Debt of £4,000 per average Brit

Nearly half the adult population of Britain is hiding an average £4,000 of debt from their family and friends claims a new report.

The Money Advice Service (MAS) says that 44% of all adults are hiding an average of £4,164, adding up to a total secret debt mountain of £96 billion.

Money management

The findings were published as part of Talk Money Week, a public awareness campaign which aims to improve people’s money management skills and boost their financial well-being.

In a survey, almost a third of those in a relationship said their other half did not know about all of the money they owed and 5% said their partner was completely in the dark.

Men are less likely to talk about their debts than women with 50% admitting their friends have no idea how deep in the red they are as opposed to 43% of women.

Credit cards

Credit cards are the largest source of hidden debt, but personal loans, overdrafts, store cards and money owed to family and friends were also common. Almost one in ten admitted they had hidden payday loan debt.

Many of those spoken to said they prefer not to talk about it because they don’t want to burden others with their problem. Almost a quarter said they didn’t have the confidence to speak about it with their loved ones, especially the younger age group.

Easier to pretend

Caroline Siarkiewicz of MAS said: “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.”


The signs that someone is in debt trouble are often difficult to spot and can vary from person to person, but often there are subtle clues which can alert family and friends to out of character behaviour:

  • Being in debt in the past
  • Experiencing a recent life event which resulted in a loss of income
  • Apparently living beyond their means or over-spending
  • Seeming anxious, withdrawn or depressed
  • Becoming more secretive in their behaviour
  • Changing their spending habits – either cutting back or over-spending
  • Seeming tired or having trouble sleeping
  • Sudden weight change – either increase or decrease.

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Said Ms Siarkiewicz: “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 the week to talk about your money worries”