We need to talk about money

By Neil Gow, Citizens Advice Gateshead and Adam Matthews, Society Matters

It’s #TalkMoney week so we’d like to talk about why we should be talking about money!

It’s often been said that you shouldn’t talk about religion or politics in polite company – but you might as well add money on to that list too, as most of us are reluctant to discuss our finances or those niggling little things about our money that we don’t quite understand.  Why? Fear of looking stupid, or a failure maybe? The problem with that, though, is that we also know the saying “It’s good to talk” and when it comes to money never a true word was spoken …

During ‘Talk Money’ Week we’re encouraging people to open up and discuss their finances. After all, November is a notoriously busy month financially with many people preparing for the festive period – it’s reported that the average British adult spent £512.85 just on gifts last Christmas -  and now the relatively new addition (and temptation) of ‘Black Friday’ simply adds to the momentum.

After the challenges 2020 has thrown at us, it has never been more important to talk about money.

How can talking about money help?

Research from the Money and Pensions Service shows that people who talk about money:

 

make better and less risky financial decisions

have stronger personal relationships

their children form good lifetime money habits

feel less stressed or anxious and more in control.

 

Make better and less risky financial decisions

This might seem like stating the obvious, but when we know more about something, we can make better decisions about it. For example, during the pandemic, many people have, for the first time, turned to the social welfare benefits system and Universal Credit. It is a system that can be daunting at first glance, but by talking to the Help to Claim team at Citizens Advice Gateshead, they can learn how the system works and have someone guide them through their first claim.

Talking to friends and family about how they budget and plan their money can help us to increase our understanding of alternative ways of financial management and can build our own financial savvy and resilience. And this goes both ways - every day is a learning day.

 

Stronger personal relationships

The relationship support charity Relate found that money causes the biggest strain on couples’ relationships and that 9 in 10 UK adults don’t find it any easier to talk about money during the pandemic, or don’t even discuss money at all.

And yet, the source of so much uncertainty within a household can be caused by money – do you have enough? What is it being spent on? What can we afford and what are we going to have to do without? Talking openly and honestly about money allows for plans to be made and budgets to be drawn up. It allows everyone to know where they stand and move forwards together without surprises or potentially recriminations.

This can be hard – more research suggests that people are ashamed when they feel that they are not bringing in enough money, or running a good household, and that shame stops them from talking about the issue and working together with their partners to plan. The first step, as with so many things, is to start talking about money.

 

Your children form good lifetime money habits

Remarkably, by the time they are aged 7, children are already beginning to develop attitudes towards money. Talking with our children about where money comes from, where it goes and how it is managed can help to open their eyes to the importance of understanding money. By helping them with concepts like saving and borrowing, and managing even a small amount of pocket money, children can develop habits that will serve them well as they grow up.

 

Feel less stressed or anxious and more in control

When we find ourselves in debt, or unsure about our finances, it can affect our mental health – particularly if we can’t see a way out even though there may be many options to make a fresh start – we can be blind to them.  Being honest about our finances with ourselves and loved ones can be the first step in breaking this cycle.

If you’re worried about your money, Citizens Advice Gateshead’s Money Advice team can help with a review of money and budgets and recommend some ways for increasing income, or reducing outgoings. There might be welfare benefits that we aren’t aware of that we could be claiming, or we might be able to switch a contract from one provider to another and save money. Early action can make a real difference.

From our pocket money as children, right through to our state pensions, encouraging money conversations into our everyday lives helps us build financial confidence and resilience to rise to challenges that come as part and parcel of adult life. Talking about money can do you, and your family, so much good – all you have to do is start.

If you would like to speak to someone at Citizens Advice Gateshead to get impartial and confidential money advice, you can book a call back by contacting us here, or ring 0191 478 5100

If you would like to speak to our dedicated Debt Helpline, you can ring 0191 40 4248

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