Consumers are hiding more than £96 billion of debt from their friends and family, with the average amount of hidden debt in the UK standing at £4,164 per person. These findings come from new research by the Money Advice Service for Talk Money Week – a public awareness campaign held this week (from 12th to 18th November), which is designed to improve people’s money management skills and financial wellbeing.

Of those in a relationship, almost a third (29%) say their other half does not know about all the money they owe. And five percent admit that their partner is completely in the dark about their debts.

However, it’s not just our partners we are keeping this secret from. Almost half (47%) say their close friends don’t know they have any debts at all. Men are less likely than women to open up about it. Half (50%) of men admit that their close friends don’t have a clue about their debts, which is seven
percentage points higher than women (43%).

The research finds that credit cards account for the largest quantity of hidden debt (48%). Personal loans from a bank or building society (17%), an overdraft (16%), money owed to friends and family (12%) and store cards (11%) follow. Meanwhile, eight percent of all those with debt hide payday loan
debt.

Many of those with debt say that they don’t want to burden others with their financial issues. For example, 51 percent say they would prefer not to talk to their friends and family about it because they don’t want them to worry. Almost a quarter (23%) say they don’t have the confidence to speak to their loved ones about their finances and this is particularly the case for young people (32%).

In fact, even in our turbulent times, Britons find it easier talking politics with their family than they do dealing with money problems (63% vs 53%). The same can be said for religion, with 62percentt of Britons saying they find it easier talking about faith than money. Overall, one in five (19%) say they find it difficult talking about money problems and debt with their family.

Furthermore, two-thirds (66%) find it easy talking about personal health with their family. Yet almost half (46%) of younger adults, aged 18-34, have had trouble sleeping thinking about their hidden debt.

Caroline Siarkiewicz, Head of Debt Advice from the Money Advice Service said “Sometimes it can be easier to pretend everything is alright and avoid opening up about our debt problems to escape the tough conversations. Not because we want to cause harm, but because we want to shelter those closest to us from our problems or are concerned about being judged. However, this rarely solves the issue. In fact, it often makes things worse.”

“Debt can be a particularly difficult topic to broach, especially if you’ve fallen into a spiral and don’t know how to get out of it. But sharing a problem is the first step to solving it; it’s always better to be open with your loved ones when it comes to money.”