As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the finances of people up and down the country, it’s more important than ever that we feel empowered to talk about our money struggles with the people around us. Here, a psychologist gives her top tips for starting a conversation.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted almost every area of our lives in some way or another. On top of the obvious disruption to our day-to-day activities such as commuting to work, meeting up with friends and popping to the shops, it’s also had a more long-lasting impact on things such as our mental health, job security and personal finances.
Thanks to the impact of coronavirus on economies around the world, many people are facing the possibility of redundancy over the next couple of months, especially as the furlough scheme comes to an end in October.
As a result, it’s likely that more people than ever are facing uncertainty when it comes to their financial situation – whether they’ve already been made redundant, had their pay cut as a result of furlough or had their self-employed income impacted by the pandemic.
With this being said, it’s more important than ever that we feel empowered to talk about our finances and open up about any problems we might be facing.
And when research from the Money and Pensions Service has revealed that nine in 10 people across the UK still do not find it any easier to talk about their finances during the pandemic or, even worse, do not discuss money with anyone, it’s vital that we take the time to learn more about how to open up – especially when talking can alleviate some of the strain money worries can place on our mental health.
“Given the financial impact of Covid-19, it’s more important than ever to be open and honest when talking about money. Unfortunately, it’s considered a taboo subject by many,” explains psychologist Honey Langcaster-James.
“Our handling of money can be closely linked with our sense of self-worth, so if someone is experiencing money problems, they often feel shame or embarrassment. The problem is, keeping financial worries a secret can have a damaging effect on your emotional and mental wellbeing. By not talking about the problem, often you end up making the situation worse, and it can also put unnecessary emotional strain on yourself and your relationships.
“More often than not, the fear of talking about money is often far worse than actually having the conversation. Finally talking about it tends to bring a great sense of relief.”
She continues: “If you’re facing financial strain, you need to first of all confront your difficult feelings about money in order to move forward and tackle the problem. It can be hard to take the first step of opening up to your friends or family, but it’s likely you’ll find many people are in the same boat. There’s also specialist support available and plenty of ideas online about how to approach and tackle this tricky topic with the different people in our lives.”
It’s clear that feeling confident enough to open up and talk about money struggles is really important for our mental health, especially in a time when so many of us are likely to be feeling the strain on our finances. With this in mind, we asked Langcaster-James to share some of her top tips for starting a conversation about money. Here’s what she had to say.
Choose who you open up to
“Try not to have preconceptions about who you should have these conversations with,” Langcaster-James says. “Some women might think these are issues to keep close to their hearts but some might find it easier to speak to a professional or a colleague, or someone who may not be directly impacted by your money worries, like a friend or professional.”
Create a comfortable setting
“It will help if you feel as comfortable as possible and your environment can hugely affect this,” Langcaster-James explains. “You might feel more at ease chatting in a kitchen setting, taking in some fresh air as you go for a walk or at your dining room table so you can lay out and refer to relevant papers or budgets. Ensure you won’t be interrupted as this could interfere with your train of thought; put your phones on silent or if you have kids, wait till they’re asleep.”
Prepare how you’re going to kick it off
“Sometimes the hardest part of having a conversation is knowing how to start it,” Langcaster-James says. “Once you’re past the first few seconds, you might be surprised by how easily the conversation flows. Build confidence by practicing your opening sentence; something as simple as, ‘I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?’” or ‘‘I’d like to talk to you about [blank], but first I’d like to get your point of view’ can really help.”
Listen as well as talk
“Try to make sure you go into the discussion with an open mind, being prepared to take in the other person’s point of view,” Langcaster-James says. “Listen to each other as much as possible. Hearing one another’s standpoint in a respectful manner can make the difference between having a constructive conversation versus an unproductive argument.”
Check in with others around you
“Once you’ve made the first step to opening up about your financial worries, you can help others to do the same,” Langcaster-James says. “Never force someone into a conversation as they may become defensive but do remind them you’re here to chat if they need support, in person or on a call.”
Anyone who needs help talking through money challenges due to coronavirus can contact the Money Advice Service helpline or website for free, confidential guidance or can use the new Money Navigator tool available on the Money Advice Service website to find a way forward with your finances during the pandemic. MaPS also runs Talk Money Week, an annual campaign to get the nation having conversations about money. Talk Money Week will take place from 9-13 November 2020.