The other ‘F word’: Finance is among Ireland’s top taboos along with sex, religion and death

74% of people don’t talk about their finances at all or only if they have to

  • What do we find it hard to talk about? – Death tops the list (25%), followed by religion (16%), finances (15%) and sex (15%)
  • ‘Uncomfortable’ the most commonly cited emotion when talking about our finances
  • 39% of people worry about being judged by friends and family
  • Bank of Ireland launching a new campaign to encourage more open discussion of personal finances as part of its Financial Wellbeing programme

6 April 2021: Finance is on a par with sex and religion and topped only by death on the list of things we find it hard to talk about, according to research by Bank of Ireland. The survey also found that almost three in four (74%) people either don’t talk about their finances at all or will only do so if they have to.

The survey asked people to rank their level of comfort/discomfort when discussing a series of issues. One in four (25%) said they liked talking about death least of all, followed by religion (16%), personal finances and sex (both 15%). In contrast, mental health (8%), relationships (5%) and physical health (4%) had the lowest taboo scores.

The study of over 1,000 consumers was carried out to coincide with a new Bank of Ireland campaign – the ‘F-word’ – to encourage a more open discussion of personal finances among consumers. This campaign is part of the Bank’s Financial Wellbeing programme that was launched in 2019 to support consumer financial capability and confidence. Featuring Emmy Award-winning TV and radio broadcaster Baz Ashmawy, the ‘ F-word’ aims to remove some of the stigmas around talking about finances.

Time’s up on financial taboos

When it comes to discussing finance, six in 10 Irish consumers admitted borrowing was harder to talk about than saving, spending or planning. Over four in 10 of those polled singled out their bank balance as the least comfortable discussion point when it comes to their personal finances, with just over a quarter (28%) revealing that talking about their salaries makes them squirm.

Almost four in 10 (39%) fear judgement from friends and family when talking about their finances and over a quarter (29%) think that not talking about them makes it easier to ignore their financial problems.

Gavin Kelly, CEO of the Bank’s Retail Ireland division, said:

“In 2019 we launched a Financial Wellbeing programme to help consumers build a better relationship with money, empower them to take control of their finances and ultimately support better financial decision making for themselves, their families, and their businesses. While we have seen improvements in the financial wellbeing of consumers since 2019 this research shows that talking about finances remains one of our biggest social taboos and about three in four people either don’t talk about them at all or will only do so if they have to.

Financial wellbeing is fundamental to our overall wellbeing, just like our mental and physical health. Having good conversations about money can really support your financial wellbeing throughout life, whether it’s sharing experiences and tips with friends and family, getting help with a problem or asking for advice.

By not talking about finance we could risk accumulating debt, missing out on opportunities to save money, or just being unaware of small things that could make a big difference to our overall financial wellbeing. The more we talk about money, the more we’ll learn, and the more we learn the more confident and in control of our finances we’ll be. That’s why Bank of Ireland wants to break the F-word taboo and get Ireland talking about finance. As a nation we can’t afford not to.”

The research also revealed:

  • ‘Uncomfortable’ is the word most used (42%) to describe talking about personal finances, followed by ‘inappropriate’ (26%) and ‘embarrassed’ (17%)
  • For those who are open to speaking about their personal finances, the research revealed that respondents were most likely to turn to a life partner (60%) followed by immediate family (37%), and least likely to talk to work colleagues (7%)
  • Almost half (49%) of consumers worry about information they share in confidence being passed on while one in four (25%) consumers worry about looking foolish because they don’t understand financial matters

The research was commissioned with RED C and the survey was conducted from 7th to 13th January 2021 with a national representative sample of 1000 respondents.

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