Normalising money talk
When it comes to money, if we are to help those who are isolated or don’t know where to turn, then talking about how to manage money must become the ‘norm’ in communities. Awareness of resources can enable people to assist those around them. The Just Finance Foundation works to signpost and help people to be more aware of financial issues, and to identify when neighbours and friends may be experiencing money worries. One of the resources we developed is the online Money First Aid Kit, which is a quick and easy to use tool to help signpost friends and neighbours in problem debt to sources of support.
However, we must never underestimate the importance of having everyday conversations about money for those who may struggle to get online.
I found this out first hand through Geoff (not his real name), who is one of my neighbours. He’s 73 and we often pass in the street and say hello, but last month I got talking to him about Brexit and things that were wrong with the world. When I told him where I worked he said that finances were keeping him up at night.
We talked some more and it turned out that his monthly bills were eating into what little savings he had, and he wasn’t able to pay back the balance on his credit card. He was really worried that it wouldn’t be long before his debt got out of hand.
I’m not an expert in finance or a financial advisor of any sort but I did have my smart phone with me, so I thought I’d put some of my work into practice. The Money First Aid Kit resource has a short film about debt and getting professional advice. We watched the film (it’s only a minute and half) and it was a great way to introduce some of the places that Geoff could turn to for advice – such as My Money Steps (mymoneysteps.org), where there is free online debt advice service from the National Debtline. It is free, confidential and simple to use and goes into depth to get an accurate picture of what sort of levels of outgoings (and income) you have in order to help signpost to ways forward.
Taking the first steps
My Money Steps was a useful site that outlined the options Geoff could choose from to help deal with his debts. We went through it together and it feels like the start of a journey which will hopefully see Geoff find a way to manage his money and not have to worry so much about the future.
Geoff said that he would not have ventured online alone to seek help as he was scared of being ‘scammed’ so it felt good to be able to take half an hour to go through the initial online assessment. I will check in with Geoff going forward to see how he’s getting on.
This experience has made me all the more aware that as a society we need to be able to spot friends and neighbours experiencing financial distress, start a conversation and help them find support.
The Just Finance Foundation works to help break down the stigma of talking about money and money problems - the biggest barrier to people asking for help. We all need to play our part.
Matt Adcock is Head of Communications at the Just Finance Foundation.
Have you been affected by any of these issues?
If you have been affected by any of the issues described in this blog, or simply need someone to reach out to, you can call Independent Age’s freephone Helpline for information and advice on 0800 319 6789.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Independent Age.