Northern Ireland residents hiding over £3B in debt from loved ones

Tuesday 13 November, 2018 Families
  • A third (31%) in Northern Ireland admit that their partner does not know about all of their debts
  • The average amount of hidden debt in Northern Ireland stands at £3,360
  • 63 per cent would prefer not to talk about debt to their friends and family because they don’t want them to worry
  • The Money Advice Service is encouraging people in Northern Ireland to start opening up about their money worries this Talk Money Week

The taboo around debt means that many people in Northern Ireland are keeping it secret from their loved ones, according to new research.
Across the whole of the UK, adults are hiding more than £96 billion1 of debt from their friends and family, and the average amount of hidden debt2 in Northern Ireland stands at £3,362 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, a third (31%) in Northern Ireland say their other half does not know about all the money they owe. And four per cent 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. Four in five (83%) say their close friends don’t know about all of their debts. Men are more likely than women to open up about it. 85 per cent of women admit that their close friends don’t have a clue about their debts, which is five percentage points higher than men (80%).
The research finds that credit cards account for the largest quantity of hidden debt (50%) in Northern Ireland. An overdraft from a bank or building society (22%), personal loans (21%), store cards (17%) and money owed to

Many of those with debt in Northern Ireland say that they don’t want to burden others with their financial issues. For example, 63 per cent say they would prefer not to talk to their friends and family about it because they don’t want them to worry. 35 per cent 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 (47%).

In fact, the Northern Irish find it easier talking politics with their family than they do dealing with money problems (65% vs 49%). The same can be said for religion, with 70 per cent saying they find it easier talking about faith than money. Overall, 29 per cent say they find it difficult talking about money problems and debt with their family.

Furthermore, 60 per cent find it easy talking about personal health with their family. Yet 52 per cent of younger adults in Northern Ireland, aged 18-34, have had trouble sleeping thinking about their hidden debt.

Caroline Siarkiewicz, Head of Debt Advice from the Money Advice Service commented: “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.

“As it’s Talk Money Week, there is no better time to start opening up about your finances. Whether with friends and family or a partner, use this week to talk about your money worries. And remember that free and impartial debt advice is available near you.”

For more information on Talk Money Week visit