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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Family ain't Ish? Lending/Giving Money to Your Family

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine recently about her family. I will call my friend Sandra (not her real name) for the sake of simplicity. She made a very disturbing comment to me in regards to her family saying that "Family ain't shit!". Part of Sandra's reason for saying this, is that she was in a financial bind and no one in Sandra's family was willing or able to give her financial help.

I quickly came to her family's defense, and reminded her that there were numerous occasions where her family helped her out financially. I also, reminded Sandra that it is not her family's responsibility to help her every time she needs money. Hell, people have their own money issues that need to be dealt with! 

Another thing about Sandra is that she borrows money from others and then conveniently "forgets" to repay her debts until gently reminded.  The quickest way to destroy relationships with those that you love is to lend them money.  I don't lend money to my family or close personal friends unless I don't expect to be repaid.  I will not lend money to family unless it is money that I can afford to go without.  In other words, you would never catch me lending out my rent money to anyone. 

Sandra is really a good-hearted person, but honestly, she is a "ghetto fabulous diva". She is financially illiterate and lives way beyond her means. Sandra would blow her paycheck on things that she doesn't need like toys and video games for her children, clothing, fast food, and professional pedicures or manicures. Then, when it is time to pay her important bills and to meet basic necessities, she has to rob Peter to pay Paul. 

She often finds herself in an endless cycle of debt that she can't seem to escape. I doubt that Sandra has any strong concept about the power and function of money. She doesn't have her priorities straight, does not implement a budget and frequently mismanages her money. This lack of knowledge in the fundamentals of financial literacy is one of the main reasons why most people will remain poor for their entire lives.

Sandra's lifestyle and spending habits are an indicative trend of the poor and middle class in the United States. The average person lives paycheck to paycheck and is a financial disaster or two away from filing bankruptcy. Americans have a serious issue with over consumption and overspending. Living beyond one's means is a big problem for many Americans. Many people don't understand the value of their money and they have addictions to spending. Thus, they buy things that they don't need and have to suffer the consequences of their frivolous spending binges later. 

Americans also have major issues in the their relationship to and psychology of money. I recommend that people read an excellent book that deals with this subject called "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" by Robert T. Kiyosaki. He breaks down the differences between assets and liabilities. He also talks about why some people are poor and why others are rich. It boils down to the type of financial education that one receives and mindset. The wealth mindset or poverty mindset can be passed down from generation to generation until someone decides to break the cycle.

When I hear people talk the way that my friend, Sandra did, I understand what is going on. People that think and speak this way are irresponsible with their money and lives. They try to shift the responsibility onto others and often feel that they are entitled to something from the world. Deep down, they don't want to stand up and live as responsible and introspective adults. One of my favorite finance authors, Suze Orman, would probably call this "standing in your truth". 

I am a firm believer that once we reach a certain age, we should be self-sufficient and take personal responsibility for the outcome of our own lives. The government is not responsible for us, and neither are our mothers, fathers, aunties, uncles, friends, co-workers, children, girlfriends/boyfriends or neighbors. Everyone will go through tough times in their life and will need someone to lean on. However, this shouldn't be a usual occurrence. If you are constantly asking others for financial help and not doing anything to prevent your financial woes, then it could be that you're not shit.

I have observed that some folks like to play the "family card" when they need a favor or some money. To their minds, relatives should always lend a helping hand no matter what. Take for instance, another acquaintance of mine. He complains that he has a cousin residing in another state whom is constantly calling him up and asking for money to support his family. This relative does not work and blames his unemployment status on the economy. We know this is nonsense, because if this person wanted to work, he would simply go out and create his own job. My acquaintance is frustrated and at his wit's end. He has his own financial and personal obligations that he has placed on the back burner in order to help out his cousin. Yet, he doesn't know how to tell his beloved cousin "No!".

This leads me to my next point: We must learn when to say "no" to those that try to take advantage of us. It is in my nature to help relatives in need, when I am in a position to do so. However, I place a few conditions on who I choose to help. In general, the relative must put forth his or her best effort to help himself/herself. Also, I would only be willing to lend a helping hand to a relative in need on very rare instances. In this way, I am not setting myself up to be perceived as a source of "revolving credit". At some point, needy relatives will need to learn to stand on their own two feet and manage their affairs in a wise manner. Otherwise, those that seek to lend a helping hand are enabling the needy relatives in their irresponsibility.  Think of it as administering some tough love.

© Copyright 2013 Susan Broadbelt

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