Helping a Family Member with Finances: 6 Rules to Follow
March 5, 2018
Helping a family member with finances can lead to disaster. Why? Most people don’t know how to approach a family about money for fear of losing this person’s love. It’s a situation I’ve experienced personally. After giving a relative several loans and never getting paid back, I reacted with anger. Although this person should have paid me back, my approach was completely wrong. It took years for our relationship to heal. The event taught me a good lesson and a few rules to follow anytime you want to help a relative with finances.
Rule #1 – Only loan money to a family member that you an afford to lose.
Helping a family member with his finances often starts with a loan. It’s a loan that bails him out of a financial mess. However, people who are struggling with money often can’t pay it back. So, it’s best only to loan money to a family member if you can afford to lose it. It will be less risky and help you avoid a lot of hard feelings.
Rule #2 – Talk about money to a family member in a non-threatening environment.
If you want to help a family member with his finances, do it in a non-threading environment. So Thanksgiving dinner is not a great time to bring up the fact that your kid brother doesn’t know how to budget. Instead, take him out to dinner (one-on-one) and explain how much you love him and are concerned about his future. Then, talk about the subject of money – preferably after you’ve eaten your meals.
Rule #3 – Ask your family member if it is all right to help him with his finances.
No matter how strongly you feel about helping your family member with his finances, only do it if he gives you the green light. Otherwise, he will feel bullied or belittled, especially if you are an older sibling. So offer to help him and respect whatever answer he gives you.
Rule #4 – Teach your family member about money by admitting your own mistakes.
Teach your family member how to manage money. Your lesson should start with a few examples of how you blew it financially. Use these situations to help your family member feel more comfortable and less judged about his current financial situation. Then, get down to basics. Talk about budgeting, investing and living within one’s means.
Rule #5 – Walk Your family member through the process of resolving his financial crisis.
One of the most supportive things you can do with a family member struggling with anything is to walk with him through it. This means that you will have to actively assist your family member in getting out of his current financial situation. You may have to call bill collectors, go through old bills, write out a budget or boost him up while he does these things. Just be sure to only do the things that your family member is comfortable with you doing and to ask in advance.
Rule #6 – Don’t throw your assistance back in your family member’s face after it’s over.
The quickest way to ruin a family relationship is to throw everything you’ve ever done for a sibling, child, mother or father back in his or her face. Besides making you sound like a jerk, it makes the person feel small. Remember, even if you gave good advice, the family member took it and did the work. So give them the respect of “silence.” Let your family member brag about how you helped him out of a financial jam.
Follow these six rules and you’ll be able to help a family member with finances without ruining your relationship. Your relative will get much needed help and you will get a chance to be a good relative. It is a win-win situation.