Author Topic: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly  (Read 2175 times)

Arlo86

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Hi, I need some advice on how to help less fortunate family members responsibly.

I have a family member who lives below poverty line. I think it's a combination of lack of education, personality, and bad luck that landed her in this predicament. As far as I know, she doesn’t have a gambling problem or any other things like that. She doesn’t hide the fact that she is poor, always asking us for hand-me-downs. She often tells me she is so poor that she can’t afford to buy clothes. FYI, according to my mom she sometimes asks for financial help, too, but I never witnessed this myself.

To the best of my knowledge, she’s not exactly just lounging around the house waiting for handouts. She used to tutor the neighbors’ kids and last time I heard, she had a fruit juice stand in the neighborhood. She always works these kinds of odd jobs to make ends meet and she could never make it stick.

I wonder if in addition to clothes, would it be OK to also give her some money? Would that be responsible? I don’t intend to make this a regular occurrence but I am meeting her soon for a family wedding and thought I could at least help her out this way.

Goldielocks

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2018, 01:16:31 AM »
Oh, don't start with the direct cash.   Second hand items are great, though, and you don't need to be in poverty to accept them / like them.  Second hand items are a normal part of being a family, too, and don't change your relationships with each other.

Other items including inviting her for dinner and sending her home with left overs, picking her up / giving a ride sometimes when transit is not working out.  Help her write a resume if she is looking for work.  Help with a small home repair, etc.  Maybe pay for her hotel for the wedding weekend... All normal family things that make a difference in one's life.

Also -- it is ok to ask her for help from time to time, not just you giving her help.

Freedomin5

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2018, 04:28:55 AM »
We have seven family members who are “less fortunate than we are”.  Only three have asked us for money or to pay for things they want. Here’s what I learned dealing with them over the past 15 years.

1. Do not give them cash. They haven’t learned the skills to manage their finances and will likely end up just “wasting” it.

2. Evaluate what they want you to buy for them. Groceries for the week? Okay, but don’t give cash. Actually go and pick up a bag of groceries for them with healthy foods. Horseback riding lessons and a school ski trip for junior? Umm...no.

3. Spend on things that will help them improve their situation or that rewards wise decisions that they have made. For us, these have included:
- Small amount of money (a few hundred dollars) as congratulations for getting straight As in their first year in university
- Small amount of money as congratulations for graduating university
- Payong for tutoring for a family member who is failing high school

4. Spend TIME with them to teach skills. Be creative, identify their lagging skills, and help them develop those skills. For example, we have:
- Walked one family member through applying to graduate school
- Helped then research scholarships and grants for grad school
- provide mentoring to the one who is failing school
- Helped the one who is failing to create a plan, and then meet weekly to make sure he is staying on track
- Help identify resources and supports that he can draw on (basically, case management)
- Provided free financial consulting services
- Help complete government aid forms
- Help family members navigate our free but convoluted medical system
- Provide support and attend legal proceedings, help navigate all the fancy schmancy intimidating terminology and documents
- Review any official documentation (legal documents, financial documents) because those are usually overwhelming and uninterpretable to people who failed out of high school

The list could go on and on...but giving this type of practical help that could help them improve quality of life is usually better than simply writing a check.

Villanelle

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2018, 05:25:32 AM »
What is the main cause of her poverty?  Or really, what is the biggest obstacle she faces when trying to get out of poverty?  Figure that out, and you may find the best way to help her.

Personally, I would be unlikely to offer money, especially without a very specific, non-chronic need. (IOW, I might pay off a medical bill, but not just give her $100 because she is struggling in a general, on-going way.)  I'd take a "teach a man to fish approach".  Offer to help her take a deep dive into her finances with her and see what can be changed/helped/adjusted (much like a case study here), and if she's not interested, then she's not all that interested in changing her life, in which case you can't want it more than she does, so you continue giving some hand me downs as you see fit, and that's it, because a bit more money is unlikely to change anything. 

It's unclear from your post whether she has a regular, full time job.  Offer to help her find one (and mean it, in a specific way, if you offer).  Offer to take her shopping for interview clothing, if it gets to that point and that seems to be a problem.  Maybe even offer to pay for some kind of education, if she's interested.  I wouldn't do any of these things unless she expresses interest during a casual, testing conversation, because it could very easily come off as judgmental or condescending.  Offer to help her find programs for which she might qualify (SNAP, WIC...).  Or scholarships for school or vocational training.    If she lives near you, consider using her for services you might otherwise pay someone else to do, like babysitting, house or dog sitting, etc.  Or help her find a cheaper apartment, or whatever else seems like it is significantly contributing to the ongoing issue.

Basically, I'm a fan of helping people, but doing so by treating causes, not just symptoms.  And it's also a great way to see if they are serious about changing their situation, or of they just want to be handed some free money.  *IF* they prove serious and *if* they take other positive steps, then cash may help, too. 


