Why we should talk about money?

Money undeniably causes stress – and for a lot of people, too.

The vast majority of UK employees are suffering from money worries, with more employees than ever saying that money worries impact them at work. This means that around 25 million are affected by money worries while at work. Additionally, two in five (40%) employees worry about their finances ‘always or often’.

Despite its prevalence in our lives and the stress it causes for many, most people find money extremely difficult to speak normally about.

There are many, many different reasons why people don’t like to talk about money. For many, it’s a taboo topic that will rarely be discussed, as it can be uncomfortable and unpleasant to talk about. Our front page even houses one of these stats: 44% of people say money is the most challenging topic to talk about.

Why should we talk about money?

Talking about money and normalising conversations about it can ease your worries and help you to have a good relationship with money.

Research has found that people who do discuss money:

  • make better and less risky financial decisions
  • have stronger personal relationships
  • help their children form good lifetime money habits
  • feel less stressed or anxious
  • feel more in control

Not only does talking about money have positive effects, as described above, but not talking about money can have negative effects too.

Not being open about money with those close to you can also cause them stress and hurt. For example, if you and your partner have both of your names are on bills, or any joint accounts, your financial situation could impact their financial future (and vice-versa!). It is important to know where you stand if you want to look after your finances during a relationship as well as when coming out of a relationship. The only way to do this is to start being open with your partner.

Not talking about money with other family members can also cause problems. With older people, if you haven’t talked about their financial future, issues can crop up in regards to things like retirement and care. You may not know what their wishes actually are, or how they would like you to manage the situation.

The solution? Start opening up. The sooner you have difficult conversations – the better.

How to talk about money

Firstly, come up with a good time and place to discuss money – not when you are in a rush, and not when you are exhausted after a long day at work. Planning these conversations might not seem that important, but organisation is actually very useful – you don’t want to get rushed away suddenly, or be interrupted. Perhaps make a plan of what you actually want to say and discuss, so you don’t forget or miss anything out.

The Money Advice Service also recommends that sometimes it helps to start the conversation in a less direct way rather than asking them to sit down and bringing up the subject. For example, you could use whatever is around you to spark the conversation – bills, a new item of furniture you are still paying off, or something you’re watching on TV.

You should also be prepared to expect the unexpected. You may find out some surprising or shocking information, and you should try to remain calm despite this. Being judgemental will only make the other person want to stop talking, which is not what you want to achieve. Try to keep your cool even if the conversation gets tricky.

Remember that your conversation about money can be as big or small as you like. Don’t feel like you have to put insane amounts of pressure on yourself.

Your conversations also do not have to just focus on specific numbers, as that can often make people uncomfortable. You can talk about experiences and feelings. Number crunching can be important, but so is understanding your feelings. Talk about the emotions that go hand-in-hand with finances. Doing this can also make the conversation seem less daunting, as you will probably realise that you and the person you are talking with feel very similarly.

Try your best to actively listen to the person you are speaking with. No two experiences are exactly the same, so you need to really listen to them as an individual and avoid interruptions.

If you disagree about something, ask what their reasons are and try to be open-minded. If you feel they have a good point, tell them. If you disagree with them, suggest how you can move forward and discuss your common goals. If you need a break in the conversation, take one.

Financial therapy: what it is and who needs it

Just as you can seek professional help for unhealthy issues in life, financial therapists can help you deal with problems related to money.

WHAT IS IT?

Financial therapy is the practice of helping people with how they think, feel and behave with money to improve their well-being.

The FTA — a professional organization created to set standards for the industry — was established in 2010 and began to offer certifications this year, FTA president Meghaan Lurtz said.

The service is generally provided by a financial or mental health professional.

Financial therapy could be assistance for people who can’t keep tabs on their cash, or help for couples who regularly fight about money. But it can also include more serious matters like gambling addiction.

“We all have stuff that is good and that is bad about our relationship with money,” Lurtz said. “It’s really hard to change a belief or habit if you don’t even know where or why you are doing it.”

