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Why people don’t talk about their debt (and why that needs to change)

Why people don’t talk about their debt (and why that needs to change)
Image source: Getty Images


When it comes to talking about debt, not everybody is ready for it.

StepChange’s Debt Awareness Week annual campaign runs from 22 to 28 March this year, and it’s never been a better year to pay attention. Debt management company Lowell is joining the effort in 2021, hoping to encourage people to seek advice and open up about their financial struggles.

John Pears, managing director of Lowell explains, “Over the last 12 months, many people have found themselves struggling financially. Some may be in debt for the first time. Therefore, Debt Awareness Week is more important than ever this year.”

How do you talk about debt?

It turns out that most people just don’t. In fact, research by Lowell found that 69% of people in debt won’t discuss their financial problems with anybody, not even their partners. And 53% cite embarrassment as the main reason for their silence, followed by not wanting to burden others (40%) and not believing family/friends need to know about it (38%).

Other reasons for avoiding talking about debt include: 

  • Not wanting people to think poorly of you (33%) 
  • Believing it wouldn’t make a difference (25%)
  • Not having anybody who would listen (10%) 
  • The fact that it always ends in an argument (9%) 

For Brits, this means that over £8.5 billion worth of debt is being kept in the dark.

Debt can be tough to bring up, especially with those closest to you. Richard Lane, director of external affairs at StepChange explains, “Thousands are dealing with their debt alone, and have no one to talk to about it.”

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How do you explain debt?

According to Lane, “The last year has been particularly tough on people’s finances, so it’s never been more important to open up and talk about debt.”

“This Debt Awareness Week, we want to do as much as we can to destigmatise debt and get people talking about the issue. We want to encourage people to take #TheFirstStep towards getting debt advice.”

Lowell’s research showed that 82% of people actually felt better after they opened up about their debt struggles.

“The fact that 69% of people are not talking about their situation shows there is still a real stigma attached to debt,” says Pears. “Yet speaking to someone could really help individuals who are struggling. There’s no need to feel embarrassed. Having an initial discussion with a friend, family member or expert is the first step toward feeling financially stable.”

Who can you talk to about debt?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, StepChange recommends picking one person you trust to talk to. If you’re in a serious relationship, that person should really be your partner.

You don’t have to discuss specific numbers if doing so would make you uncomfortable. You can start by asking that other person to help you with some basics. Maybe they can help you create a budget or share tips on how to save money.

If you feel unable to talk about debt with those around you, reach out to StepChange for impartial advice.

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