Mrs.Piano

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2018, 09:21:15 AM »
Others are saying not to give cash, but I am not so sure. My mother is suffering financially because my father is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s.  The monthly expenses for him have taken a great chunk out of their otherwise comfortable retirement (pensions, SS, savings). Additionally, though, there have been some bad decisions around supporting my unmarried sister and niece.  Much of their savings has been evaporated in this effort.  So Mom has asked me to give money every month.  I send her $100 monthly, even though I disapprove of her expenditures and the fact that she charges neither rent nor utilities to my sister.  Mr. Piano, a proto-mustachian, has also been grumbling about how « she has more luxuries in her life than we do ». We do not send money for all of her « needs », just this fixed $100.

The fact is, she needs help and feels bad about her finances.  Finally two weeks ago, after my sending cash for more than a year, she asked if I could come and help her sell her house.  She wants to be rid of the free-loading offspring and live somewhere she can afford.  The equity from the house will allow her to paycash for a tiny condo without room for Sis and niece.  Yes, it’s true that Mom does not know how to manage her money! Over 54 years of marriage Dad took care of everything.  I view it as my gift from Allah to have the money and time to fly down and help her sell her home and buy a new one.  If she is willing to have me, I would also thank God for the chance to monitor and pay her expenditures from the retirement funds and make her last years easier.  By helping her with steady small support, she has become more trusting and more willing to see how the daughter can actually help her without trying to « run her life », which is making her more open to accepting more advice/direction.

As for my sister? She will have to make her way in the best way she can.  I will not be taking over the financial or other responsibilities connected to enabling her lifestyle. 

Villanelle

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2018, 11:26:28 PM »
Others are saying not to give cash, but I am not so sure. My mother is suffering financially because my father is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s.  The monthly expenses for him have taken a great chunk out of their otherwise comfortable retirement (pensions, SS, savings). Additionally, though, there have been some bad decisions around supporting my unmarried sister and niece.  Much of their savings has been evaporated in this effort.  So Mom has asked me to give money every month.  I send her $100 monthly, even though I disapprove of her expenditures and the fact that she charges neither rent nor utilities to my sister.  Mr. Piano, a proto-mustachian, has also been grumbling about how « she has more luxuries in her life than we do ». We do not send money for all of her « needs », just this fixed $100.

The fact is, she needs help and feels bad about her finances.  Finally two weeks ago, after my sending cash for more than a year, she asked if I could come and help her sell her house.  She wants to be rid of the free-loading offspring and live somewhere she can afford.  The equity from the house will allow her to paycash for a tiny condo without room for Sis and niece.  Yes, it’s true that Mom does not know how to manage her money! Over 54 years of marriage Dad took care of everything.  I view it as my gift from Allah to have the money and time to fly down and help her sell her home and buy a new one.  If she is willing to have me, I would also thank God for the chance to monitor and pay her expenditures from the retirement funds and make her last years easier.  By helping her with steady small support, she has become more trusting and more willing to see how the daughter can actually help her without trying to « run her life », which is making her more open to accepting more advice/direction.

As for my sister? She will have to make her way in the best way she can.  I will not be taking over the financial or other responsibilities connected to enabling her lifestyle.

I'll offer that perhaps if you hadn't spent her that $100/mo, she may have come to this responsible decision much sooner, before throwing that money down the drain.  Your $100/mo allowed her to continue to support the freeloading sister, live in a house she needed to sell, have luxuries she couldn't afford, and be "bad" with her money.  And it enabled your sister to not get her own figurative house in order, too.  I think that's why so many of us say not to send money.  Because most of the time, it just enables the behavior that creates the problem in the first place.  And the money doesn't end up lifting the person out of poverty, because in most (not all) cases, they are in poverty because of decisions, not crazy unexpected happenings.  Granted, often times those decisions come simply from a place of ignorance, but when cash infusions allow continued ignorance, they aren't making anyone's life better.  They just vanish into that black hole of bad decisions and ignorance. 

It sounds like what you are trying to do now with your mom will actually make her life better, in a sustainable way.  That $100 habit didn't , but helping her sell her how, managing her finances for her, looking at her budget and helping her make cuts, etc. actually will.  And that those things happen to be free is just an extra bonus, with the real prize being that it should make your mom's life better and easier. 

Clearly different choices are going to be or feel right for different people.  But in general, giving someone their vice of choice just enables problem behavior.  I wouldn't give beer to an alcoholic and I won't give money to a problematic spendthrift.  I will offer support and help and knowledge and time and resources to either, if they are wanted. 

Mrs.Piano

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2018, 05:46:37 AM »
Villanelle, you may be right, but I can certainly afford the $1500or so that it cost to get Mom to this point of decision-making. She has not been a « problematic spendthrift » and her new position as a sort of « living widow » took time to adjust to.  It should be noted that she and Dad contributed far, far more than that to my University education.

There is, by the way, a great deal of cost involved in helping her move. I have to fly from Toronto to their Southern state, rent a car, stay in a hotel. Might have to be three or more times.  And the hotel/car rental? Unfortunately, Sister’s problems are so significant and her behavior so outrageous that I am unwilling to stay where she is. I would rather not incur the expense, but Mom is easily confused and taken advantage of. Nearby relatives, however willing, have proved to be less than skillful in helping her avoid being tricked or simply lulled into a bad deal. 