WHAT DO THEY DO?

If you are seeing a family and marriage therapist about issues in your relationship and money is a major sticking point, someone with a speciality in financial therapy may be able to better sort through those. If you go to see a financial adviser and they work in the financial therapy space, they may be able to elicit better answers from you on how you feel about retirement or how market volatility makes you feel, and what that means for your financial planning.

However, a financial adviser should not be helping you with mental health issues like depression. Part of the training is recognising when to refer a client to get the help they need. Similarly, a therapist should not be providing financial advice, such as what stock to buy.

It is not regulated but people who receive the certification are held to their own licensure and industry standards.

WHO NEEDS ONE?

According to financial therapists, everyone could stand to benefit. But in reality, those whose issues with money are interfering with their life or relationships are likely the best candidates.

People who are in financial distress — such as hiding purchases, spending compulsively or avoiding their financial statements — definitely should seek help, according to Coambs. But people who have a childhood with a lot of conflict about money or have disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder may also want to consider if that is impacting their financial wellbeing as well.

A therapist or other mental health professional will be able to tie their understanding of the human psyche to the relationship with money, he said. Whereas a financial planner might be using some therapeutic skill in their planning.

Read the full post

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is a common problem, with The Campaign to End Loneliness reporting that over 9 million people in the UK say that they are always or often lonely.

Loneliness isn’t a mental health issue in itself, but mental health and loneliness are strongly connected. This is because having a mental health problem increases your chance of feeling lonely, and loneliness can have a negative effect on your mental health.

Loneliness can make people feel worthless, and like there is something wrong with them for not feeling like they have great connections with other people.

Research has found that social isolation, living alone and loneliness are linked with poorer health and earlier deaths, so it’s an important issue to tackle.

CAUSES

Although the majority of people need some form of contact to maintain good mental health, everybody has different needs. Some people have the need to have a large number of friends and social groups, whereas some people get the same satisfaction in having a few close friends. Even if someone looks like they couldn’t possibly feel lonely, they might.

Everyone feels lonely or isolated at some point in their life. It can be for straightforward, logistical reasons, like moving to a new area. Similarly, your existing friends or loved ones might move away, so you are unable to see those you are close to as often as you would like.

Other examples of things that can cause feelings of loneliness are arguments with friends and family, or a breakup.

Unemployment is another cause of loneliness. A majority of jobs involve having contact with colleagues and other people, during the working week. For someone who is employed, the mental health benefits of being employed may not seem that obvious. However, being unemployed can easily make someone feel isolated and can cause their mental health to decline.

Stressful events, such as bereavement or illness of a loved one, or financial pressures, can also be a cause of loneliness. You may feel like you’re the only person going through something and that you have nobody to talk to about a specific worry. However, this is not the case, as there will always be someone out there feeling the same way as you do.

DEALING WITH LONELINESS

Although everyone feels lonely at times, and in many cases, it will come and go with time, you could try some of the following things to help feelings of isolation:

  • Meet new people and make new connections – Although you may feel like you have no idea how to meet new people, there are many ways that you can. This includes taking up new hobbies such as joining a sports club, going to music events, or attending foreign language classes. Volunteering is another great way to meet new people and to also help out with a cause you’re passionate about. Finally, there are online communities that are great ways of meeting new people, if you don’t have the time or ability to meet people in person.
  • Open up to other people – You might feel that you have plenty of connections, but what is actually wrong is that you don’t feel close to them, or they don’t give you the care and attention you need. In this situation, it might help to open up about how you feel to friends and family.
  • Try not to stress and worry about the fact that you feel lonely – Everyone feels lonely at some point in their lives and for most, the feeling will come and go across life. However, if you think your health is suffering as a result of loneliness, you may wish to visit your doctor.

