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From political beliefs to mental health, we’re becoming more open about sharing our thoughts and feelings about hot-button topics. But it seems that one big taboo remains: money.

At Starling, we want to open up conversations. That’s why we commissioned a YouGov survey of 2000 people across the UK so that we could understand more about how they feel about their finances and conversations about money.

22% of people feel comfortable discussing their bank balance with their close friends

The findings were clear. People would be more comfortable chatting about their weight, age, physical and mental health, political beliefs and sex lives than their bank balance.

Topic Percentage of people would feel comfortable discussing this with their close friends
Age 80%
Health (excluding mental health) 71%
Political beliefs 67%
Weight 61%
Mental health 45%
Sex life 29%
Bank balance 22%

Women feel more comfortable than men talking about their age, sex life and physical and mental health, according to the research, while men are more comfortable than women speaking about their political beliefs and weight.

But when it comes to money, there is no gender divide: of the 2000 women and men surveyed, less than a quarter feel comfortable talking to close friends about their bank balance.

16.5% of people would not be comfortable sharing how much they earn with anyone

According to the survey, 17% of men and 16% of women don’t feel comfortable sharing their salary with anyone. Of the people who would consider revealing to others how much they earn, 70% feel comfortable to do so with their partner or spouse, 45% with their parents and 33% with their friends or siblings. The research also suggested that more men than women feel comfortable sharing their salary with colleagues (21% vs 17%).

27% of people have felt uncomfortable talking about money

It seems that talking about money can trigger all sorts of emotions. We wanted to explore this.

Which, if any, describes how you’ve ever felt when talking about money Men Women
Confident 25% 17%
Comfortable 35% 29%
Relaxed 29% 22%
Stressed 28% 34%
Anxious 27% 31%
Unhappy 21% 23%
Uncomfortable 27% 27%

So what does this mean?

It seems that talking about your bank balance, how much you earn, and money in general makes people feel uncomfortable. And these figures feed into wider issues we’re facing today.

If you feel uncomfortable sharing your salary with your colleagues and stressed when you talk about money, how do you go about asking for a pay rise? If you don’t know how much others earn, how do you know how much you’re ‘worth’ to an employer? And more importantly, how do you know that your pay is fair and equal?

Despite the Equal Pay Act passed in 1970, unequal pay continues to exist. The average pay gap in the UK currently stands at 18.4%. Earlier this year, the gender pay gap, which is distinct from unequal pay, filled the headlines. Of the 10,000 companies that reported their pay data, 78% pay male employees more than female employees, reflecting the fact that there are more men in higher paid senior positions.

But this is not just a gender issue. When it comes to pay rises, promotions and developing a career, building financial confidence is key. And it’s something we might be able to change if we felt more comfortable talking about how much we earn.

52% of people say that having access to online banking makes them feel more confident when managing their money

So what makes people feel more confident when it comes to managing their money? From the research, it seems that when it comes to financial confidence, practical steps and open conversations are key.

Checking bank statements, adding money to a savings account or pension and talking to others and hearing about other people’s financial lives are all on the list. But the answer selected by over half of those we surveyed is having access to online banking.

100% mobile banking

When Anne Boden founded Starling Bank in 2014, she set out to change the way we interact with money. Starling was built to give you the digital tools to have a more transparent and open relationship with your money. That’s why we send you notifications each time money comes in or out of your account. And that’s why we break down your spending so that you can see exactly how much you’re spending on groceries or transport each month.

Starling personal account app preview and card

More than half of people surveyed over the age of 45 don’t know what they spend on food, transport, clothes, eating out, holidays or gifts each month. With Starling, the sums are done for you. This knowledge can help you see where you could save money or spend differently.

Starling also helps you visualise your savings. With our Goals feature, you can separate money from your everyday balance, but keep it easily accessible if you need to move money back or add more money to reach your savings goal.

We want to take some of the stress out of your financial life by providing insights into your spending and giving you the power to manage your money all from one app. We also want to start conversations.

No hidden figures

Alongside our survey, we are launching a series of films created to encourage honesty around our spending. The series, titled ‘No Hidden Figures’, features people from a range of backgrounds and ages with items of day-to-day spending - numbers they may often hide or lose track of - written on their bodies.

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Our series ‘No Hidden Figures’ can be seen on our YouTube channel and some will be shown in cinemas this summer.

This is mobile banking. This is your money laid bare.

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