Watching a loved one struggle is never easy, especially if you’re not sure how to help. Research shows that 86% of adults are concerned about day-to-day costs. So, chances are that if you’re finding things difficult lately, your friends and family might be, too.
Have you noticed a friend or family member seems worried about finances? Here are some tips on the best ways to help.
“The rising cost of living can have a huge impact on people’s happiness”
- Vicky Reynal, money counsellor
“There’s a real process of compromising that needs to take place. Things that we once could afford or could allow ourselves to have, are no longer available – and this is hard,” says money counsellor Vicky Reynal.
For some people, the increased costs mean giving up everyday luxuries to focus on necessities. For others, it means struggling to pay household bills and stay on top of debt.
“The stress and anxiety resulting from this can be painful,” Vicky says. “Money is linked to our survival and therefore the threat of not having enough of it can touch on very basic and primal fears.
“Loneliness and isolation are also a consequence of this crisis for many people who now have to make difficult choices about how they spend their money. Social activities are first to get scrapped, having a serious negative effect on people’s happiness.”
If you notice that a friend or family member seems more stressed than usual, money problems may be to blame – even if they don’t yet realise it themselves. So what can you do to be there for the people you love when times are tough? Read on for some useful advice.
Be a good listener
If someone approaches you with concerns about their financial situation, the first step is an easy one: just listen.
“Offering emotional support to someone who is struggling can go a very long way,” Vicky says. “Listening can give the other person a real sense of comfort and relief.”
Don’t judge or dismiss their feelings
Be careful to hold back any judgements or harsh opinions you might have. You may not agree with the money choices that person has made – or you may find their concerns to be trivial compared to your own or other people’s. But remember that money is personal and impacts everyone differently.
“Dismissing their worries as unrealistic will only make the other person feel more alienated and alone with their fears,” Vicky says. “But you can help them think through what is a probable scenario – so they can see when they are ‘catastrophising’ or focusing too much on very unlikely worst-case scenarios.”
Share your own concerns
You may get the feeling that your best friend or parent is struggling with money, but they’re reluctant to open up to you. For many people, money is an uncomfortable thing to talk about. Instead of asking them directly about their problems, Vicky suggests sharing a bit about your own struggles first.
“You can ‘open that door’ for them by showing that it’s OK to talk about money and to feel worried,” she says. “Be sensitive to how they respond: if you see they aren’t ready to open up, then it’s important to respect that and not insist or prod too much.
“Even just saying, ‘I can see that you’re worried about it, and I’m here to listen,’ can be comforting in itself. They may take up the offer when they’re ready.”
Be careful with reassurance
When someone opens up about a fear or concern, it can be tempting to say something positive in response. But you may want to resist the urge. “Reassurance isn’t always helpful and often isn’t true,” Vicky says.
“You can’t tell them ‘everything will be fine’, because you might not know this to be the case.” Instead, try talking through the facts with them. Remind them of all the steps they’ve already taken to change their situation and explore what they plan to do next.
Offer practical help
“You may not be in a position to help financially, but offering support can take on many forms,” Vicky says. “Even small practical gestures can help others feel supported.” You could offer to help with chores or share resources, or take turns watching each other’s children or pets. If they’re feeling lonely, offer to go for a walk or just have a cup of tea together.
And if they need help with financial advice or tools, point them in the right direction. For example, you might share information on financial wellness, government support schemes, low-cost transport options or general questions and answers about the rising cost of living.
Don’t forget your needs
“Helping others is both generous and rewarding,” Vicky says. “However, it’s important to be mindful of boundaries around giving – both emotionally and financially. After all, modelling self-care can be a powerful way to be helpful, too.”
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This content is for information purposes only and shouldn’t be regarded as financial advice. While we’ve taken every effort to make sure this information is as accurate as possible, it has not been independently verified.