LONELINESS AND AGEING

A vast proportion of elderly people in the UK are lonely or feel isolated. According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Getting older or weaker
  • No longer being central in their family
  • Retirement
  • The deaths of loved ones
  • Disability or illness

There’s a stigma surrounding loneliness, and many older people do not talk about their feelings or ask for help, due to embarrassment or loss of pride. It’s important to remember loneliness affects people of all ages.

The NHS recommends the following ways for older people to deal with loneliness issues:

  • Smile, even if it’s difficult
  • Invite friends for tea
  • Keep in touch by phone
  • Learn to love computers
  • Get involved in local community activities
  • Fill out a diary
  • Get out and about
  • Help others
  • Join the University of the Third Age

If you know an elderly person you think may be feeling isolated, reach out to them and ask them how they are feeling.

FURTHER RESOURCES AND SUPPORT

  • Age UK offers a lot of information on loneliness in the elderly and offers a weekly phone call where someone can just have a chat if they are feeling lonely.
  • The Campaign to End Loneliness believe that people of all ages need connections that matter. They offer information and support to those who feel isolated.

Developing the right perspective

What does “the right perspective” mean?

The majority of us could probably think of several times when we got upset or worried about something that, with hindsight, wasn’t really that bad. It might even seem completely trivial now. Having the right perspective means that we can see what’s important to us in life and stop less important things from bothering us so much.

But that’s still kind of vague – how can we go about changing how we see the world and things that happen in our lives? Is it even possible to do so?


Can I change my perspective?

Yes – there are small things that you can do that can really improve how much your outlook on things.

However, if you are struggling with your mental health more and it is affecting your life negatively, you should consider talking to a doctor or therapist about it. Although the advice given in this resource may be useful in improving wellbeing for some people, they are not a replacement for thorough support for a mental health problem.


Be realistic, is it really going to happen?

We can often get carried away in our thoughts and it’s important to take a step back and look at the reality of a situation.

Try to stop thinking in catastrophic terms. Instead of thinking, ‘This is terrible’, think ‘this is not ideal, but it will pass and I will be okay’.

If you’re worried about the future, think about your past experience. Many things that we spend time worrying about never actually happen. Ask yourself ‘How many of the things I have previously feared would happen in my life did actually happen?’ It may help you to realise that your current worry is not actually that realistic.

So many of our worries and troubles are simply not going to happen and actively questioning the likelihood of something negative happening can help you to think more positively. Over time, you might find that you’re worried about small things less and less because you know that so many of your worries are unrealistic.


Talk about your worry

Talking about our thoughts can sometimes have a huge positive impact on us. Just venting for a few minutes can make a big difference and after a short while, you may start to wonder what you were so worried or upset about in the first place.

Again, the more we talk about our worries, the more we realise that many of them are trivial.


Think of the bigger picture

Think about what actually matters you to. Perhaps even write it down to set it in your mind. Now think about how insignificant this one worry is in comparison. Maybe try thinking ‘How will I feel about this in a week, in a month, or in a year?’ Chances are, you won’t expect to still be negatively affected after a brief amount of time. Or, think ‘Is this one thing going to interfere with what is important to me?’


Know that you will cope

Unfortunately, there will always be things that life throws our way that is simply unpleasant (to say the least) to experience – things like bereavement, divorce, chronic illness, job loss, debt.

It’s true that bad things will happen to you at some point in life, but you will be able to deal with them and continue. Knowing you can cope with whatever life throws your way should mean that you start to worry less about the smaller things.


Go for a long walk

If you’re able to, go out for a long walk which can help you to find perspective in your life. Doing similar things day-in-day-out can take its toll and sometimes we simply just need a change of scenery and a break to recuperate in order to realise that we needn’t stress about smaller things.


Take action

If you’re stressing about something small that you can take action on – take action. Tackling the source of our worries head-on is the best way to deal with them. Accept the things you cannot change, and take action on the ones that you can.

Employee financial wellbeing | Tips on a successful company programme

Money worries are impacting millions of UK workers and the current economic uncertainty is having a detrimental effect on mental health. Financial concerns can lead to poor mental health, sleepless nights, and stress-related illnesses, and businesses need to be taking action.


