably off, just about managing or struggling to make ends meet, discussing our financial situation is something that most of us avoid. When money, or the lack of it, becomes a problem that causes worry and distress, the shame and stigma that feeds on the silence we’ve created around money becomes a barrier, just when we most need to be reaching out for help.
This is why 5 in 6 people with problem debt are not seeking the help and advice they need; the free help and advice that is out there and that could transform their situation.
Therefore it’s crucial that we do break the silence, overcome our embarrassment and challenge the stigma by talking about money, knowing that this can be the first step to helping someone start their journey to freedom from worry and to financial wellbeing.
Top tips for having a conversation about money
- Listen: leave plenty of space for them to talk and explain their situation and how it is making them feel. Be comfortable with silence.
- Acknowledge what they have told you and how they are feeling.
- Don’t be shocked or judgemental - be honest and open about your attitude to money – remember that not everyone values it in the same way.
- Acknowledge that problems with money can be stressful but most people start to feel better once they get some advice.
- Reassure them that many people find themselves in this kind of situation and that, even if things feel unmanageable at the moment, there is help available.
- Be positive: talking about their situation is the first step to getting the help and support they need.
- Remember you don’t have to solve their problem - your role is to listen and support.
- Don’t be tempted to offer advice or your opinion on their situation.
- You can use the Money First Aid Kit to find helpful resources and sources of support.
- At the end of the day, the decision is theirs.
- Draw up a plan together and make sure you both agree, break it down into manageable steps.
- Keep talking and be open to what you might learn about managing your own money.
It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. There are four techniques you can use to develop your active listening skills:
Give your undivided attention.
Show that you're listening
Aacknowledge what is being said and use your body language to show you’re engaged.
Reflect back what you’ve heard to check you’ve understood.
Listen and be willing to learn. Try not to judge the experiences and decisions of others.
Intentional conversations provide a framework for working with someone towards an outcome. These tips might be more useful for further conversations, once you’ve established a connection and identified their main concerns.
Establishing an outcome for the conversation will help you make the most of your time together.
This will help you put yourself in the shoes of the person you are listening to and to have a more emotionally intelligent conversation. It will help establish trust as you communicate that you are on their side and want the best possible outcome for them.
Effective conversations are more about listening and asking good questions than talking.
It’s good to check in every now and then to make sure you have understood what is being said.
What happens next? What action (if any) has the person you are talking to decided to take and how can you support them to do this?
Establishing if someone needs debt advice
Debt advice is a regulated activity and should only be undertaken by a trained professional. You can help by helping someone establish if they need debt advice and supporting them to find professional advice; see our debt awareness and signposting course.
To establish if someone needs advice about debt you could ask them if they:
- Are behind, and cannot catch up, with important household bills like rent, mortgage, gas, electricity or council tax.
- Have had any court action taken against them relating to debts.
- Are struggling to meet the minimum payments on credit cards or unsecured loans.
- Are finding they need to borrow money to fund day-to-day living expenses or borrowing from one place to pay off a debt somewhere else.
- Are facing a number of bank charges
Using the Money First Aid Kit
Our Money First Aid Kit equips you to guide someone to the help they need. Key resources, links to organisations that can offer advice and tips for taking about money are all in one place and organised by theme.
For quick access wherever you are it can be saved to your phone, laptop or tablet.
Support for other issues
People have complex needs. They may have a money problem and other concerns meaning they need debt advice, another kind of help or a combination of advice from different places.
These are some of the organisations that can help. A number also provide specific advice for dealing with debt and money issues: