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56% of Brits reveal they feel comfortable talking to friends about money – and why we’re more candid now than five years ago

  • Money talks: a third of Brits think it’s appropriate to discuss their salary with friends
  • Four in ten (38%) think people are better at talking finances now than they were five years ago
  • Alina Jaffer, money expert at Virgin Money, shares her tips on how to feel confident talking about money with friends and why it’s important

New research commissioned by Virgin Money1 reveals changing attitudes to money and less taboo around discussing the subject with friends and family compared to five years ago. The findings, released to coincide with Stress Awareness Month, show that almost four in ten (38%) think Brits are better at talking about money now than they were in 2019, before the cost-of-living crisis, and 56% feel comfortable discussing money with their friends.

More than four in ten (43%) believe that older generations are less open than younger generations when it comes to talking about money, indicating a shift in generational attitudes, as it’s the 18-24-year-olds who are the most comfortable chatting about money with friends (68%). Since the rise in interest rates and the increase in the cost of living, the top three money topics people are more open to discussing are: household bills (53%), the cost of everyday essentials (53%) and salary (32%).

A third of Brits think it’s appropriate to talk about their salary with friends, but just 16% would openly share or post about their salary on social media. Over eight in ten (82%) think that the salary should be clearly stated on job adverts, reflecting recent calls by applicants for greater transparency from employers.

A third of people who are more open to talking about money with friends this year compared to previous years believe they have been more transparent because they have a better understanding of the benefits of being more candid on the subject. Brits think that being open about money helps them say no to social situations without feeling embarrassed or pressured to attend (32%), it can help people feel less anxious about money (32%) and it makes it more likely for people to be in control of and realistic about their money (31%).

Recent data from the FCA2 highlights that 7.4million people were struggling to pay bills and credit repayments in January 2024, up from the 5.8million recorded in February 2020, before the cost-of-living crisis began. In the five years since 2019, consumers have faced a global pandemic, 15-year high interest rates and increased inflation, so it’s no surprise that the topic of money is cropping up in daily conversations. In fact, the research finds that for those who do feel comfortable talking to friends about money, the main reason for this is because the cost-of-living pressures have made it an unavoidable topic (45%).

While most Brits do feel comfortable talking to friends about money (56%), one in five (19%) admit they feel uncomfortable doing so. The research also finds women feel less comfortable discussing money with friends than men (49% of women feel comfortable vs 64% of men). For those who aren’t comfortable talking about money with their friends, 43% say it’s because they are embarrassed about their finances and 42% have been told that it’s taboo or bad manners to discuss money with friends.

I’m a money expert: Here’s how to talk about money with your friends

Alina Jaffer, money expert at Virgin Money, shares her advice on how to feel confident talking about money with friends and explains why it’s an important topic to be able to discuss.

1. Keep the conversation positive and judgement free

Alina says: “The cost-of-living crisis has impacted almost everyone in some way, but one benefit of that situation is that there is now much more of a common ground when it comes to talking about money, and people have got better at opening up about their finances as a result. Instead of focusing on the negatives, try to start by discussing the positives – e.g., what you’re currently saving for and why, what you’re looking forward to spending some money on after pay day and what the best thing you bought last month was. These things can be as big or as small as you like, but it’s good to remind yourself what you’re working towards and helps to have a valuable, judgement free conversation around money.”

2. Set financial boundaries

Alina says: “It’s important to feel as comfortable as possible when talking about money, so it’s sensible to set some boundaries around which areas you are and equally aren’t willing to discuss ahead of starting the conversation – for example, you might be happy to chat about your bills but don’t want to open up about your salary. Setting boundaries in advance keeps the conversation focused on ‘safe’ topics and helps to avoid any awkward situations for you or your friends, making for a more positive experience for everyone involved.”

3. Don’t feel pressured to keep up with The Joneses

Alina says: “It can be difficult to avoid comparing yourself to your friends and family, and even to influencers on social platforms who seem to be living their best lives, but it can also be dangerous to do so. Comparing yourself to others can make you feel like you’re not doing as well or aren’t as successful, leaving you feeling down, demotivated and stressed out. However, nothing good comes from spending for the sake of it – you do not have to keep up with the people around you if that isn’t best for your bank account right now, and, quite frankly, real friends won’t care whether you’re spending as much as them or not. Being able to talk about your money and what you’re comfortable spending with friends can be hugely beneficial, as it means that there won’t be any awkwardness or stress when it comes to planning social situations, such as nights out, birthday presents or trips away.”

Graeme Sands, head of personal banking at Virgin Money, said: “The subject of personal finance has leapt up the news agenda in the last five years, and it’s positive to see that with a backdrop of cost-of-living pressures, most people now feel more comfortable discussing their finances with friends. We need to continue to challenge the notion that money is a taboo subject or that it’s rude or bad manners to discuss money in your social circles. In fact, it’s hugely important to be open and honest about money with loved ones to improve our collective relationship with money.

“At Virgin Money, we want to encourage people to stay in control of their money and manage their finances in the way that best suits them, and we understand this can look different for everybody. We’re proud to offer a range of straightforward and rewarding products, along with our money management tools and advice, to allow us to help our customers make the most of their money and feel empowered to achieve their financial goals.”

The Virgin Money mobile banking app is packed full of clever tools to help customers budget, top up their savings and track their transactions, enabling people to feel in control of their money. Virgin Money also offers a wide range of savings products to help customers make their money work for.

About the research

Research carried out with 1,000 UK adults by OnePoll in March 2024


FCA survey data Improving picture for personal finances, but many still struggling | FCA