Not your problem?

You might think that the financial status of your employees is not a concern for your business. However, the reality is that employee financial distress contributes to absenteeism, presenteeism, high staff turnover and low productivity. This is all costing businesses millions of pounds every year.

In fact, research by Neyber before the pandemic found that employee financial worries cost employers around £15.2bn each year.


What to do

Many businesses want to do more to support their employees. Financial wellbeing programmes are a popular approach. But for a wellbeing programme to be successful, there a number of things that businesses need to take into consideration:

1) Have a whole approach

Your approach needs to be comprehensive. Don’t just provide standalone financial training. Rather, offer a comprehensive approach that includes things like training, personal financial diagnosis and tracking, and options for solutions and support.

2) Talk about it

There is no point in having a good programme if nobody is going to use it. So you must ensure that you put out consistent and regular communications about the programmes you offer. This will ensure that they achieve a high level of employee engagement and make a difference.

3) Ensure confidentiality

Employees need to have peace-of-mind that their sensitive information is confidential and secure. Any financial wellbeing programme that you choose to implement must give employees privacy. Money worries can be an extremely sensitive issue, so reassure employees that their information is safe.

4) Signpost, don’t overstep

Do not step into giving employees financial advice unless you are a trained financial counsellor or advisor. Instead, always signpost employees to qualified professionals who can ensure that the right advice is given.

5) Practice what you preach

Ensure that financial wellbeing remains on the company agenda. Match the company’s actions to the company’s words. For example, you should never automatically expect employees to pay company expenses upfront and then reclaim them back. If that’s not possible, then ensure that expenses are reimbursed immediately afterwards.

6) Check the impact

If your business is implementing a new employee wellbeing programme, you must measure its effects. Only then will you know if it’s making a difference. You can measure the impact in a variety of ways, such as by:

  • Using staff surveys
  • Conducting focus groups
  • Using exit interviews
  • Monitoring absenteeism, presenteeism, staff turnover and productivity rates

Read more about how we help employers to support employees with our digital platform and mental health consultancy on our main site, Mente.

The relationship between money & mental health

According to a survey by the loan comparison group FairMoney, financial problems are the main cause of mental health issues.

The research conducted suggests people are taking out loans to cover basic household spending with 5 million British consumers having taken out a loan to cover home repairs and improvements in the last year.

“As the economy slows, there are over three million adults living in the UK with financial difficulties and mental health issues. Unfortunately, this is continuing to grow. Lending practices contribute to wellbeing and mental health issues, and lenders need to be accountable for this. With such pressure, it’s not surprising that consumers turn to payday lenders and credit cards to battle the financial burden.

“Fairer finance needs to available for all to help with these social ills. Payday loan providers have their place in society for cash-strapped Brits but this must be done in an ethical manner. Most people have been abandoned by poor lending practices that stem from the financial crash of 2008. We’re more than a decade on – things need to have changed. The sector must be eradicated to eliminate such ills.” – Executive chairman and founder of FairMoney, Dr Roger Gewolb.

Financial stress and its impact on mental health has seen a rise in absenteeism, poor work performance and lowered concentration at work.

When financial difficulties and mental health problems are combined, you create a spiralling vicious circle where one compounds the other.

When you have poor mental health, organising and managing financial issues becomes trickier. This, in turn, creates a sense of fear, anxiety and worry, once again affecting your overall mental health.

Unfortunately, financial problems can and do affect mental health. When people have debt which is causing them to worry, they don’t focus on work; they might be present but they are not productive. Poor work performance has a knock-on effect on promotions and bonuses which further reduces earnings progression. Chronic financial strain could lead to serious psychiatric and cognitive problems or depression.

Accepting you need support is by far the first hurdle to getting help, with many organisations trained in finance available to guide you. Burying your head in the sand and sleepless nights will only add to the mental pain you are experiencing.

