Why it's important to have open and honest conversations about money
MONEY worries can take over people's lives - always there, sitting in the background. There are also links between financial worries and mental health problems - an issue which came under the spotlight during the recent Mental Health Awareness Week.
The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), which provides the MoneyHelper.org.uk free guidance service, is encouraging everyone to seek help if they are worried about money - whether it's for themselves or a loved one, perhaps a friend or family member.
Its research indicates that people who have experienced a mental health problem in the past three years are more likely to be at risk of falling into serious money problems than those who haven't. They are more than twice as likely to say thinking about their financial situation makes them anxious, and four times as likely to be behind on priority bills, such as the rent or mortgage, council tax and utilities.
Caroline Siarkiewicz, chief executive officer at the MaPS, says: "There's often a link between struggling with money and mental health problems. Feeling low or anxious can make it harder to manage your money and worrying about money matters can affect your mental wellbeing.
"While it's not uncommon to experience money worries - particularly at the moment, when many are feeling the pinch - sadly many people do not feel comfortable talking about it or seeking help. This needs to change.
"Over recent years, mental health campaigners and charities have shone a spotlight on mental wellbeing, encouraging more open conversations. Thanks to this, more people are speaking up, which in turn helps more people to feel comfortable seeking help if they need it. Now, we want to smash this stigma for discussions around financial wellbeing.
"We know that now is a challenging time for many households," Siarkiewicz adds. "As people deal with the after-effects of the pandemic and cost of living pressures, it's all the more important that we encourage open and honest conversations about money to help support not only ourselves, but those around us too.
"For anyone that's experiencing a mental health problem, or is worried about money matters, know that you are not alone - help is available. Our MoneyHelper website offers tools such as the Bill Prioritiser, guidance on how to maximise your income, managing your money and mental health and how to get free expert debt advice."
Many people will be feeling the strain as the living costs crisis deepens - and sources of support are available, for example charities such as StepChange, Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Trust. Lenders are also offering support to customers struggling with money worries.
"The banking and finance industry is committed to helping individuals and providing support to those facing financial difficulty," says Eric Leenders, managing director of personal finance at UK Finance.
"We would encourage any customers concerned about their financial situation to contact their bank as soon as possible to understand what options are available to them, including tailored support if they are struggling with their repayments. Firms stand ready to offer assistance and flexibility to those that need it."
Banks also have tools which may help in some situations. For example, many offer customers the ability to block spending linked to gambling. More generally, banking apps can also help customers with budgeting and give insights into spending patterns.
Concerned about a loved one who is worrying about money? MoneyHelper highlights some signs that they may need support...
1. Is there an obvious use of credit?
Are they frequently relying on cards or buy now, pay later (BNPL) schemes? If so, it could be a sign that they are getting into difficulty with debt.
2. Are they mentioning overdrafts or debts?
They might mention this in passing - perhaps in relation to how they are feeling.
3. Are they spending without a plan?
Perhaps they seem to be spending more often than usual.
4. Are there unopened bills?
This may be a sign they are avoiding confronting money problems.
5. Do they have changes in mood?
Perhaps they may appear visibly more stressed or are behaving differently to how you would normally expect.
6. Have they withdrawn from socialising?
Perhaps they may be worried about spending, and this can also be a symptom of someone struggling with their mental health.
7. Are previous experiences having an impact?
Have they experienced financial abuse in the past? Financial abuse often happens as part of a wider pattern of domestic abuse and involves someone else misusing their money. Victims of financial abuse can be left with big debts.