One in five lie to loved ones about finances

A young couple in bed having problems and crisis. Divorce and separation.

It's generally considered bad form to talk about religion, politics or money. But while half of us never discuss our finances, a new survey has revealed, one in five has pretended to our nearest and dearest that we're better financial shape than we actually are.

According to a report from loans company Norton Finance, only half of people discuss their finances with those close to them - and 15% of those that do feel awkward about it.

One in five admits to feeling pressure from loved ones to maintain a good financial situation, while 28% have lost sleep over their finances.

The worse off you are, the more likely you are to think you've got more money than you actually have - possibly explaining how you became badly off in the first place. You're also more likely to avoid talking about money with your loved ones.

"Many people feel pressured, whether it's directly or indirectly, to say that they have their finances in hand, especially if we have heavy debts or poor credit ratings," says Paul Stringer from Norton Finance.

"We see that people who have the most issues with money are the most likely to over-estimate their financial position, which can be a case of just not being realistic about your spending. Being in denial about money can be more costly than people realise."

People aged between 35 and 44 feel under the most pressure from loved ones to keep on top of their finances, and are also the most likely to lie about money.

And they're more than twice as likely as any other age group to over-estimate their finances and the most likely to feel awkward when talking about them.

According to a recent report from the TUC, more than a million families with a household income below £30,000 are in extreme debt, paying out more than 40% of their gross household income on unsecured debt repayments.

And things are getting worse, with nearly twice as many people in this situation than they were last year.

Even though household debt hasn't yet reached pre-crash rates, the fall in the real value of wages has made it harder for families to service existing debt.

The good news is that there's plenty of free advice around for anybody struggling with debt. The Money Advice Service lists online, telephone and face-to-face debt advice services here.

Whatever you do, don't ignore the problem as it will only get worse. Says Paul Stringer, "It can be embarrassing to open up about money struggles, but the first step is admitting to yourself that you need some help."

Most common causes of debt
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Most common causes of debt

There are some very common reasons for building up problem debts. Here we reveal seven of the most common, and what you can do if you face them.

Unemployment or illness that means one or more of the household’s earners are unable to work will bring a profound change in family finances, and according to the Money Advice Service is the most common reason for getting into problem debt.

If your circumstances change, therefore, you need to immediately address your family finances, and put everything on a minimum spend lockdown. You should also look into the benefits and tax credits that are available sooner rather than later, to try to close the gap.

If you are on the kind of contract that means varying hours, it can be incredibly difficult to work out what you can afford to spend - making it the second most common reason for getting into debt - according to the Debt Support Trust.

Rather than swinging through the extremes from week to week, the best approach is to establish a budget that will work in the leanest of months, so you don't find yourself getting used to the months when you work more hours.

According to Citizens Advice, trying to service too much debt is the third most common reason for getting into difficulties. The TUC found that those with problem debts spend 40% of their income on debt repayments.

If you are in this position, you officially need some help with your debt problems. If you continue to rob Peter to pay Paul, you will end up owing more and more, so you need to take stock and talk to a debt charity about all your options.

The double-whammy of the legal bills combined with the incredible cost of establishing two separate households is enough to make divorce or separation the fourth most common reason for going into debt - according to the Debt Support Trust.

There's no easy solution, but if you are going through this, it can be helpful to talk through your financial situation with someone you trust or a debt charity, who can help you balance a stretched budget.

Problem debts aren’t necessarily caused by a sudden shock to the system. According to the Money Advice Service, 20% of their clients are simply trying to live on an unsustainably low income.

If you are in this category, it’s important to seek help on the benefits and tax credits you may be able to receive. It’s not always easy to navigate the system, but charities like StepChange have experts on the benefits system who can talk you through what’s available.

The combination of rising costs and stagnating wages over the last few years has meant increasingly people saw their monthly wage cover less and less of their monthly outgoings. This position has started to ease more recently, but has left many people far worse off than before the financial crisis. The Money Advice Trust said a combination of this and unexpected costs was responsible for almost one in ten problem debts.

If you consistently spend more than you are expecting, it's well worth keeping a spending diary. That way you can establish the real cost of living, and start to identify where you can cut costs.

The Money Advice Service says it commonly deals with individuals who have struggled to get to grips with budgeting and debts, and have got into debt because they don’t have the skills and knowledge to manage their money effectively.

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