One of my closest friends, Kate, got married to a wonderful and successful man (Ben) who has a high financial position in a well-established bank.
Since I’ve known him, he has always been “splendid” about money.
When they were dating, he used to give her extraordinary gifts. One time, he invited our group of friends to go on a boat ride for Kate’s birthday, and he always made sure to have good wine when someone visited them.
Apart from that, he helps his sister with money because she has a baby, but she and her husband are not well financially, so Ben transfers them a significant monthly amount for the boy’s expenses (like voluntary child support).
Now that he and Kate are married, Kate realizes that even though he earns well, his lifestyle doesn’t allow them to save as much as they would like. And often, they don’t buy things from their own home because Ben prioritizes helping his family.
Kate has never agreed with the idea of Ben helping his sister (because his sister and her husband could perfectly work), but she has never told him anything about it because it is “his” money.
However, last month, something happened that broke the camel’s back in the relationship between my friend and her husband: his sister announced that she was pregnant again and that “finally the family would be completed because they always wanted a girl.”
Not only were they expecting a new baby, but it was totally planned. Kate was upset because she felt that if they were getting help, they should not have looked to expand it, so she felt like his family was taking advantage of her husband and he was committing a financial mistake by helping them.
Therefore, she asked me for financial advice, so if you are going through the same problem, this is what I think about this situation, and I would recommend it.
Is it a mistake to help a family member with financial problems?
The short answer is that, in most cases, yes, it is a mistake.
The long answer is that this question may be subjective, and it will completely depend on the context to have an impartial opinion about it.
Here, I will try to explain it as precisely as possible.
In the same way that happens with all financial help (for example, government help when they give monthly money, bonuses, or paychecks to help those in need), when you consistently give money to someone, they will not find a way to grow because they won’t need it to survive, they will just get used to the help and simply keep receiving.
In an article by Catalyst, they explain this statement clearly:
“When donations are consistently provided, those living in poverty often learn to become dependent on the donors as they see less reason to get out of their current situation.Local businesses also shut down, as the need to produce items goes away when high-quality donations are provided at a minimal price from external sources.”
By Ben giving money to their family “to support them on a difficult period,” he just made them feel comfortable and not do anything else to have more money because it’s easier to just sit and wait for help than work harder to grow and not need the help anymore.
Cases in which it is good to help people are if they suffer from a condition that does not allow them to work, illness, or old age, since even if they want to, they are incapable of doing something for them.
I also consider it correct to help your parents as gratitude for educating you as long as you are not sacrificing your own growth to do it (for example, I know parents who go into debt on purpose so that their children can pay it off, or that ask for significant sums of money just because).
But if they are completely capable of working and don’t have any condition that doesn’t let them support themselves, by giving people monthly payments, you are conditioning their laziness.
Another help you can give people is one-time payments. There is no commitment or sacrifice on your part, and you serve as help in a time of need.
However, Ben is already making the monthly payments, and if he simply stopped, they could even become enemies.
So what should he do in this case to avoid losing the relationship with her sister?
What can you do if you are already trapped in this situation and want to stop without damaging the relationship?
The first thing you should do is clearly communicate to them why you cannot continue helping them financially, but make it about you.
For example, don’t tell them it is because you feel they are taking advantage of you or because you feel they are not doing anything to improve. But you can tell them you want to start a family, need to buy something, or want to grow in some way.
If they truly love you, they will understand that you want to be in a better condition, and by not making it about them, they will not feel attacked by your decision.
Second, don’t just simply stop doing it (if this is possible for you). Start by reducing the monthly payments until you no longer have to give them. This way, they will have the time to prepare themselves and find the missing money from other sources without you being the bad person.
Finally, if it is within your means, help that person look for a better job that covers the expense you are assuming. For example, after the advice I told them to follow, Ben ultimately decided to help his brother-in-law get a better job so that he could provide for his two children and not need him anymore.
Ben is still a good person who supports his family, but now he doesn’t have to take complete care of something that doesn’t correspond to him.
Even helping a family member may feel like a good gesture to help someone in need; you are damaging them financially (and yourself) because you are not letting them grow and develop independently, and you are taking a responsibility that doesn’t correspond to you.
You will not be there forever for them, and if they unexpectedly lose you, then they will be in big trouble.
So instead of helping them with monthly cash help, help them improve so they don’t need any help from anybody.
You can give a family a one-time payment if they need it urgently and if in your means, but make it clear it will only be that time, and support them with your presence and knowledge instead of just being their savior.
Remember that you also have your own goals and deserve to have your money for yourself because you work hard for it.