Although the economy is beginning to show signs of recovery, many people across the nation are still struggling financially. Many are out of work, bankrupt, or in the midst of home foreclosure. Some of these people may even be a close friend or family member.
Trying to decide what is appropriate to say or do to help a loved one dealing with financial turmoil can be tough. Here are a few tips that can help demystify the dilemmas you're having and ensure you're lending your loved one the support they need during a difficult time.
Recognize that everyone's financial circumstances are different.
"Before you respond to anything a friend says who is struggling financially, check in to see what buttons are getting pushed within you," says Paula Langguth Ryan, author of Bounce Back From Bankruptcy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Back On Your Financial Feet. "Usually, our response is based on a past experience we've had or a belief we have that was born out of that past experience. As a result, we wind up responding from our own fears or prejudices, rather than responding to what's going on in our friend's life."
Respect your loved one's privacy and situation.
Whether you have heard about a loved one's financial turmoil from others or have spotted red flags yourself, personal financial coach Kelly Long, CPA, says you shouldn't inquire about his or her financial situation unless he or she first raises the discussion with you directly.
What Long says you can do is keep your loved one's financial situation in mind the next time you invite him or her to socialize with you. "Choose an activity that is economical. Make sure your friend isn't pressured to spend any money at all if he or she resists."
Avoid overstepping boundaries when trying to help.
Should you pick up the check when you and your loved one go out or offer him or her a loan? In an effort to help your loved one, you may be tempted to do these things, but Long says these actions can make your loved one feel as though you're treating him or her like a charity case. "But also, don't pretend like the concern isn't there by continuing with your fabulously expensive lifestyle when he or she is around," adds Long. "Find a balance."
Point your loved one to helpful resources.
Rather than lend your loved one your own financial advice, which may be interpreted the wrong way, you may suggest resources that your friend can turn to privately to get the help and guidance they need. Mark Hoewing, manager of Content and Creative Services for InCharge Debt Solutions, says, "There are so many resources available on the Internet today. Sites like InCharge.org and many others have great resource pages where your friend can go to get free help, information, tips, counseling, advice, and much more."
Selena Dehne is a book publicist, freelance writer and lifelong Hoosier. She is a regular contributor for FabulousLiving.com and has published dozens of other articles on MSN.com and AOL.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SelenaDehne.