As you say, people may differ in what is comfortable to them, but I see my duty to help my parents as a matter of culture and religion. During this time, they are my primary charity in terms of dollars.



mrmoonymartian

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2018, 06:55:32 AM »
She asked for hand-me-down clothes, so I suggest you give her some. She hasn't asked you for money, so there is no need to complicate things with that.

Consider asking what clothes she needs to interview and work in the higher paying/more stable jobs she is looking for. If you need to replace yours sooner than you were intending or if you have to source some especially for her, then you may be transferring money indirectly to her anyway. This would be a meaningful, finite and acceptable (requested!) way to contribute to her long term prosperity.

Linda_Norway

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2018, 07:15:20 AM »
In a time when my parents struggled financially, my grandparents occasionally gave them an envelope with a 3 year state obligation paper worth a few hundred dollars. This was only during special occasions, like birthdays. Something like that could be a nice extra gift some time. I wouldn't enable a person to be living beyond their means on a permanent basis.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2018, 02:48:06 AM by Linda_Norway »

FIRE 20/20

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2018, 10:56:07 AM »
We have had to deal with this a few times, and it's varied each time.  Our general rule of thumb is to try to assess whether or not the person has a plan and a reasonable chance of executing the plan.  One family member was coming out of prison for something very dumb that they did, but it wasn't something we were at all ready to pile on continuing punishment for.  He put together a plan to get a degree in gemology, in part because he could work as his own boss with his record.  We believed that his plan was reasonable, executable, and would help him turn his life around.  We split the entire cost including books, lodging, etc. with another family member and it has worked out very well.  Not only is he in a much better place financially, I think he's far more stable and productive because of the understanding that his family really does care and wants him to succeed.
Another person has trouble coming up with money for rent, gas, and food, but will not avail themselves of any social services to which they are entitled, goes out to movies, eats meals out, and shows no sign of trying to get a job or make any change.  We have bailed that person out from some really horrible situations, but keep that spending relatively low. 
We have some other situations that are harder.  We have a family member who both physically and mentally is incapable of earning a degree or holding many kinds of jobs.  Due to a small inheritance this isn't an urgent situation, but it will be within a few years.  We haven't worked out what we're going to do, but doing nothing is not an option.  We just haven't figured out what a good option might be.  Fully supporting this person in perpetuity doesn't feel like an option but leaving them homeless and hungry because they didn't win the genetic lottery isn't an option either.  We haven't figured out a middle path. 

Arlo86

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2018, 11:37:29 PM »
Thank you all for the replies, I really appreciate it. Each of your stories has a part that resonates with the situation I’m dealing with right now. I guess the story I relate the most is Fire 20/20’s about figuring out the middle path.

Just to share a little, this person is my maternal aunt. My grandparents were poor and the kids (10 of them, all girls) were raised with the mindset that they were going to marry and be a housewife someday. Only 3 went to university and my mom was one of them. The rest of the siblings eventually found their ways but this particular aunt always seems to be struggling, as I said I think due to a combination of her character (she is quite meek) and lack of education.

To be honest, she is kind of a bummer to be around but I don’t think shutting her out completely is the way to go.

I want to strike the right balance between being helpful and maintaining a healthy boundary. Thankfully I live in a different country so it’s quite easy to do. I only recently got back in touch with her through Whatsapp because of the wedding.

Just an update, she suddenly texted me asking me to buy her a data plan so that she could continue using Whatsapp. I don’t appreciate this, just a few days of getting back in touch and she wasted no time asking for me to pay for something. This makes it easier, though, I will definitely not give her cash.

Ideally, I would want to help her get out of the mindset that there will be someone else who will take care of her (this was what she learned growing up as she was taught that a woman was supposed to have a husband to take care of her). IMHO, she always hides behind self-pity masquerading as fake humility (I’m very poor, I can’t afford things, etc.) to avoid actually doing something because she hasn’t let go of the mindset that she grew up with.

I just don’t want her perpetuating this mindset with her kids. She did that with her first born, who chose to work as a factory worker earning minimum wage right after high school and then got married and have kids in her late teens, all because having a husband and a family is considered an achievement with this kind of mindset. Now they’re all struggling to pay for things because they were never financially stable to begin with. If I’m not mistaken, my aunt still has two other school-age kids and I’m really hoping I could help them break the chain.

So far my plan would be to meet her over lunch, give her some hand-me-downs, and send her back with some food for her kids. I will have to prepare myself for any emotional manipulation that she might do and not give her any cash. I really wish I could strike a deal with her, perhaps paying for her children’s education but under some conditions e.g. must earn straight As, etc. but I honestly think her mindset of ‘being taken care of’ is too deeply ingrained in her.

I know you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help herself, I just hate to see her wallowing in self-pity when she can actually live a decent life if only she could start owning up to it.

Arlo86

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2018, 07:31:39 AM »
Guys, just a little update, and a shoutout to Villanelle who suggested I think of the cause of her poverty in order to determine how to help her best.

