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Is The British Reserve Making Us Broke

Is The British Reserve Making Us Broke image
Money Guru

30th January 2023

5 minute read

Brits are typically bad at talking about money, whether it be how much you earn, asking for a pay rise or financial difficulties. But is this British reserve making us broke?

Money Guru conducted a survey of 2000 people to find out what Brits were most embarrassed about in relation to their finances and the true implications of this on everyday life.

Is talking about money the last taboo?

Northern Ireland is the most money stressed place in the UK

Northern Ireland is the UK’s most stressed region with 50% of respondents in that area reporting that they worry about money on a daily basis and 30% saying that their money worries make them feel stressed. This is according to new data from

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The UK: a nation of money worriers

Our survey revealed 61% of the UK are worried about money, with almost a quarter of us worrying daily.

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Yorkshire and the Humber have it best, with only 8% of respondents in that area reporting any financial woes, closely followed by Wales and the East Midlands. Yorkshire and Humber also said they felt less stressed by money issues than anywhere else in the UK, but Northern Ireland came tops, with 50% of respondents feeling stressed.

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As you might expect, those in the highest earning bracket of our survey, bringing in over £70,000 a year, were more likely to never worry about money, but interestingly, there was also a significant jump from those who earn upwards of £25,000, compared to those on a lower income. So it seems that a common impression may be true - the more you earn, the less you stress about financial issues.

Revealed: The top financial problems Brits are dealing with

Data from The Money Charity states that UK individuals owe £1.578 trillion and according to our survey, the top reason for this debt is personal and short-term loans, with almost a third of respondents citing this as a financial issue. 30% also said they were reliant on their overdraft and that this was causing them problems.

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Unemployment and overspending came in joint 3rd, with 29% of people saying they had been affected by either or both of these. There were 1.42 million unemployed people for the period of January 2018 – April 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics. Although this has dropped by 115,000 for the same period last year, it is clearly causing financial difficulty for many.

Gambling addiction affects around 528,000 people in the UK and can be devastating not only to the gambler but to their family and friends too. A worrying 17% of our survey respondents cited gambling debts as their top financial issue.

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How open are Brits about their finances?

Help is available for those who need advice on how to manage their finances, or for addictions that may be causing them financial difficulty, like gambling. But our survey shows that 26% of Brits have lied about their finances to a partner or loved one, with men opting to be more dishonest than women. So, what is it that keeps us from sharing our troubles with someone who could potentially help us?

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The British reserve could be making us broke

According to our survey, the top 3 reasons for lying to a partner or loved one are all linked to that British stiff upper lip. The number one reason was that people didn’t think it was polite to talk about money, followed closely by those who don’t think they have a problem, despite their constant worrying and in third place was the reason of wanting to keep things private. While this might stem from the British reserve, it doesn’t bode well for your financial future if the problem isn’t acknowledged and steps aren’t taken to fix it.

So, is talking about money one of the last great taboos?

The topics that Brits struggle to talk about

When we asked what people would prefer to talk to their parents about, giving them a suitably embarrassing set of topics, many would choose to talk about sex, mental health issues, drugs or alcohol problems or religion and politics than the state of their finances

We’ve all heard about the “bank of mum and dad”, where parents are regarded as a source of financial assistance or support for young people, particularly millennials. A report from Legal & General in 2017 predicted that parents would lend more than £6.5bn that year to help their children. That’s a 30% increase on the previous year.

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More than half of Brits under 35 would prefer to talk about embarrassing health issues or the intimate details of a relationship than their financial woes

While that suggests an astonishing amount of young people are turning to their parents for help, we found that more than half of Brits under 35 would prefer to talk about sex or mental health issues than their financial woes. Maybe it’s time we all started broaching the subject more often.

82% of Brits would not speak to a financial advisor

A financial advisor can be one of the easiest and simplest ways to get your finances in order and is often the first step to gaining control of your situation. But 82% of our respondents said they would not even consider it, with 57% admitting that they don’t think it will really help. Comments regarding this from respondents included issues of trust, finding the information useless and the advice being too expensive.

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Tabby Farrar, a digital outreach specialist from Norwich has experienced periods of financial difficulty and says:

“Financial advisors cost far too much money for someone who is in debt and doesn't actually have any money to spare. Even if you could beg, borrow and steal the money to pay a financial advisor's time, the lingering feeling is that you'd just be spending money you could be eating and turning the electric back on with, and they wouldn't be able to help you anyway.”

Julian Novak, a content manager for from London, has always felt people should take control of their own finances. He says,

“I'd walk down to the bank and have a chat, keep an excel sheet detailing my costs and income, work out what actions to take next. If I'm struggling already, spending money on an expensive cost such as a financial advisor just doesn't seem the best action, even if it might help out in the long term.”

A study by PwC in conjunction with Britain Thinks found that the financial industry as a whole “continues to be seen by UK citizens as too big and too distant from people in the street to really be trusted to do the right things and have the public’s best interest at heart.”

63% of Brits feel negative and disturbed emotions when thinking about their finances

Most disturbing of all, however, is how many people are suffering emotionally and mentally because of stress caused by money worries. Our survey found that well over half of the UK are feeling either one or more negative emotion when they think about their financial situation.

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When asked how often they worried about money, 1 in 5 of the British public said daily and more than a quarter feel stressed. Feeling negative emotions is a normal response when you’re struggling but once it becomes daily, and for an extended amount of time, these feelings can develop into a more persistent problem.

If you are having financial difficulties, you can find information and guidance from these very useful organisations. They will treat your problems with confidentiality and respect.

Money Advice Service (0800 138 7777)

National Debtline (0808 808 4000)

StepChange Debt Charity (0800 138 1111)