Don’t suffer in silence

Serina Bird

Serina Bird

Serina is an author, blogger and podcaster

Some families have done very well financially during COVID-19 while others have struggled. And with inflation, the cost of living and interest rates rising, the next few years for some could be even more difficult. While there are those that have excelled, for people who have lost their businesses, are in a lower income bracket, or work in retail or aged care, the picture is not so rosy.

The pandemic has basically exacerbated the gap between the haves and have-nots.

If you have a big house you are said to be successful; if you drive a big expensive car you are also seen as a success. So, when people aren’t meeting these economic metrics they may see themselves as not succeeding in life. For men particularly, the need to be a provider is a strong part of their ethos and values. And when they feel they are not able to provide for their family it can have a huge impact.

Many people, therefore, feel embarrassed if they have money issues and aren’t coping. But a person’s ability to purchase things should not reflect their true worth. There’s a whole lot of different sorts of capital, social capital for one. It’s not just about having money in a bank. But when the unexpected happens, many people feel a deep sense of shame and failure.  

That is often one of the first barriers or blockages that prevents people from seeking help and to sit down and look at their budget. COVID has really recalibrated things for many people. It has provided a trigger to reassess priorities and to choose a simpler form of life. For others, there’s been this revenge spending kind of phenomenon. There was a big problem during COVID with online gambling and online shopping.

It’s easy to look at people who are experiencing money issues and think they shouldn’t have bought the new car or gone on an expensive holiday. The first thing is to have a judgment free space because it can happen to anyone. It’s also true to say that when people are stressed they will revert to old habits, whether it be drinking, smoking or gambling.

That said, it’s important not to be judgmental as people can be very stressed when they’re dealing with their money problems; there’s also the shame, embarrassment, denial, anger.

While it’s easy to be judgemental, especially with gambling issues, it is so prevalent in Australia. We have some of the highest rates of gambling in the world. When I look at the television I’m shocked at how many ads appear for online gambling.

If you’re a person with an addictive nature stay away or seek help. It’s that shame thing all over again. People don’t think it will happen to them but these things are addictive.

And then there’s all the ‘big life’ events that can have an impact. A relationship that ends suddenly because of family and domestic violence, which was the case for me, and is much more common than people might realise. There’s often an element of coercive control, particularly financial control in these types of relationships.

Financial ‘infidelity’ is also an issue. A partner who has another family or leaves for someone else is also more common than people think and can be devastating.

A lack of financial literacy is another problem. Some people live from paycheck to paycheck and don’t know how to manage their money. They may not have a household budget, or any savings goals. I think it’s important to talk about money. There is no shame in having money problems because it can happen to anyone at any time. It can be anything from an unexpected event, such as COVID to the end of a relationship.

We’re not taught these skills growing up as our parents (in many cases) didn’t have these skills. It’s really fascinating because people can be in a relationship and have children but never talk about money. It’s this new taboo where you don’t talk about money.

So, money issues can happen to anyone but if families or individuals are experiencing problems seek help. There are many groups that can assist.  

This is an edited version of a Majellan podcast with Serina Bird titled ‘Seeking Help with Family Financial issues’. You can hear the full podcast and other Majellan podcasts at: www.majellan.media/financial-series-podcasts/

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