Working-3-hickey-river-trees.jpg
NPR News, Classical and Music of the Delta
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Community

You Have to Want Help

helping_hands.jpg
National Council on Aging
/
National Council on Aging

At least once a month someone says to me, they know someone who “needs my help.”

Well, every time I hear this story, I get some version of a brother, sister or friend who struggles with finances, suffering woes of their own making. Their problems can be traced back to over-spending, under-saving, speculation or some version of failing to face reality.

Now, I’m usually treated to a heart-felt tale of years and years of trying to help, only to be met with indifference (or even hostility) by the object of their efforts (their loved one). Until yet another crisis comes along, when help is sought by the now suddenly penitent brother, sister, friend, accompanied by promises of financial reformation.

Once you fork over the pled-for cash and their problem is kicked down the road yet again, they go back into indifference mode and become deaf to your pleas for reform.

The person we’re talking about certainly needs a financial planner, but he doesn’t want one. And if you do get him to see one, he’s probably only doing so because you’re twisting his arm. He may even be hoping it encourages you to give him more money.

Until an individual engages in the financial planning process out of self-motivation, no amount of force feeding it to him or her will help (in the long run).

I know this is not going to be easy to hear if you are an enabler, and it could be even harder to do, but here is what I suggest if you find yourself in that situation:

Be honest with yourself. Be honest about what you’ve been doing (which is enabling) and what the hot mess has been doing (which is manipulating and taking from you, probably others too).

Draw financial boundaries. Easier said than done, I realize. But if you want to save yourself (and maybe…maybe…your brother, sister, friend), decide now that you have given that person your last dollar.

Because if you don’t make that kind commitment to yourself, a skilled taker (like this person can often be) will simply keep pushing the boundaries until he finds your breaking point.

Allow your brother, sister, friend to experience natural financial consequences. This is really the heart of the issue. Somehow this person has figured out ways to avoid many of the natural financial consequences of his or her actions (or inactions).

The only hope that your brother, sister, friend has is to be awakened to the reality that he’s actually subject to these natural consequences and can no longer count on you to be the one that pays the price for his actions.

Honestly, if you draw this financial boundary and stick to it, your brother, sister, friend may declare that you no longer love him and go to someone else to be the patsy. If this occurs, I’m really sorry that it does, but it’s better than the enabling relationship that exists presently.

We both know that people like this need to change. And often, so far, our experience is they’ve made no indication that they want to change.

But you need to change.

You can’t depend on this other dependent person to be the one that changes this enabling relationship. You can only depend on yourself.

So, now we both know that you need to make that change.

It only remains to find out if you really want to.

Related Content