What if my friend has money worries?

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This week is Debt Awareness Week, an annual campaign run by StepChange Debt Charity to raise awareness of debt problems and help people find free support with their financial ‘What Ifs’. We can help you take the first step towards resolving your money worries with free, impartial advice.

Debt can be hard to talk about – and people who use StepChange's services say they often feel ashamed or embarrassed about their situation.

If you have a friend who's struggling with debt, they may not bring up the conversation directly. But there are some warning signs to look out for.

Signs your friend might have money worries

Have they been in debt before? Debt can be difficult to fully escape from, and once someone has to rely on credit to make ends meet, it can be difficult to break that cycle.

Has their income been reduced? Many people’s income has been affected by the pandemic through redundancy, reduced hours or furlough. Other significant life changes can impact finances too, like having a baby, separating from a partner, or experiencing a bereavement.  

Have they changed their spending habits? They may be splashing out on the latest must have gadgets without having the income to cover them, or alternatively they may have drastically reduced their spending.

Do they seem anxious or withdrawn? It’s obviously harder to keep in touch with friends with the lockdown restrictions in place, but if your friend seems unusually distant it could be a sign that something’s up. They might seem more secretive, or seem tense if money comes up in conversation. 

It can hurt if a friend avoids you or pushes you away – but it’s important to understand that many people fear that they’ll be judged for being in debt, and people often withdraw when they most need support.  

Keep talking

Admitting to being in debt, even to someone you trust, can be terrifying.

Look at your loved one and the people who surround them – who are they most likely to feel comfortable opening up to? If it’s not you, is it their partner, or a friend? Reassure them that you and others are there for them if they need to talk, and they just might feel better about opening up about their situation. 

Safety in numbers

Feeling like you’re the only one going through a difficult situation can make it feel ten times worse – it’s important your friend knows they’re not alone. At StepChange we help thousands of people every week to deal with their money worries, and the pandemic has caused financial hardship for many who have never experienced it before. 

Encourage your friend to take a look at the real life stories of our clients, or ‘debt free communities’ on social media where millions of people share there experiences and stories. By inviting your loved one to read about other people’s experiences, you’ll show them that they’re not the only one, helping them to feel less ashamed and alone.   

Never a borrower nor a lender be…

It’s natural to want to help, but resist the urge to lend large amounts – we see many clients who have fallen into debt after using their income to help someone they love. 

Options like guarantor loans can be tempting. But if they’re struggling now, chances are your loved one will struggle to pay back a loan each month. If they ask you to be a guarantor on a loan, you could kindly but firmly tell them noExplain you don’t want money to jeopardise your relationship, but that you’re there for them and will do all you can to help their situation.

Let them know advice is available

If they’re struggling, you could suggest they get confidential debt advice. At StepChange, we provide free advice over the phone or online. Our expert advisors never judge, and will work with the person in debt to find a solution that suits their circumstances.

They can contact us on 0800 138 1111, 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 8am-4pm on Saturdays, or get debt advice online at www.stepchange.org