Time to Talk: How to talk to a loved one about debt

With Debt Awareness Week on the 20th-26th of March this year, we wanted to take the time to open up the conversation about mental health. In particular, we want to discuss how debt can affect mental health – our new research focuses on the main causes of debt and the negative stigma attached to talking about debt.

What is Debt Awareness Week?

Led by StepChange, the UK’s leading debt charity, Debt Awareness Week (DAW) is an annual campaign all about spreading awareness about problem debt and where to turn for free advice.

Each year has a different theme with 2023’s campaign focusing on how debt can happen to anyone. Another important part of the campaign is about starting conversations related to debt and its impacts, including mental health.

The main causes of debt and money problems

As the cost of living crisis continues, more and more people may be finding themselves struggling with their finances and don’t feel comfortable talking about it. In fact, according to our recent research, 22% of people have gotten into debt due to the impacts of the crisis.

Another main cause of debt for 21% of Brits we spoke to is poor money management which is something we tackle in our blog on how to create a budget and manage your money. 20% of respondents believe that their problems with debt come down to how they’re using their credit card.

Meanwhile, 37% of those struggling with money problems said that the cause is down to unpredictable or unforeseen expenses which is why it’s important to build a financial safety net.

A third of respondents (33%) said that they ended up with money problems after borrowing from a family member or loved one. 31% of Brits have ended up getting into financial difficulty after misunderstanding financial terms, something we know can be confusing which is why we’ve created our debt dictionary.

Difficulties faced as a result of money problems

When it comes to the difficulties Brits face due to money problems, our recent research found that 41% have lost sleep due to stress while 30% said that they’ve found it difficult to work out how to start saving money after struggling with money problems.

21% have ended up splitting up with their partner as a result which could end up making things tricky as they may deal with joint debt after separation. Then another 21% of those we spoke to said that they’ve suffered with mental health issues because of their money problems.

Debt can impact mental health

It can be really hard to talk about debt, but if you have financial issues that are causing you to worry and stress, it can be helpful to discuss them with someone else.

At Lowell, we understand that it’s common to feel uncomfortable talking about debt with your loved ones. If you can get past the embarrassment and awkwardness, talking about debt could really help to ease the stress and pressure you may be feeling.

If you’re struggling or feeling concerned about your debt, please speak to us and find out how we can help. We’re here for you but can only help if you tell us what’s going on. Our friendly team are trained to understand your situation and won’t ever judge you. We’ve listed some independent support services here that are available to offer support for both mental health and debt-related issues.

How to speak to someone about debt

If you feel able, one of the best places to start a conversation or debt talk is with your loved ones. These are the people who support you and if you’re on a journey to become debt-free you may well need their support and help. Here are some guides on speaking to your partner, friends, and family about debt and mental health.

Speaking to your partner

Even if you live with someone and share everything, talking about money and mental health are some of the most difficult things to talk about. It can be hard to talk honestly about debt, especially with the people who are closest to you.

If you have joint bills or joint accounts, it’s important to have the debt talk and to be open and honest about how your finances might impact each other. Having debt can affect your partner’s credit score, so it’s important that they know if you’re having issues with debt, or if you suspect they have debt they might not be telling you about. The Money Advice Service has a helpful guide on how to speak to your partner about money, including scenarios and examples of topics to discuss.

It’s also important to know that if talking about debt brings up any issues or conflicts with your partner, there’s help available. If you feel worried or unsafe and need to speak to a third party about any issues that have been raised, check out our list of independent organisations and charities, like Mind or Samaritans, who are here to help you.

Speaking to friends and family

Debt Awareness Week is a great opportunity to speak to friends and family about mental health and open up about financial issues and how they’re impacting you. Debt Awareness Week encourages people to talk honestly about problem debt and its impacts. So, whether you’re feeling down or stressed because of money problems, or if you’ve noticed that a friend seems to be struggling, reaching out could really help.

If you have a friend that struggles with money, it can be awkward to start a conversation sometimes. In fact, we’ve done a survey that revealed Brits would rather talk about controversial topics like sex, relationships or politics than debt. That’s why it might be useful to use Debt Awareness Week as a starting point if you think there’s a problem. That way you can let your friend know that it’s okay to talk about mental health or money worries with you, without having to worry about how to bring it up.

At Lowell, we believe in challenging the stigma of debt, and in being open and honest so that our customers feel comfortable discussing their debt. Our survey revealed that talking to someone about debt can really help and that people who open up about their financial situation see a positive impact.

Conversation starters

Sometimes it can be hard to know just what to say. To make it a little bit easier, here are some ideas for debt and mental health conversation starters. Whether you reach out during Debt Awareness Week or at any other time, these conversation starters might help you to reach out to someone to get them the help they need, or help make it easier for you to get in touch with someone to start a conversation and get support.

If you’re concerned about a friend or loved one

  • It’s Debt Awareness Week – I think it can be really helpful to speak to someone about mental health. Have you got time for a quick chat today?
  • I’ve noticed that you seem to be upset and stressed at the moment. Is there anything I can do?
  • Are you okay?
  • I’ve noticed that you might be having a hard time with money. Is that something you’d like to talk about?
  • Do you want to take a walk and we can talk a little bit?
  • Is there anything you want to talk about?
  • Hey, we haven’t spoken in a while. Is everything okay?
  • It’s okay to keep stuff private, but did you want to tell me more about [subject]?
  • I’ve had problems with money in the past so if you’d like to talk I’m here to help.

If you’re having a hard time with debt or mental health

  • It’s Debt Awareness Week and I just wanted to reach out. Are you free for a chat?
  • I’m having some issues with money and I think it would really help to talk about it with you.
  • I’d like to talk to you, but first I’d like to get your point of view about something.
  • I’ve been struggling and I think it might help to talk with you about it.
  • I know you’ve dealt with money issues in the past – can we talk about it a little bit?
  • I’m having a hard time. I’m not really sure what to ask for, but I’d like to talk to someone.
  • I’m going through a tough time, and I feel like you’re someone I can trust. Are you free to talk?
  • I haven’t been doing so well recently and I think I need extra support with [debt/money/task]. Would you be able to help?

Our priority at Lowell will always be supporting our customers and working together to find the right solution for you. We’re here to help you, so we’ll always take the time to understand your situation and help however we can. If you need support please get in touch and we’ll work together to get you the guidance and advice you need. If you need more support, check out our resources about independent support and debt guidance.

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