‘Overcoming stigma around financial wellbeing’
A special insight into financial wellbeing
— By Heidi Allan, Head of Employee Wellbeing, Neyber

Did you know that we are more likely to admit having an STI than debt problems? We equate financial worth with self-worth. You may have asked for a pay rise and received a ‘No’, you may have been through redundancy, taken a stop-gap job, or even a second job to supplement income – it all has an impact on self-confidence and self-esteem. And consider also the effect of social media, where there’s pressure to show that we are in control of everything. Money issues can leave us feeling incredibly vulnerable, so it’s vital to open up the financial wellbeing dialogue in a safe environment and in a supportive way.

48% of us has borrowed to meet basic financial needs in the last year; that’s borrowing not to buy luxury items, but to cover food, utilities and housing. The most common form of borrowing is, of course, the most expensive – credit cards. In addition, 24% of people have less than one month’s savings. Add in factors that are outside our control – like terrorism, UK and US politics, and Brexit – and you have a huge catalyst for stress. Somebody could be just about managing month on month, but then something happens and it really tips them over the edge.

Often people say to us, ‘Surely it’s about just paying people more?’, but that’s not the case; financial wellbeing issues go right across age groups and right across the earning spectrum as well. We find that the more one partner earns, the less reliance there is on the other, who may work part-time or full-time on a lower wage. If something happens to that main breadwinner, the impact on their family – and not just direct family, but extended family, too – can be significant. With money, it’s never just about the individual themselves, but about their wider circle.

‘We’ve come together to tackle mental health; I think we need to do exactly the same with financial wellbeing’

At Neyber, we start talking to people about financial wellbeing in terms of their ability to cope if something should happen. Having that first conversation, being able to say, ‘I’m feeling uncomfortable’ or ‘I’m not as in control as I’d like to be’, can make a massive difference. Then it’s about reaffirming the message that it’s okay to have made mistakes in the past, that there are ways to turn things around and take back control, to build their confidence back up again. This goes far beyond a budget and a spreadsheet.

Financial wellbeing topics can be quite sensitive. That’s why we offer information in a variety of different formats, from group sessions to one-to-ones, on and offline. We favour podcasts over videos, so nobody needs to know what you’re listening to. And our printed materials are in A5 rather than A4, so they’re a little bit easier for people to subtly take away with them. The goal for us is to get financial wellbeing on the agenda, to make it okay to have those conversations, without judgement and without ridicule, to help break down the barriers of stigma and open up a world of fair, transparent, useful products. We’ve come together to tackle mental health; I think we need to do exactly the same with financial wellbeing.

Heidi is Head of Employee Wellbeing at Neyber. She has been in financial services for more 25 years; the last 15 of those focused on employee benefits and financial wellbeing. She is hugely passionate about improving the financial awareness and capability of UK employees. She carries out high-quality research and promotes healthy conversations about money.