Q: Should I help out a family member who asks for money?
A: Three years ago I had an epiphany: Kayla, you need to make some changes to how you handle money. I was broke, stressed out, and it was always about money. It got to the point that I was unable to sleep through the night, wondering if I would have enough in my checking account the next day to buy $50-worth of groceries. I’d had enough. So I started tracking every penny. I created a budget and began writing a blog to reinforce my newfound financial journey. I still have some debt today, but I am proud of who I have become.
While I “got it” at last, I noticed that some of my friends and family members still struggled to find financial bliss. It could be a parent who makes poor decisions like buying a hot tub when other urgent bills are unpaid. Or a sibling who is always out of money when the rent is due. Or even a cousin who is always asking for a loan. No matter who it is or what the problems are, it’s hard to see someone you love struggle with money.
So I came up with five tips that have helped me navigate choppy financial waters, just in time for the holidays, where many of us spend time with our loved ones.
1. Only Offer Advice if Asked
I’ve made the mistake in the past of being too eager to try to help friends and family who are bad with money. After they vented to me about their finances – about how they spent too much money or how they don’t earn enough at their job – I’d try to offer advice.
Unfortunately, this can damage your relationship with them if you aren’t careful. They may not be looking for advice, but just a sympathetic ear.
Everyone turns around in their own time.
Until they reach that stage, they likely won’t listen to you anyway.
2. Lead by Example
Eventually your friends and family members will notice that you’ve changed – they may even ask about it.
Until then, just keep your head down (or held high) but focused on your journey. The only behavior you can change is your own.
3. Avoid Lending Money
It can be so tempting to give or lend money, but chances are that family would be fine on their own if they’d only make better decisions with the money they do have. Besides, you could end up in an awkward situation if what you consider to be a “loan” is accepted as a “gift” and never returned.
4. Remember, You Can Keep Saying No (It Gets Easier, Trust Me)
Another challenge: My family is constantly encouraging me to spend money on trivial things.
It’s hard to say “no.” But the more often you say “no,” the less persistent they become.
Eventually, they’ll get the hint and stop asking – or at least ask a lot less often than before.
5. Talk Openly About Money
I’m pretty comfortable talking about money. After all, I am transparent on my blog about the cash I earn and spend. Consider being open with your family about your financial situation. Tell them your financial philosophy. The more open you are about money, the more likely they’ll open up to you about their own financial situation, too.
Someday, they may even thank you!