22 July 2020
How to talk about money during a pandemic
There’s no escaping the fact that it’s a difficult time for many of us, especially when it comes to money.
Millions of people across the country are having to make do with smaller incomes as a result of Covid-19, whether that’s because they have been furloughed, their employer has implemented pay cuts, or they have simply been unable to work.
And with predictions of increasing unemployment in the months ahead, those challenges are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
But as a nation, we aren’t very good at talking about money, particularly with our loved ones.
Indeed, a study last year commissioned by debt firm Lowell found that Brits are more comfortable talking about things like mental health and infertility than the state of their finances.
So how do you go about raising the subject of money with your nearest and dearest? We asked personal finance expert John Fitzsimons for his advice.
Don’t bury your head in the sand
All of us have money worries at some point, from mounting credit card balances to struggling to stretch our salaries to the end of the month. And it can be tempting to try to ignore them.
We can take the same approach to discussing our money worries with our partners or friends, convincing ourselves that we can deal with it alone without needing to involve them.
But in reality the head-in-the-sand route is often counterproductive. Not only do you fail to deal with the actual problem, but the stress of keeping the situation from those around you can lead to further issues, such as insomnia and anxiety.
It’s better to get it out in the open so that you can work through money worries with your loved ones, rather than trying to soldier on alone and making yourself ill as a result.
Try to open up
Some people have difficulty discussing their money concerns with partners because they worry about being judged. We fear that by opening up and confessing that there is some type of money issue, it will impact the way our loved ones look at us, potentially even causing the end of a relationship.
And while it’s true that these conversations can be uncomfortable, it remains a better option than the alternative.
John explains: “By opening up about the concerns, you can work together on a plan for how you are going to address the issue.
“What’s more, money worries are far from uncommon ‒ a study by Close Brothers last year found that around 25 million of us have had money concerns affect our work so there’s a decent chance that your loved ones have been through difficult financial moments in their lives, and may be able to offer the value of their own experience in helping you see a way through the current problems.”
Pick a time and place
If you want to have a productive discussion about money, then you need to think carefully about when and where you have that conversation.
“You don’t want to blindside your partner with an important chat whilst they are dishing up dinner for the kids, for example,” explains John.
Let them know that you’d like to talk about something important, and agree an actual time for that conversation.
Think carefully about where to hold it: try to find somewhere you will both be comfortable.
John adds: “Ultimately this will come down to you and your relationship ‒ for some it will be sat at home on the sofa, while others will feel more relaxed discussing their worries while out on a walk.”
Work out what you are going to say
It’s also a good idea to work out in advance what you are going to say, how you are going to explain what your own money worries are, and why they are concerning you.
By putting together a loose structure, it can help you to remain calm and address each of the points you want to raise. It can also reduce the chances of things becoming more confrontational and heated.
“You may want to write down a few notes in advance of the conversation to help you keep on track and avoid rambling,” suggests John.
Telling the other person how awkward you feel about the conversation can help put them at ease, and make them feel more sympathetic to your position from the start.
But you need to continue that honesty by sharing all of the important information about your money worries. Concealing certain details until a later date won’t help you actually tackle the issue, and is more likely to lead to hurt and anger down the line.
Having a conversation with a loved one about money needs to be a two-way thing ‒ it isn’t just about you getting your worries off your chest.
John explains: “As well as opening up about what’s concerning you, it’s also crucial that you really listen to what the other person has to say. It may be that they have been through something similar in the past and can offer advice based on their own experiences, or they may simply have some productive ideas on how you can tackle the situation together.”
They may have money worries of their own that they have been bottling up, and you taking the first step might make them feel more comfortable about sharing their own concerns.
Whatever the case, it’s important that you really take on board what they have to say.
Don’t stop with your loved ones
Finally, discussing your money concerns with your loved ones will help in lightening the mental load, but there will be times when it should only be the beginning. If you have debts that you’re struggling to clear, then it may be worth getting some professional debt advice.
There are a host of charities which can guide you on the best way out of your difficulties, and help negotiate with creditors to give you a little breathing space on your repayments. This could include smaller repayments for a period, or even a payment holiday. There are also many organisations that will provide this free of charge.
Charities which provide free debt advice and who are worth speaking to include the likes of StepChange Debt Charity, Money Advice Service, Citizens Advice and Advice UK.
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