Dear Mouthy Housewives,
I’m having trouble being understanding. My sister and her husband seem determined to live like the Bill and Melinda Gates on a peasant's salary. Every time I think they’ve hit rock bottom and they're finally going to learn a valuable lesson, they surprise me by how much worse they can get. I don’t want to sit through any more depression and offer sympathy and support. My husband and I are living financially smart. We budget and save for the future.
I offered to pay for finance classes the last time reality hit them, but they applied a quick band-aid by going even deeper in debt. How can I stay clear of this drama without cutting my sister off? It seems like this happens at least every couple of months.
I'm feeling generous with the free advice today, so let me give it to you straight. You do not have to be understanding of your sister and her husband's financial mismanagement. Assuming that they are adults and can make decisions of their own free will, you do not have to offer sympathy and support, either.
What you need to do is have one conversation with them, or if you are more comfortable, with your sister alone. One conversation.
During this one conversation , strip all emotion of "You always do this!" and "I give up!" and let her know that you think she is making irresponsible choices.
Give concrete examples. If they're buying iPads on credit, do a quick back of the envelope calculation to let her know how much it will end up costing them with interest. Some people use the "I'm not good at math or financially savvy!" excuse to bury their heads in the economic quicksand (see, United States of America credit crunch, circa late 2000s to OMG, when will it be over already?!). If that is your sister's situation, then maybe putting concrete numbers out there will help her focus.
But it may not work. As we've learned from watching Dr. Phil, a person has to want to change, and we can't do it for them. (Believe me, I've tried with my neighbor's hair color. Colors found in nature only, lady.)
Tell her what you are willing to do. Your offer of money management classes is an excellent one and hopefully your sister and her husband will appreciate it enough to accept. Would you be okay working on a budget with your sister? Helping brainstorm ways to cut costs?
Whatever the outcome is, make sure your sister knows ways in which you are willing to be supportive. But let her know that a pity party won't be one of them.
Photo Credit: 401K.
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