Debt and finance both in the top 5 conversational taboos

The Momentum UK Team 27 June 2013

Despite debt being a common problem, and finances forming an important part of most people's lives, research finds that 28% of people feel that they that they can’t discuss their finances openly, while 24% feel unable to discuss debt with their family and friends.

According to research from the Debt Advisory Centre both subjects are in the UK’s "top five" list of taboo subjects. Topping the list was sexual and sexual health problems (54%), followed by emotional issues (40%), finances in general (28%) and mental health problems (27%), with 24% of people feeling unable to talk to family and friends about debt. Meanwhile 15% said that they didn’t even feel they could talk about debt worries with their partner. In this category, women were almost twice as likely to discuss debt problems with their partner than men.

The top reasons people gave for not wanting to talk about the taboo subjects were:

  • It is embarrassing (52%)
  • You just don’t talk about some things (36%)
  • It would cause arguments (31%)
  • It’s a sign of weakness (26%)
  • It is upsetting to talk about (19%)

Although it may be uncomfortable or embarrassing, debt charities urge people to seek help and advice with their debts as soon as possible. Ian Williams from the Debt Advisory Centre said:

“When clients call us, our adviser is often the first person they’ve spoken to about their debt problem, and it can be an emotional experience. The unhelpful taboo that surrounds debt means people often struggle on alone and seek help far later than they should.”

He went on:

“In reality, the sooner people with debt problems speak to a specialist debt adviser the better. A professional adviser won’t judge them, but can reassure them that they aren’t alone and work with them to find an appropriate solution to their debt issues.”

Recent figures show that debt is a common problem; according to the charity Credit Action, the average UK household debt (excluding mortgages) was £5,971 in June this year. In the same month someone was declared bankrupt or insolvent every 5 minutes and 15 seconds. Credit Action’s figures also show that between January and March this year, 1,534 people were made redundant.