Historically, not mentioning money has been an age-old rule that has guided British social interactions. Today, multiple studies suggest that Brits still adhere to that rule. In fact, Lloyd’s Bank (2019) found that People viewed talking about money as more taboo than religion, sex or politics. However, this social norm may do more harm than good. Indeed research from the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) has shown that there is a link between having regular conversations about money and higher levels of financial well being.
Increasing financial well-being has a number of wider-reaching implications for individuals and businesses, from improving marital satisfaction, to increasing employee productivity. In light of MaPs’ Talk Money Week campaign, we decided to use our online experimentation tool Predictiv, to assess how 2,114 UK adults feel about ‘talking money’. We sought to identify the barriers that limit conversations around this ‘taboo’ subject and identify strategies that might encourage more money talk.
Consistent with existing studies, only 12% of people surveyed reported frequently discussing money with family and friends and even fewer with employers (4%). This statistic is particularly striking given that 63% of the same participants reported that they felt some level of concern about their finances.
Despite the high levels of concern, when probed about why so few people share their concerns, the most common answer chosen by participants was that ‘they did not need help’. These results suggest that people either do not realise or believe in the benefits of talking to others about money when it comes to overcoming their financial concerns.
So, what can be done? Our research suggests that addressing two factors, in particular, can contribute to encouraging more conversations about money – confidentiality and trust.
When our sample was asked: ‘what would make it easier to share concerns about finances?’; the confidentiality of information and speaking to a trusted individual were the two most commonly chosen answers.
Our work as part of the Financial Capability Lab with MaPs echoed these concerns about trust. For instance, on testing different messages about Payroll savings we found that one of the biggest barriers to engagement with the product was lack of perceived trust surrounding savings schemes. In particular, participants expressed a desire to be assured of the legitimacy of the product’s source and to hear specific details about the features of the product. Thus the fear of illegitimacy of financial advice is a major barrier to discussing one’s financial concerns. This points to the need for specifically outlining the legitimacy of particular financial products and services to foster more conversations about money.
Furthermore, fostering trust in financial conversations requires the correct messenger. Our findings from a recent trial suggested that employees are more likely to have financial conversations with individuals they view as more relatable, and are therefore more likely to offer personalised, non-judgmental advice. This means that encouraging more conversations surrounding money requires the identification of the right individual or institution to instigate those conversations.
Our work so far suggests that small changes can make a big difference, however, much more needs to be done to understand how to facilitate more ‘money talk’ . Therefore, we would like to open up the conversation about financial matters. If you are interested in engaging with your employees’ or customers’ financial well-being, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.