Culture, age and disengagement are stopping people from talking about their finances, but research by European life and pension consolidator Phoenix Group shows that being open about money can help tackle mental health issues.
In fact, a study of 2003 adults found that just 23% believe it to be healthy to talk to family and friends about their finances because it could help avoid mental and emotional distress.
Taken as a representation of the UK adult population, this equates to nearly 12 million people – meaning that 45 million Brits are keeping their finances private.
Additionally, only one in three (33%) believe it is important to discuss and plan things with friends and family, and 21% do so because they want their children to know about money.
Still a taboo
The majority of the UK adult population (63%) is happy to openly and regularly talk about their finances – regardless of the impact on their wellbeing – but that does not apply to everyone.
Over a third (39%) of those aged 55+ believe money to be a private matter and it should not be openly discussed; but only 26% of adults aged 35-54 agree with this view.
Among the reasons it should not be openly shared, 16% felt it to be an inappropriate subject for conversation, 13% thought of it as boring and 11% found it awkward.
And they are not alone.
International Adviser reported last month that only a third of financial advisers feel comfortable talking to their clients about their health conditions, while 8% said they feel uncomfortable.
“Engaging with your finances is critical, but we know that some people simply don’t talk about their plans,” said David Woollett, head of customer strategy and oversight at Phoenix Group.
“Sadly, our policy tracing work has shown that many people have passed away without their beneficiaries even knowing where their financial policies are. It’s evident that talking with family and friends about financial plans can help avoid unnecessary financial anxiety and stress for those who are left behind.”
‘Better out than in’
Phoenix’s research also found that divorcees are the most likely to keep their finances private, with 57% saying they rarely or never discussed the topic with neither family nor friends.
The insurer reached out to psychologist Donna Dawson, who said: “Money problems have always been more of an emotional issue than a numerical one; this is because the way we handle money is intimately tied up with our self-esteem and self-image, as well as feelings of pride, guilt, shame and anxiety.
“Keeping negative emotions inside ourselves will eventually take a toll on our physical and mental health.
“Most people realise this, and the adage ‘better out than in’, has never been truer: talking about money problems, especially long-term ones, can offer clarity, shared ideas and empathy, reveal more options, and lead to better, more positive outcomes.”
Woollett added: “It’s encouraging to see that 12 million people recognise that engaging with their finances and talking about money can lead to a healthier mental state. However, there are still people who are suffering with financial issues alone, and risk impacting their health.”