Dear Dave,

I’m currently on Baby Step 2 of your plan, and I’m six months away from being debt-free, except for my home. Recently, I’ve run into an issue with my sister, who has a good job, but continually makes poor choices with money. Over the last six months, she has also asked to borrow money from me and others in our family several times, including again yesterday. I don’t want to be cruel, but the whole issue has gotten out of hand. How do you think I should approach her about this?

James

Dear James,

Handling issues like this can be complicated, especially when family or friends are involved. But honestly, I think you should just tell your sister the truth. Keep it simple. Let her know you’re trying to get out of debt and change the way you handle your finances, so you don’t have extra money sitting around. Explain to her, too, that part of this is you’re not playing around with debt anymore, and this means you won’t be loaning or borrowing money again.

Make sure you do this with a kind spirit, James. Most people in your sister’s position already know deep down that they’re making bad decisions. So, it’s important that you talk to her in a gentle, caring way. See if you can get her to talk about what’s really going on with her money. You could even let her know you might consider giving her some money as a gift if you had any extra lying around—and you knew she was in control financially. But you’re not really helping someone who’s financially incompetent, or just plain immature, when you give them cash or even loan them money.

You’re not helping someone if you participate in their misbehavior with them, so you’ve got to look at the big picture in situations like this. Your sister hasn’t just hit a hard time, with lots of unexpected expenses or a job loss. Right now, her behavior with money isn’t just a bump in the road, it’s a lifestyle.

Sometimes you have to love someone enough to sit them down, and tell them the truth. Even if it’s family, that can also mean saying no and telling them it’s time to straighten up and start acting right.

—Dave

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family burden, Personal Finance,

Last Update: June 24, 2024

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