I've been chatting with her and been thinking a lot about her situation and have come to the conclusion that the root of her problem is her mindset. Yes, there is the undeniable fact that she's got a rough life but everyone (eventually) learns life is unfair and we play the cards we're dealt with. However, she never gets past the self-pity party stage and therefore she could never pull herself by the bootstrap and people are avoiding her because she is such a bummer (conversations with her will always lead to her lack of money and poor living conditions, and if show sympathy, she will inevitably ask for handouts).

I think everyone just doesn't know how to tell her 'stop with the pity party, will ya? and start doing something!' because she may interpret that as mean as opposed to tough love.

I've been researching Christian counseling in her area (she told me she goes to church so I think she might be more open to Christian-based counseling). I plan to talk to her about going to counseling next time we meet. I will pay for it because then there is no way she would misuse the money as I will pay directly to the organization.

Just thought other people dealing with similar situation could use this as an idea.

Fishindude

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2018, 10:04:28 AM »
If you have any "work" that you could pay her to do, I think that would be much more rewarding for her and you get a little something in return.
Pay a premium rate if you want.

Lady SA

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2018, 11:58:59 AM »
Guys, just a little update, and a shoutout to Villanelle who suggested I think of the cause of her poverty in order to determine how to help her best.

I've been chatting with her and been thinking a lot about her situation and have come to the conclusion that the root of her problem is her mindset. Yes, there is the undeniable fact that she's got a rough life but everyone (eventually) learns life is unfair and we play the cards we're dealt with. However, she never gets past the self-pity party stage and therefore she could never pull herself by the bootstrap and people are avoiding her because she is such a bummer (conversations with her will always lead to her lack of money and poor living conditions, and if show sympathy, she will inevitably ask for handouts).

I think everyone just doesn't know how to tell her 'stop with the pity party, will ya? and start doing something!' because she may interpret that as mean as opposed to tough love.

I've been researching Christian counseling in her area (she told me she goes to church so I think she might be more open to Christian-based counseling). I plan to talk to her about going to counseling next time we meet. I will pay for it because then there is no way she would misuse the money as I will pay directly to the organization.

Just thought other people dealing with similar situation could use this as an idea.

Have you thought about how you will pose this solution to her? Offering counseling might come off a bit condescending (ie you think there is something "wrong" with her and needs to be fixed) so make sure you put some thought into how you approach this. It could backfire badly, are you prepared for that?

I would suggest bringing up in casual conversation what she thinks about counseling. Some people have a very negative view of it. But if she seems positive about it helping other people, then that is valuable information to have.
I would hesitate to suggest her going to counseling unless you had first-had experience with counseling and could say something like "you know, I went to a few counseling sessions and they were really helpful with addressing a problem I was having in my life. Have you ever thought about going to one? Perhaps they may have some alternative ideas to help with [problem she recently complained about]."


However, I really do think this will be awkward -- counseling really only works if the patient truly desires to make changes in their life and has the drive to seek that help to change. If she isn't really interested in it for whatever reason, she could easily get offended.

Instead, I suggest you gently "confront" her when she starts moaning about her circumstances. You say she never gets past the pity party stage to the problem solving stage -- you don't have to be mean about it, approach it as more of a curious, loving person who wants to know more about her and her circumstances, but firm in moving her out of self-pity and keep bringing the conversation back to problem solving and prompting her to brainstorm or generate ideas, and it is very important to validate both her capability and ability to solve this herself, her intelligence, etc in a genuine way. I do this all the time as a facilitator.

"blah blah blah my life is so hard because I'm poor! If I could just have $20..."
"what do you think would help your situation, Suzy?"
"huh? well, nothing. I'm just stuck in this poverty cycle forever. There's nothing I can do."
*upbeat* "I don't believe that for one second! I think you are a really smart person and there are so many opportunities out there. I'm sure we can solve this. Let's try to think of some ideas!"
"what's the point? Nothing will ever change."
*smiling* "not with that attitude! Here, we will both take a blank piece of paper. Lets see who can come up with the most crazy, outlandish solutions to your money problems in 3 minutes. Winning the lottery, starting a lemonade stand, counterfeiting, kidnapping someone rich for ransom..." ((you are priming her with this, and try to lead her towards ideas that generate continual income, not just one-off windfalls. I just put some random ones in there that I thought of first that are mostly windfalls because those are easy)) -- an added bonus, you could sneak in "financial counseling" or some such into your list and spark a conversation about it.

Now, take your lists and laugh at them. Talk about how fun/crazy/amazing those outlandish ones would be. Then notice a more realistic one and comment on it and see what her reaction is. Bring the conversation more toward realistic solutions. You'll see her start to engage a bit more, sitting up straighter, paying more attention -- people naturally begin to do this when a problem that is bothering them has a solution that is starting to take shape. But still keep the conversation light and no-pressure, you don't want to spook her. What you want with this first conversation is to expose her to this new problem-solving mindset. Look! There was a problem, and look at all the cool, fun, and also realistic ideas we came up with to actually solve it! Gauge her reaction to this, if she is getting overwhelmed or annoyed or tired, you can leave it there. But if she seems encouraging, you could push it a bit more and see if she is interested in pursuing one of the ideas. If yes, great! You can help her there. If not, then leave it alone and drift the conversation to something else.