It may seem a big step asking for help but it is by far the best way to prevent any further problems.

Expert advice on how to get out of debt in 2021

2020 was a challenging year for many with furlough and job loss contributing to around three in 10 Britons being negatively financially hit by the pandemic, with around £10billion of personal debt built up as a result.

Because of this many will struggle financially and may potentially turn to credit to support them.

Rachel Springall of Moneyfacts advised: ‘The impact of the pandemic on consumers may well have prompted them to take a step back to reassess their financial health and find ways to improve their situation.”Clearly the resilience of consumers finances will continue to be tested throughout 2021 and the impact of this year could well be felt many years to come.

‘If consumers can put aside a little time, they could start to build a solid foundation for a brighter financial future with just a few simple steps and by taking advantage of free planning or support.’

This is Money speaks to the experts for advice on how to get out of debt in 2021.

1. Prioritise what you owe

When in debt it is important to face up to what you owe and not bury your head in the sand.

Work out what you owe and to who – as well as when you owe the money by.

2. Consolidate your debts

If you are always juggling your credit card balances, your overdraft or repayments on your car loan, perhaps it’s time to consider combining all your borrowing with a single personal loan.

If you’re going to go down this route, make sure that once you repay any card balances that you destroy the cards and close the accounts completely.

3. Speak to debt experts 

StepChange, the debt charity, estimates 1.2 million people are in severe problem debt because of coronavirus, with a further 3 million at risk of falling into this category. For some struggling due to the crisis, they could benefit from debt advice.

In particular, if you have any of the following, you should consider seeking free financial advice:

  • A negative budget – more going out than coming in
  • Arrears on any ‘priority’ household bills, for example, mortgage, rent, council tax or utilities
  • Not enough disposable income to cover your minimum debt repayments – if your income has dropped due to coronavirus, you may be able to get a payment break from some of these bills, but it’s still a good idea to get free debt advice.

If you’re in this situation, don’t delay getting in contact with a debt advice organisation.

4. Switch credit cards

Transferring credit card balances is a positive way to get yourself out of debt, this may be moving balances from a high-interest credit card to a zero transfer balance credit card.

This will ensure you are getting a much lower interest rate and avoid paying large interest fees that are often introduced after the initial zero per cent interest offer runs out.

5. Cut down on spending

Cutting down on non-essential spending could help you tackle debt quicker.

Look for ways to reduce your monthly outgoings, such as checking and cancelling old direct debits that you don’t make good use of, for example, magazine subscriptions or gym membership.

6. Avoid ‘buy now, pay later’ 

Buy now, pay later is a popular form of payment for many now doing their online shopping of which many retailers offer you the option to spread the cost of your purchase.

Although this can be a useful option for major purchases once in a while, it’s dangerous to start using it as the norm every time you want to buy clothes or household goods. The danger being before you know it you end up with huge monthly payments that you can’t manage.

7. Switch to better deals – and save

It is always a good idea to use price comparison sites to see if you could save money by switching providers.

This goes for all sorts of bills including energy, mobile, broadband and TV packages.

Research some of the best deals on the market and advise them you are thinking of switching unless they can match it.

In many cases, you will find yourself walking away with a smaller bill.

Read the full post here

What to do if you are struggling over Christmas

For many people in the UK, Christmas can be a stressful and unpleasant time. If you are around other people, talk to them about how you are feeling if you feel safe and comfortable to. Sharing our problems can often help us to realise that others are experiencing similar feelings, and can help us to see that there is always support out there.

If you find yourself struggling over the Christmas period, there are a number of places where you can get help. Some will have different operating times over Christmas, but will still have plenty of guidance on their website, and will be able to assist you over the majority of the festive period.

The Samaritans are available 24/7, including on Christmas Day. Whatever you’re going through, you can call them for free, from any phone, on 116 123.

