Why do we find it so hard to talk about money?

I don’t know about you, but my love of podcasts has intensified under lockdown.

The perfect antidote to hours spent glued to a screen while “living at work”, I would much rather pick up a pair of headphones than the TV remote — and judging by the soaring popularity of podcasts, I am not alone.

I’m often asked about my favourite financial shows. At the start of the pandemic, one of the most effective investment management tools I found was The Boring Talks, a BBC podcast. With episodes devoted to the wonders of coal holes, jigsaws, oboe reeds and teletext, it has nothing to do with money. Yet listening to this took my mind off soaring infection rates and plunging stock markets as I resolved to stick to my long-term investment strategy.

I’ve presented the FT Money Show podcast for five years, but under lockdown, our shiny new studio in the basement of Bracken House was off limits. We used our time off air to rethink the format — and the result is the new Money Clinic podcast which launched this week.

Each week, I will be talking through a real-life money issue with a listener who is willing to unburden themselves down the line. Upcoming episodes feature a graduate nervously navigating the jobs market, a City worker with significant credit card debts and a buyer weighing the pros and cons of shared ownership properties. Problem shared, we then consult the best financial experts about next steps people in a similar position could take.

FT podcast: How can I get started as an investor?

Claer Barrett talks to listener Naureen about how to start investing in the stock market. Download here

Part of the inspiration for this format was my unofficial role as the FT’s financial agony aunt. My desk in the newsroom is very close to the tea room. Pre-Covid, there would be several times a day when someone would stop and say: “Ah, Claer, just the person I needed to ask!” (I admit this can be infuriating if you have a column to finish, but it generally resulted in a cup of tea).

Frequently, the queries would be about the company pension scheme and the tax benefits of using salary sacrifice to save more. When we do eventually get another Budget, it could sound the death knell for this valuable perk — so use it while you can.

One morning, an ashen-faced senior colleague said he had opened his annual pension statement to find hundreds of thousands of pounds had gone missing. The colour came back to his cheeks when I explained that the FT’s change of ownership meant we all had an old pension — and a new one. I include this example to remind you all that even clever people who work in finance are sometimes too busy to notice what’s going on with their own money.

I sometimes persuaded FT colleagues to write about their financial dilemmas — such as Joe Sinclair’s column about how he lost £4,300 in an online scam, Izabella Kaminska’s revealing piece about the true cost of hiring a nanny, or Jemima Kelly’s viral tale about how a flat iPhone battery landed her with a £476 fine and a criminal record. In all cases, we’d get them to come and talk about it on the podcast afterwards — and listeners appreciated their honesty as they shared the lessons learned.

On the new show, we’re happy to chat to our guests on a “first names only” basis. One reason people tie themselves in knots over money matters is because our personal finances are intensely personal, and usually shrouded in secrecy. Yet the cloak of partial anonymity encouraged our first podcast guest to confide that she had created a “vision board” to spur on her retirement savings — a new one on me, but something that definitely works for her.

Many factors prevent us from getting to grips with our finances. You might be in denial, too busy, confused or frankly unable to summon the strength to interact with the jargon-filled bore fest served up by large swaths of the financial services industry.

Yet we have never needed to talk about money more — and I feel very privileged that people feel comfortable talking about it with me.

Be a guest on the Money Clinic podcast

Each week, presenter Claer Barrett speaks to an FT reader about a financial issue that’s affecting them, seeking guidance from experts about the options available.

If you would like to take part, please email a brief description of your problem to [email protected] and mark your message “New Podcast”.

Everyone’s relationship with money has changed in 2020 as the pandemic forces us to focus on our finances. Even if you’ve been able to hang on to your job or keep your business going, there are likely to have been sacrifices and sleepless nights. The “second wave” could prove financially catastrophic for many, especially the self-employed.

On the flip side of the coin, those still earning money but unable to spend it are wondering what to do with their “forced savings”. Some are splurging on luxury watches — there’s a thriving online second-hand market in vintage timepieces, as the not-so-lucky sell up — but rock bottom interest rates have tempted plenty of new investors to put their money to work in the stock market.

Unsurprisingly, when we first asked for podcast guests to get in touch, the most popular question was “How do I start investing?” As you will hear on our first episode, 37-year-old Londoner Naureen had quite a shock when she opened her annual pension statement, and found her projected retirement income wouldn’t even cover the basics.

As well as getting to grips with what to invest in, we also tackle the tick list of items new investors need to work through before they start — thinking about risk, financial resilience and the range of possible results. With what looks like a rocky few months and years ahead, you do not want to be a forced seller when markets lurch down.

Above all, I hope the Money Clinic provides a more human and engaging route into what can be a dense and off-putting subject. Hopefully, listening to the show will help you feel more confident about your finances as the world changes, and inspire you to start your own conversations about money when the headphones come off.

Claer Barrett is the FT’s consumer editor, and a financial commentator on Eddie Mair’s LBC drive-time show, on weekdays between 4-7pm: [email protected]; Twitter @Claerb; Instagram @Claerb

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