Now, keep doing this. Redirect her EVERY TIME she starts going down the self-pity spiral and attempt to turn her mind towards problem-solving. Keep turning her back and back and back even if she tries to return to her comfort zone, but reiterate that you think she is smart and capable enough to solve this.
Meet every mopey "I'm poor and sad" with some variation of  "Do you have any ideas on how to handle this?" "How would you like to handle that?" "What would make this better?" "What could you do to help the situation?" "what do you want to DO about it?" "Are there any solutions we haven't thought of?" "What else?" -- all encouraging, all cheerful, and also firm. Doing this redirection instantly shifts the conversation and mindset from passive to active, and she is more likely to follow through because SHE generated the ideas herself and has pride in that.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2018, 12:22:27 PM »
Okay, you've already gotten lots of input, but here's the thing...

Your aunt doesn't want your help figuring out how to work/fix things.

She wants you to shut up and give her money/stuff. Period.

She's a mooch. She's been raised to be a mooch and any attempts to do anything other than give her what she's asking for (money/stuff) will be met with her tried and true "wah, boo hoo, poor me I can't do what you're proposing because REASONS" and you'll feel bad, and she'll get sad/pitiful/indignant because you dared to try to fix something she doesn't want fixed.

I'm not saying she's deliberately with malice setting out to take advantage of friends/family, but she's learned how to manipulate others to get what she wants and that is her normal. And your attempts to help her be better with money or get a job and stop being a mooch are going to hit her as insulting and criticizing her life and herself more importantly not accomplish all that much in the grand scheme of things other than piss her off and frustrate yourself.

You can ask her if she wants help figuring out how to get work, budget, etc., but if she tells you no - and it can be a "maybe, but EXCUSES" way of saying passive/aggressively "No" - then you need to step away.

Ultimately, you can only control yourself. You can't fix others that don't want your help and really, it's not your job or your responsibility to force help on them either.

So decide - do you want to throw a few bucks towards her for maybe her birthday or special holiday to make yourself feel better? Then do so. Tell her that it is a one time gift, and you're open to sitting down with her to help figure out how to get a job, apply for benefits, get job training... if you want to help her further. If she says no, then you've done what you can do, and you can politely but firmly tell her no when she asks you for more money/stuff.


Arlo86

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2018, 08:27:24 PM »
Perhaps I should elaborate.

I definitely won't say "Yo, auntie, here's a counseling group, now get!". It will be more of a gentle push, sneaking it in the conversation as Lady SA suggested, and it definitely won't happen over one wedding weekend. I started this thread wanting to know a responsible way to help her, and I've come to the conclusion that throwing money at her won't do that, nor will it make me feel better about myself for having it 'better than her'. That's not what this is all about.

I think we were all lost at one point or another in our lives. I was. And I'm forever grateful for the people who took the time to point me in the right direction so I guess I'd like to pay it forward.

singpolyma

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2018, 06:57:24 AM »
Not a suggestion for the particular situation, but responding to the general topic. One thing I've done quite a bit is loaning family members money. Now, you have to have the right attitude about this. I mostly loan the money where they *could* (or already have) borrow from a commercial institution, but I can offer them more flexible terms and a lower rate, which helps them out. And they have to pay back either in full or *very* regularly before I will loan more. I don't ever assume I'll see the money back, but so far I always have eventually.  I make sure when loaning to ask what their planned amount to pay back per month is, which I think really puts them in the mindset that this is something they should pay.

Linda_Norway

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2018, 07:18:42 AM »
Not a suggestion for the particular situation, but responding to the general topic. One thing I've done quite a bit is loaning family members money. Now, you have to have the right attitude about this. I mostly loan the money where they *could* (or already have) borrow from a commercial institution, but I can offer them more flexible terms and a lower rate, which helps them out. And they have to pay back either in full or *very* regularly before I will loan more. I don't ever assume I'll see the money back, but so far I always have eventually.  I make sure when loaning to ask what their planned amount to pay back per month is, which I think really puts them in the mindset that this is something they should pay.

To me the aunt in this particular case doesn't sound like she will pay back the loan as agreed on. I would not lend her money.

To the OP, I would in this case also not teach her that she can borrow money from you and that you'll eventually give up on getting the loaned money back. This will teach you she can do that more often in the future. Remember this is a mooching person. You are her victim that is to be exploited. Do not let her do that.

Roadrunner53

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #18 on: October 11, 2018, 07:25:54 AM »
Arlo86, I have a friend who lost everything due to bankruptcy. She moved to another state to be close to her grown child. Put a down payment on a brand new home. She finally got settled in and looked for a job. Could not find anything. This was back about 10 years ago. She had management and banking jobs in the past but jobs were scarce and I think age discrimination too. Just as she was in foreclosure, she got a job at Walmart. It would have been enough to pay the mortgage but the bank wouldn't work with her and she lost the house. She lost her car too. She was in dire straits. Her child bought her a used car and a friend helped her buy a mobile home. She is still working at Walmart and is poor but careful with her money.