You can also try to:

  • Watch your food and drink intake – Many of us see Christmas as a time to indulge. While this is fine for some, it may be useful for some people to keep an eye on how much unhealthy food and to drink they are having. Keep track of what you are drinking, and see if you could do with having even just a small amount less to drink.
  • Stay active  It is important to stay active, and especially so if you have time off from work. Consider doing some exercise to manage your mental health. ParkRun offer Christmas Day walks and runs in many places, and this can be a great way to keep active as well as socialise. Check out ParkRun to find one near you. Staying active can also help you to keep your sleep schedule in order over Christmas.

These organisations provide financial information and support:

These great organisations provide support around mental health:

  • Samaritans – www.samaritans.org/ – Helpline: 116 123
  • The Hub of Hope – https://hubofhope.co.uk/ – The Hub of Hope is a national mental health database which brings together organisations and charities, large and small, from across the country who offer mental health advice and support, together in one place. It finds places near to you (based on postcode) that can offer you help.
  • SANE – www.sane.org.uk/– Helpline: 0300 304 7000
  • Rethink Mental Illness – www.rethink.org/ – Advice and information service: 0300 5000 927
  • Mind – www.mind.org.uk/ – Infoline: 0300 123 3393
  • Time To Change – www.time-to-change.org.uk
  • Mental Health Foundation – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
  • Shout – Shout is the UK’s first free 24/7 text service for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help. If you’re experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support, you can text ‘Shout’ to 85258. This will connect you with a trained volunteer.

Homelessness & debt

Homelessness is a growing problem in the UK, and it can, and does, have devastating effects.

On average, homeless people die at just 47 years old. Homeless people are also over nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population.

There are different types of homelessness. For example, rough sleeping, in temporary accommodation, and hidden homelessness (e.g. staying with friends/family).

There are also many reasons why someone may become homeless. The causes of homelessness are wide-ranging, and it is often a combination of reasons, as opposed to one single root cause. Causes can include things like job loss, mental and/or physical illness, poverty, lack of affordable housing, and abuse.

Sadly, being homeless can, in turn, make many some problems even harder to resolve.

The statistics

In 2018, approximately 320,000 people were recorded as homeless in Britain.

It is a rise of 13,000, or 4%, on last year’s figures and equivalent to 36 new people becoming homeless every day.

Debt and homelessness

Debt is a growing problem, and it can get worse for an individual over time if it is not dealt with.

The worst case scenarios of debt include losing your home or feeling like you want to end your life. But there is help available out there for you that can help you to manage your debts.

If you are in housing debt, the stress can feel overwhelming and can make people feel completely consumed with worry. Many people report feeling stressed and not at ease until they felt ‘safe’ from the threat of eviction from being in arrears.

People often deal with their housing debt in addition to other debts and other problems in their lives, either related or unrelated to the debt. It can feel extremely tough, but there is help out there for you.

Further help

You may feel like you are completely alone if you are facing debt, but you are not. The following organisations provide housing and homelessness support:

How to stop debt collectors harassing you for 30 days

In October, the UK Government agreed with campaigners that the wording used in letters chasing people for debts must be changed to be less threatening language to avoid causing distress to those in crisis. It also agreed that bold lettering would be reduced, legal terms would be simplified into more straightforward language and people would be steered towards debt compliant and transparent support services.

Research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute discovered threatening letters can have a catastrophic impact on people with debt problems leading to poor mental health and even loss of life caused by suicide.

The Money and mental health policy institute advise that if you find yourself in debt crisis the first place to seek help is from a charity or non-profit debt counselling organisation – only have a one-to-one session with someone paid to help you, not to make money out of you and ensure that if you speak to any organisation looking to help you reduce debt that they provide you will full transparency of fees.

The agreement between the UK Government and Credit Services Association, the body that represents debt collecting agents, gives new powers that guarantee debt collectors won’t contact you for at least 30 days, provided you’ve sought debt help or can show you are trying to repay your debts. The debt counselling service will inform collectors, which will then give you a month’s breathing space to get yourself on a better footing.”

Full post