Helping Family Members

Recently in the personal finance blogosphere there have been some posts about helping family members financially, so I thought I’d share my own “helping family members” story. As I read through all these posts, of course I thought of my own family, and our current financial situation. We are not in a position to help anyone at this point in time, which makes it simple – I mean, we don’t have to feel any inclination or obligation to help anyone.

Whenever I think of helping out family members, I think of my frugal Grandma.  She was frugal and green before it was cool and fashionable.  She tracked every single penny, her bills were few, and she helped family with anything.

English: Schutt family in Queensland including...

English: Schutt family in Queensland including Grandma Christina Schutt. (Description supplied with photograph.). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The only problem is some family members were always needing help, and always expecting a handout from Grandma.  My mom was involved with a church that was more like a cult, and they were constantly on my mom to give money. One of the things they would get my mom on was to give her a lot of pressure because my Grandma and Grandpa didn’t go to church regularly, which meant they didn’t tithe and so they owed God money anyway. My mom would get scared due to threats made by the pastor, things like God would take his hand (of protection) off us, and we would be vulnerable to “attacks” from the “enemy”. Or that God would outright punish my mom or bad things would happen to my Grandma and Grandpa. So my mom would give our grocery money to the pastor, and then she’d have to get money from my Grandma in order to feed our family. My mom was unable to break off that relationship for fourteen years.

Then there was my aunt, my mom’s sister. She lived out of town, and would come in every couple months or so to get a bunch of money from Grandma and Grandpa.  See, Grandpa and my aunt were closer, and he would call and complain to her, and say, “You better come get your share, your sister’s taking all our money.”

It wasn’t Grandpa’s money, actually.  Grandma is the one who worked forty years building up two pensions; she was in charge of their money and the one that hoarded it all away. Grandpa owned a restaurant, which Grandma told me never in all the fourteen years they owned it, made them any money. They were always in the hole. And when they sold the restaurant, the guy who bought it made the first payment, and never made any other payments after that.  My Grandma just let it slide and never took the guy to court or anything.

One of my sister’s was a frequent visitor at Grandma’s doorstep, needing money.  I was pretty close to her, and I’d see her buying things that she really didn’t need. I mean, if Grandma wasn’t around, she would have spent that money on FOOD instead.

I even borrowed money from my Grandma once. I legitimately needed it, and I only needed a couple hundred dollars to make my complete mortgage payment.  Grandma gave me the entire amount needed, and a week later I was at the credit union to pay her back. I called her on the phone to get her account number and she told me, “Mrs. Accountability, you had better not do that.”  I was a little freaked out, not sure what she meant by that. Well, she wanted me to keep the money, she and Grandpa had decided.  I went ahead and paid them back anyway, and a week later we got a check in the mail for the same amount!  So she was bound and determined to pay me that amount.

One of my sisters claims she moved to another state to get away from the rest of us taking her money.  One time (about 12 years ago) I wanted to buy a video series on relationship therapy for $110. It was during the years when I was getting out of debt the first time. I could not have a credit card during those years, and I was short $50. It was a limited time offer for a series that I still have and have used over the years (AJ is currently watching the series and burning it to DVD for me). Anyway, I needed an extra $50, and I asked my sister if she could charge the item for me, and I would pay her back the next month. She freaked out on me, because she thought I was trying to take her money.

I ended up asking a friend of mine if she could help me out. She did. I paid her back, exactly as I had promised.

I guess my sister thought since she had a little bit of money everyone was going to do to her like she thought they’d done to Grandma, and take all her money.  I still cringe when I think about how I felt over that situation. I felt like a bum for even asking and I felt horrible that my sister didn’t trust me and thought that way about me.

My youngest sister is in trouble financially with a lot of credit card debt. She signed up with a debt consolidator, and I guess they didn’t care that she took on more debt with new cards, because that’s what she did. I told my mom eventually she won’t be able to apply for any more cards because one day soon the credit card companies are going to realize she can’t afford to pay them.

I guess with my family, I would be hard pressed to loan any of them money, simply because of our family history. It seems like my family would not try as hard to make it, if they knew they had a cushion to land on by borrowing money.    It’s not like I think they would go out and buy drugs or alcohol, I just think they will try harder, if they don’t have the option of being bailed out.

Well, I’m not in a position to loan money to anyone, so I’m glad I don’t have to think about whether I should or not.

What about you?  Are you in a position to help family?  Would you if you could?

This post was included at the 22nd Carnival of Money Stories 2 hosted at True Adventures in Money Hacking.

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5 comments to Helping Family Members

  • Thanks for the link, and especially for the interesting story! The whole family thing is a conundrum, isn’t it?

    I’ve helped out my son in the purchase of a house–probably a suicidal move for my finances (no, make that “definitely”), but I haven’t regretted it. He’s very responsible financially, has already taken on more of the mortgage and paid for a substantial amount of the fix-up (like four grand for a new air-conditioner, hevvin help us!). And it makes me feel a lot better to know he’s not living in a dangerous firetrap, which is where he was before we engineered this scheme.

    It’s improved his morale to the point where he’s finally thinking about going back to graduate school so he can get a better-paying (or at least more satisfying) job.

    [Reply]

  • I see that many of us have similar, yet strange, family finance issues. Luckily, none of my siblings or parents have ever asked us to borrow money. My father, whom I love dearly, has done some strange things. For instance he cashed out a life insurance policy in my name and didn’t tell me. Then, I received the bill saying that I could pay it back if I wanted to continue the policy, so I found out anyway.

    If I was ever asked by a family member to loan them money, I’d have to say it would have to be a very extreme situation. Mainly, due to the fact that I’ve never asked for help myself. Even when I was in dire straights, I sucked it up and just dealt with the consequences for better or worse.

    I too am not in a position at the moment to loan money, so I don’t need to worry about this right now, thank goodness!

    thanks for sharing the post-
    Little House

    [Reply]

  • I personally think that it’s not a question of whether I am in a position to lend money or not. It’s more of “when” and “why” should I lend money. If a family member asks me for help, my first thoughts would probably be why I should lend him; will I be helping him in the long haul, or might I just be instrumental to his laziness; how urgent does he need the money; am i prepared of the fact that the possibility of him not keeping his word might put a strain in our relationship? These are just few of the many things to consider, but it’s just the way it is. My Well Of wealth

    [Reply]

  • [...] Sometimes, you buy money orders and drop them in laundromats in poorer neighborhoods.  You also help out family members in need, but you are careful to help them in ways so that you are not enabling them. You always give the [...]

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