Can you encourage your aunt to get a job at Walmart? Goodwill helps people too. They train them and pay them. Some people do not have work skills. In my town there is a culinary school that is a non profit and the students (young and older) go for free. It is a two month training course with internship at different venues like restaurants, hospitals, hotel restaurants, etc. It isn't to train these people to be chefs but to acquire cooking skills for short order cooking. There are lots of opportunities in restaurants. You could get in touch with your State unemployment department to see if there are other types of training courses offered.

She needs to get a job and her self esteem will rise once she starts earning a paycheck where she doesn't have to ask others for money. Good luck in helping her.

Rosy

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #19 on: October 11, 2018, 09:41:05 AM »
Others are saying not to give cash, but I am not so sure. My mother is suffering financially because my father is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s.  The monthly expenses for him have taken a great chunk out of their otherwise comfortable retirement (pensions, SS, savings). Additionally, though, there have been some bad decisions around supporting my unmarried sister and niece.  Much of their savings has been evaporated in this effort.  So Mom has asked me to give money every month.  I send her $100 monthly, even though I disapprove of her expenditures and the fact that she charges neither rent nor utilities to my sister.  Mr. Piano, a proto-mustachian, has also been grumbling about how « she has more luxuries in her life than we do ». We do not send money for all of her « needs », just this fixed $100.

The fact is, she needs help and feels bad about her finances.  Finally two weeks ago, after my sending cash for more than a year, she asked if I could come and help her sell her house.  She wants to be rid of the free-loading offspring and live somewhere she can afford.  The equity from the house will allow her to paycash for a tiny condo without room for Sis and niece.  Yes, it’s true that Mom does not know how to manage her money! Over 54 years of marriage Dad took care of everything.  I view it as my gift from Allah to have the money and time to fly down and help her sell her home and buy a new one.  If she is willing to have me, I would also thank God for the chance to monitor and pay her expenditures from the retirement funds and make her last years easier.  By helping her with steady small support, she has become more trusting and more willing to see how the daughter can actually help her without trying to « run her life », which is making her more open to accepting more advice/direction.

As for my sister? She will have to make her way in the best way she can.  I will not be taking over the financial or other responsibilities connected to enabling her lifestyle.

I'll offer that perhaps if you hadn't spent her that $100/mo, she may have come to this responsible decision much sooner, before throwing that money down the drain.  Your $100/mo allowed her to continue to support the freeloading sister, live in a house she needed to sell, have luxuries she couldn't afford, and be "bad" with her money.  And it enabled your sister to not get her own figurative house in order, too.  I think that's why so many of us say not to send money.  Because most of the time, it just enables the behavior that creates the problem in the first place.  And the money doesn't end up lifting the person out of poverty, because in most (not all) cases, they are in poverty because of decisions, not crazy unexpected happenings.  Granted, often times those decisions come simply from a place of ignorance, but when cash infusions allow continued ignorance, they aren't making anyone's life better.  They just vanish into that black hole of bad decisions and ignorance. 

It sounds like what you are trying to do now with your mom will actually make her life better, in a sustainable way.  That $100 habit didn't , but helping her sell her how, managing her finances for her, looking at her budget and helping her make cuts, etc. actually will.  And that those things happen to be free is just an extra bonus, with the real prize being that it should make your mom's life better and easier. 

Clearly different choices are going to be or feel right for different people.  But in general, giving someone their vice of choice just enables problem behavior.  I wouldn't give beer to an alcoholic and I won't give money to a problematic spendthrift.  I will offer support and help and knowledge and time and resources to either, if they are wanted.

Villannelle, I find myself in total disagreement with you in this particular situation. My first thought was, "Oh, please - do you really expect a woman who has never (decades) handled her own finances to miraculously know what good or bad money decisions are?"
Quote from Mrs. Piano:
"By helping her with steady small support, she has become more trusting and more willing to see how the daughter can actually help her without trying to « run her life », which is making her more open to accepting more advice/direction.

Finding oneself in a tough financial situation when you thought all was well with your finances and retirement - seeing your husband's decline into Alzheimers - finally realizing that your own daughter is causing you financial harm and another daughter who appears to want to step into your husband's shoes and tell you how to "run your life"...

I am impressed that Mom is willing to take steps to secure her own financial future. It bodes well, that she has the smarts and clarity to properly evaluate her current situation. However, it looks like she may not yet have found the strength to face her other daughter and tell her in no uncertain terms that it is time for her to grow up and move on and build her own life - no matter how tough that life may be at first.

I'd say, yes, she needed a bit of time to see for herself how past poor decisions are impacting her savings and her financial life going forward. She also needed to experience and appreciate for herself what the real-life consequences are of a perpetual "freeloader".
It is sobering to realize the drain that children can quickly become on your finances, unless you are truly wealthy.

In general - I agree that of course, you do not want to support your child forever, but the reality is that shit happens and sometimes they need a year or so to find their way. I don't know the circumstances of the sister staying with Mom, maybe there were good reasons to begin with. However, living with family without making any sort of contribution and without working on improving your own circumstances so that you can move on, move out or become a major contributor to the household is intolerable and unacceptable in the long run.

