Deep Dive

How to feel comfortable talking about debt

January 16, 2024

Debt and money problems can have a significant impact on our mental health - it can affect our sleep, our relationships and our overall wellbeing. Ahead of Talk Money Week (9th - 13th November), we wanted to share some tips on how to feel more comfortable talking about debt, whether that’s with someone who you’ve combined your bills with, friends and family, as well as debt advisors and finance professionals.

How to speak to a partner

When you have joint finances such as a joint bank account or a mortgage with someone, it is crucial to have an honest conversation about how your individual finances might affect each other. These conversations can be tricky - especially if you suspect a partner is hiding debt from you, or if you’re hiding debt from them - but having these conversations early on can make it easier too. 

  • Try to find a time that’s free of distractions so each of you has the opportunity to talk openly and fairly. 
  • Pace yourselves - these things take time, so don’t feel like you need to get everything resolved in one conversation. Use the first conversation as an opportunity to get the issue out. 
  • Keep having regular conversations about debt - one way to feel more comfortable talking about debt is to normalise talking about it, make it a topic that’s part of the everyday

How to speak to friends and family

It can feel intimidating chatting to our friends about debt, but having debt is far more common than we think. You may have noticed a friend has been declining social invites rather uncharacteristically lately, or that you think your own debt journey is affecting your friendships. 

  • Choose who you talk to - all your friends and family should be understanding of your circumstances but sadly that’s not always the case. Instead, choose wisely and pick the friends who you think will be supportive. Not sure who that might be? Look back on any conversations where a friend may have brought up the topic of money casually, or someone who has shared their own experience with debt.
  • Be open with what you can and can’t afford - You don’t have to delve into how much money you owe or the figures behind your finances; but saying something along the lines of “I can’t afford that dinner out because I’m prioritising my credit card payments this month” can help to open up the conversation with your friends and to help you feel better with setting boundaries.
  • Let the person talking lead the conversation - some people might be more forthcoming than others, so take lead from the person talking. If they aren’t sharing the numbers on how much debt they owe or why they got into debt in the first place, then now isn’t the time to ask. Likewise, if you’re the one talking then you only have to share as much as you’re comfortable with doing. 

How to speak to debt advisors and finance professionals

Talking to a professional about debt is a common obstacle people face, feeling worried about being judged for their financial situation. But debt advisors and financial professionals are there to help. Orann Coyle, a financial advisor, says finance professionals see so many circumstances of debt, and they are not there to judge you.

  • Choose the method that works for you - depending on the service, you might have the option to communicate via phone, email or face-to-face appointment. If you can, pick the communication style that you feel most comfortable with, especially during those early stages.
  • Know the numbers - Orann suggests that having a full understanding of your debts, including the amounts, terms and interest rate can make it easier to talk about.
  • Be truthful - if you’ve taken the step to speak to a debt advisor or finance professional, then chances are you’re seeking help or advice. In order for them to give you the best advice for your circumstances, it’s important to be transparent with what you tell them. 
  • Go with a goal in mind - have an idea of what you hope to achieve from chatting to a professional. Do you want to scope out your options? Or get a better understanding of how debt repayment works? The goal can help to detach yourself from the equation, making it easier to deal with.

It’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are charities such as StepChange who do excellent work in helping people with debt, while Samaritans offers a free, 24/7 helpline if you need someone to talk to confidentially and with kindness. You can call them on 116 123.