How to Talk to Loved Ones About Debt

Debt is a fact of life for many Canadian households.

As a nation, we owe an average of nearly $21,000 in non-mortgage debt per household.

Yet, for many of us, the feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety that surround our debts can prevent us from accepting and acknowledging them.

They can even prevent us from talking about them to the people who matter most to us.

But the more we ignore our debts, the more interest can spiral out of control, and the more damage our debts can do to our finances.

Talking about our debts with those closest to us is one of the first steps toward taking control of them.

Here, we’ll look at how to have a healthy and productive conversation about debt with your loved ones.

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Talking about your debt

While you may feel very uncomfortable bringing up the subject with those closest to you, they may be able to lend you moral support as well as sharing practical tips and advice.

Talking to your significant other about your debt

If you’re keeping debts a secret from your partner or spouse, this can create serious problems in the relationship.

Open and honest communication is the key to any healthy relationship.

Make sure you choose the right time to talk to them.

Make sure it’s a time when you’re feeling calm, collected and know exactly what to say.

Be clear and calm.

Talking about stress-inducing topics like debt when you’re worried or agitated can exacerbate your stress and cause communication problems.

Let them know what they can do to help and support you.

There’s no shame in asking for help.

Talking to family and friends about your debt

Many people feel the need to project an image of financial security to their friends and family.

As such, they can overspend on clothes or dining out in restaurants.

Your friends and family might be very upset if they knew that you were racking up more debts just to “keep up” with them.

Again, choose a time when you’re feeling calm and collected to talk to them about your debts.

They may instinctively offer you help, and you may be reticent to accept it.

Again, however, there’s no shame in accepting help from the people who love you.

Talking about their debt

When someone you love is struggling with debt, a delicate touch is required.

Friends and family members who are in debt may be under significant stress and quick to anger.

So it’s vital that you adopt the right approach to the discussion:


  • Avoid any language that might seem condemning or judgemental.
  • Talk about your own financial issues. They may open up more if they feel less alone in their problems.
  • Listen. Very often, the simple act of getting things off their chest may be helpful.
  • Suggest practical ways to help them deal with their debts.
  • Refer them to a trustworthy specialist who can help them find a debt relief option.


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