Naturally, a mother wants to help her children - at least in my world:). It is incredibly hard to draw the line and say, "Look, I can no longer help you. It is destroying my own financial future and draining all my resources."
I'll be there for you and try to help financially whenever I can, but right now, I am in trouble myself and you are not helping. I know it will be tough for you for a while, but I trust that you can find your way.

Mrs. Piano, I do think you are seeing clearly about what sort of family dynamic you have and may have found the key to dealing with your mother successfully. Communications are not always easy when they concern money and family, but by giving your mother time to see for herself what the consequences are (even if it meant her losing thousands in savings:(, it cleared the path for you to step in and help your mother navigate her own financial future.
There will probably always be decisions or acquisitions you disapprove of, that's OK. I suspect this was a huge learning curve and a somewhat bitter experience for your mother. I bet she will be much relieved to have it all sorted out - good luck!


Mrs.Piano

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2018, 10:03:33 AM »
Thanks, Rosy, for your careful analysis and kind suggestions. I will offer some of your phrasing to Mom as she considers what and how she is going to communicate with my sister about the future. Mom needs to be reminded that she is both smart and wise, and that she can learn to make good financial decisions, and that I will help and support her.

Villanelle

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #21 on: October 11, 2018, 10:26:06 PM »
Others are saying not to give cash, but I am not so sure. My mother is suffering financially because my father is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s.  The monthly expenses for him have taken a great chunk out of their otherwise comfortable retirement (pensions, SS, savings). Additionally, though, there have been some bad decisions around supporting my unmarried sister and niece.  Much of their savings has been evaporated in this effort.  So Mom has asked me to give money every month.  I send her $100 monthly, even though I disapprove of her expenditures and the fact that she charges neither rent nor utilities to my sister.  Mr. Piano, a proto-mustachian, has also been grumbling about how « she has more luxuries in her life than we do ». We do not send money for all of her « needs », just this fixed $100.

The fact is, she needs help and feels bad about her finances.  Finally two weeks ago, after my sending cash for more than a year, she asked if I could come and help her sell her house.  She wants to be rid of the free-loading offspring and live somewhere she can afford.  The equity from the house will allow her to paycash for a tiny condo without room for Sis and niece.  Yes, it’s true that Mom does not know how to manage her money! Over 54 years of marriage Dad took care of everything.  I view it as my gift from Allah to have the money and time to fly down and help her sell her home and buy a new one.  If she is willing to have me, I would also thank God for the chance to monitor and pay her expenditures from the retirement funds and make her last years easier.  By helping her with steady small support, she has become more trusting and more willing to see how the daughter can actually help her without trying to « run her life », which is making her more open to accepting more advice/direction.

As for my sister? She will have to make her way in the best way she can.  I will not be taking over the financial or other responsibilities connected to enabling her lifestyle.

I'll offer that perhaps if you hadn't spent her that $100/mo, she may have come to this responsible decision much sooner, before throwing that money down the drain.  Your $100/mo allowed her to continue to support the freeloading sister, live in a house she needed to sell, have luxuries she couldn't afford, and be "bad" with her money.  And it enabled your sister to not get her own figurative house in order, too.  I think that's why so many of us say not to send money.  Because most of the time, it just enables the behavior that creates the problem in the first place.  And the money doesn't end up lifting the person out of poverty, because in most (not all) cases, they are in poverty because of decisions, not crazy unexpected happenings.  Granted, often times those decisions come simply from a place of ignorance, but when cash infusions allow continued ignorance, they aren't making anyone's life better.  They just vanish into that black hole of bad decisions and ignorance. 

It sounds like what you are trying to do now with your mom will actually make her life better, in a sustainable way.  That $100 habit didn't , but helping her sell her how, managing her finances for her, looking at her budget and helping her make cuts, etc. actually will.  And that those things happen to be free is just an extra bonus, with the real prize being that it should make your mom's life better and easier. 

Clearly different choices are going to be or feel right for different people.  But in general, giving someone their vice of choice just enables problem behavior.  I wouldn't give beer to an alcoholic and I won't give money to a problematic spendthrift.  I will offer support and help and knowledge and time and resources to either, if they are wanted.

Villannelle, I find myself in total disagreement with you in this particular situation. My first thought was, "Oh, please - do you really expect a woman who has never (decades) handled her own finances to miraculously know what good or bad money decisions are?"
Quote from Mrs. Piano:
"By helping her with steady small support, she has become more trusting and more willing to see how the daughter can actually help her without trying to « run her life », which is making her more open to accepting more advice/direction.

Finding oneself in a tough financial situation when you thought all was well with your finances and retirement - seeing your husband's decline into Alzheimers - finally realizing that your own daughter is causing you financial harm and another daughter who appears to want to step into your husband's shoes and tell you how to "run your life"...

