Should You Let Your Family and Friends Know About Your Debt Struggles?

February 2, 2015

This is a touchy subject – it’s easy making a case for keeping personal debt problems secret from your family and friends. But let’s take the opposite side of that debate – should you let your family and friends know about your debt problems?

Despite the problems that are inherent in sharing negative information about yourself with people close to you, there are compelling reasons it may be to your advantage.

They may be able to help

Generally speaking, no one is in a better position to help you – or more willing to do so – then the people who you are closest with. Even though family and friends may not be able to help you to completely fix your debt problem, they may be there as a safety net to provide for short-term needs while you’re working out a longer-term solution.

Family and friends may also know of people or organizations that can help you to deal with your debt. Simply pointing you in the right direction might provide the kind of assistance that even money can’t buy.

Under extreme circumstances, and if the friend or relative has the money, they might be able to help you in a more direct way. For example, they may offer to payoff your debt with the stipulation that you will repay them.

This arrangement, while tempting, will represent transferring your debt problems from creditors to a friend or family member where the arrangement will be very personal. You have to consider the possibility that the relationship may be impaired or permanently destroyed if you are unable to repay the debt to that person. You may not be able to do it, for all the same reasons that you can’t pay your creditors now. Tread lightly if this offer is ever made!

Still, even if you don’t accept such an arrangement with a friend or family member, it can be comforting just knowing that it’s available – just in case.

You’ll have less explaining to do when you can’t afford something

One of the stickiest parts of not telling family and friends that you have a debt problem is that it leaves you constantly explaining to them why you can’t participate in certain activities. This practice gets old in a hurry. If you let family and friends know that you’re having debt problems, that you can’t afford to keep up with them, you might be lifting a major burden from yourself.

If nothing else, you won’t need to come up with an excuse every time you can’t afford to do something with other people close to you.

You may be surprised to find that some of them have the same problem

When we’re going through a crisis of any sort – including debt problems – we often think that we’re the only ones who have the problem. But it can be both a shock and a comfort to find out the others close to us are having the same issue.

That’s not even an unlikely situation. A lot of families have still have not recovered fully from the recession a few years ago. Many are still dealing with either a career crisis, or the aftermath of an extended period of unemployment. Any of those situations could leave them saddled with oversized debts.

If you find a friend or family member with debt problems, you’ll have a confidant to talk to about your problems. And you can know that person fully understands the situation in you’re in, and won’t judge you.

You should never go through a serious crisis alone

Money problems can be embarrassing, which is why a lot of people try to keep it from others, especially those closest to them. It’s hard not to blame yourself for debt problems, even if you weren’t entirely to blame.

A debt problem is a crisis, even if you are fully responsible for it. And like any crisis, you should never go through it alone. You need people, especially family and friends, to help you go through it. Their camaraderie alone can make the experience easier to live with, and even speed a solution.

There are whole lot of emotional issues that go with debt problems, and you’ll need the people closest to you to help you weather those issues.

Creating accountability

People tend to go through debt problems alone, embarrassed that anyone else might know. They also cling to the idea that somehow “I can handle it”.

In truth, if you don’t share your debt problems with at least one or two people who are close to you, the chances that you will come out victorious over the problem is a lot less likely.

Accountability is often necessary in order to deal with a long-term problems like debt. If secrecy is one of the fundamental reasons for debt, accountability will be one of its solutions. The fact that someone else is aware that you have a debt problem, and especially the magnitude of it, can make you accountable to them should you decide to come up with a plan to pay your debts off.

It’s human nature that we tend to behave better when we know that other people are watching. That’s what accountability does for people with debt problems. If there’s no one keeping  an eye on what’s going on except for you, there is a very good chance that the problem will continue to do what it has always done, which is to get worse.

Is there a downside to cluing in family and friends about your debt problems? Of course. But in many cases, the benefits outweigh those negatives.


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Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

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2 Responses to Should You Let Your Family and Friends Know About Your Debt Struggles?

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods

    I think sharing your money problems with the people closest to you is usually a wise idea. They can’t help, advise, or support you if they don’t know what’s going on in your life.

    By opening up to family and friends, you’re saying you trust them and that you could use their kindness and help as you navigate your way out of your debt crisis.

  • Chelsea @ Broke Girl Gets Rich

    As a private person, I’m generally pretty guarded about who I let in on certain aspects of my life – especially money.

    More often than not, my money problems stem from a fluctuating freelance income which can be recovered in the next month or two, so I prefer not to tell people.

    I hate it when people who care about you over-suffocate you at the first chance to offer help to the point that you hardly have the space to move your own arms around, so I think actually not telling people can work in your favor so you keep checks on yourself so you don’t get into trouble as far as you can help it.