I am impressed that Mom is willing to take steps to secure her own financial future. It bodes well, that she has the smarts and clarity to properly evaluate her current situation. However, it looks like she may not yet have found the strength to face her other daughter and tell her in no uncertain terms that it is time for her to grow up and move on and build her own life - no matter how tough that life may be at first.

I'd say, yes, she needed a bit of time to see for herself how past poor decisions are impacting her savings and her financial life going forward. She also needed to experience and appreciate for herself what the real-life consequences are of a perpetual "freeloader".
It is sobering to realize the drain that children can quickly become on your finances, unless you are truly wealthy.

In general - I agree that of course, you do not want to support your child forever, but the reality is that shit happens and sometimes they need a year or so to find their way. I don't know the circumstances of the sister staying with Mom, maybe there were good reasons to begin with. However, living with family without making any sort of contribution and without working on improving your own circumstances so that you can move on, move out or become a major contributor to the household is intolerable and unacceptable in the long run.

Naturally, a mother wants to help her children - at least in my world:). It is incredibly hard to draw the line and say, "Look, I can no longer help you. It is destroying my own financial future and draining all my resources."
I'll be there for you and try to help financially whenever I can, but right now, I am in trouble myself and you are not helping. I know it will be tough for you for a while, but I trust that you can find your way.

Mrs. Piano, I do think you are seeing clearly about what sort of family dynamic you have and may have found the key to dealing with your mother successfully. Communications are not always easy when they concern money and family, but by giving your mother time to see for herself what the consequences are (even if it meant her losing thousands in savings:(, it cleared the path for you to step in and help your mother navigate her own financial future.
There will probably always be decisions or acquisitions you disapprove of, that's OK. I suspect this was a huge learning curve and a somewhat bitter experience for your mother. I bet she will be much relieved to have it all sorted out - good luck!

No, I don't expect her to just magically know what good decisions are.  Did you read both my posts?!?!  I offered things like helping her work through a budget.  That's is the opposite of what you took away from my post--it's an offer to help her lear what good decisions are.  And then to help her make them, with things like helping her sell her house, helping her find a job, etc.  I didn't just suggest doing nothing so she can magically start making better decisions.  I suggested providing help in the form of education and assistance, not money.   

Steady and small support in the form of money, with no accompanying assistance to see what better decisions might be and how to regularly make those decisions is rarely going to work.  I made the comparison to addiction and I'll do so again.  Without addressing underlying mental (or other) issues, and without teaching the addict how to battle their addiction and have a sober mindset, there will almost never be recovery.  So giving them a bottle of vodka when they have the DTs isn't really helping them.    It's kind of insulting that you seem to have assumed I just recommended simply cutting off anyone who needs help.  I suggested offering many kinds of help instead of (or at least only in addition too) handing over money.  Those are very much not the same things. 

My first post, in case you missed it (How on earth does this sounds like "miraculously expecting her to make better decisions"?):
Quote
What is the main cause of her poverty?  Or really, what is the biggest obstacle she faces when trying to get out of poverty?  Figure that out, and you may find the best way to help her.

Personally, I would be unlikely to offer money, especially without a very specific, non-chronic need. (IOW, I might pay off a medical bill, but not just give her $100 because she is struggling in a general, on-going way.)  I'd take a "teach a man to fish approach".  Offer to help her take a deep dive into her finances with her and see what can be changed/helped/adjusted (much like a case study here), and if she's not interested, then she's not all that interested in changing her life, in which case you can't want it more than she does, so you continue giving some hand me downs as you see fit, and that's it, because a bit more money is unlikely to change anything. 

It's unclear from your post whether she has a regular, full time job.  Offer to help her find one (and mean it, in a specific way, if you offer).  Offer to take her shopping for interview clothing, if it gets to that point and that seems to be a problem.  Maybe even offer to pay for some kind of education, if she's interested.  I wouldn't do any of these things unless she expresses interest during a casual, testing conversation, because it could very easily come off as judgmental or condescending.  Offer to help her find programs for which she might qualify (SNAP, WIC...).  Or scholarships for school or vocational training.    If she lives near you, consider using her for services you might otherwise pay someone else to do, like babysitting, house or dog sitting, etc.  Or help her find a cheaper apartment, or whatever else seems like it is significantly contributing to the ongoing issue.

Basically, I'm a fan of helping people, but doing so by treating causes, not just symptoms.  And it's also a great way to see if they are serious about changing their situation, or of they just want to be handed some free money.  *IF* they prove serious and *if* they take other positive steps, then cash may help, too. 
« Last Edit: October 11, 2018, 10:27:59 PM by Villanelle »

AMandM

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Re: Need Advice on How to Help Less Fortunate Family Members Responsibly
« Reply #22 on: October 12, 2018, 06:49:13 AM »
Arlo86, another possibility for your aunt would be some kind of financial guidance through her church or another nearby one.  Many churches have mentorship programs that help with budgeting skills, job seeking, etc.  They can also address the underlying mindset issues, possibly in a way that your aunt will receive more favorably than the suggestion of counseling.  For instance, the idea that the Lord helps those who help themselves, or that she has a duty to be a good steward of the gifts (however small) God has blessed her with, may spur her to action.