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We are raised by parents to be nice to our brothers and sisters, to care for them and about them and to share with them – after all, they are family.
But what if you have a sibling that for one reason or another, repeatedly requests financial help. Whether or not you can give it, or even should give it – you feel guilty if you do not.
Perhaps your sibling has a drug problem and wants to buy more drugs with the money. Perhaps your sibling has been repeatedly fired and can’t make his house payments. What if your sibling just flat out refuses to do anything to support herself and wants you to do so for her?
How do you determine when enough is enough? How do you say no to a sibling’s request and still sleep well at night?
We all know that giving or lending money to a friend or relative can be a recipe for disaster. You expect to get the money back, or short that, you expect something else in return – whether that be fawning thank yous and love, or weekends for a year mowing your yard for you. If you don’t get the expected return, your relationship becomes strained.
Smart Money in The Sibling Sinkhole reported: ‘ “Money often is the adulthood trigger for childhood issues,” says Suzanne Slater, a Northampton, Mass.-based psychotherapist specializing in family wealth dynamics. On the asking side of the equation, experts say, the risk includes not only the shame brought on by sibling competition and the resentment of being beholden, but also the prospect that a buttinsky brother or sister will feel justified in doling out heavy doses of advice with their dollars. There’s also the “hidden string” factor, where the receiving party is pressured to, say, spend weekends expressing gratitude by cleaning his brother’s gutters. ‘
Financial therapists claim the line between compassion and enabling is frequently a blurry one. This Smart Money article went on to say that “These days, it seems, being seen as the moneybags of the brood can put a bull’s-eye on your back, whether you succeeded in business, invested savvily, married well — or just didn’t squander the family inheritance “
So, how do you say no to sibling requests for money?
Below are a few tactics to help you say no, if you have decided that enough is enough, and to help you remain sane and relatively guilt free while doing so!
Consciously and deliberately decide (ahead of time) what you will do if asked for financial help. For every action you take, there is another action you cannot take. Think about what your decision will do to your situation, why you think you want to make this decision (is it just to make yourself feel good or meet someone else’s expectations?), think about what it will do to your sibling, think about alternative outcomes your sibling could pursue.
Plan a Speech
Develop an elevator speech – a very short (1 minute or so) prepared speech to control the conversation. Have a policy (have to talk over with the wife or I don’t mix money with family relationships). Keep it businesslike and a bit formal and use this speech to prevent the conversation from becoming a high pressure appeal to your heartstrings.
Take Baby Steps
Start by saying no to small things. Sibs, in an article entitled ‘Dealing with Guilt’ suggests that this can help you practice saying no and seeing that the world does not come to an end and that others in your circle will come to respect your decision.
Say No the Right Way
The Tower of Power site suggests that you will be more successful saying no if you use the right No. The site lists the below kinds of ‘No’:
- General No: Just say no – because in general you don’t do xyz – good for money requests.
- Delayed No: Buy time by saying you will get back to them later (maybe they will get the money some other way).
- Conditional No: Say no, unless these conditions are met. However, be prepared to cough up the dough if your sib does meet your conditions, so be careful with this one.
- Painful No: Say no and state why it would be more painful in the future if you said yes now. If I give you money now sis, you will never learn to stand on your own two feet – then what will you do when I am gone?
- Alternative solution No: Say no, but suggest another solution.
- Repetitive No: Just keep saying your no phrase the same way with each request.
- Respectful No: Please respect my decision and stop asking.
Give yourself permission to NOT feel guilty.
Sibs also suggests that you try acknowledging that you don’t need to feel guilty, because you had nothing to do with creating the situation causing your sibling to request help from you.
They say “Recognize that other people’s expectations of how you should behave as a sibling are simply that – their expectations.” Your behavior doesn’t necessarily have to meet their expectations.
Use Alternate Solutions
Look for non-monetary resolutions.
A US News Money article suggests that giving money may not be the best solution for you.
This is similar to using the ‘Alternate solution No described above. If your sister is unwilling to go out and get a job to support herself, spend a few minutes searching for counseling help. For instance, say she has been out of work for 15 years and has repeatedly gotten into financial difficulties because of spending, hoarding and giving habits. She has not been able to pay the real estate property taxes on your parent’s house (which she inherited) and has come to you for help. You don’t want her to be homeless but you have already helped and have seen no behavior change. Your alternative solution might be to help her find a county, state or federal agency that tries to keep the homeless situation under control. They will typically have counseling available to re-train people to get jobs, manage finances and etc.
Be firm and unequivocal in saying no.
Your body language, tone of voice, eye contact and words all contribute to whether your sibling really believes you are saying no, or whether they feel they can wheedle money out of you in spite of your no.
If you decide that your sibling needs to be rescued this time, but that this is the last time you can or will be the rescuer – tell them so. Let that lazy bum of a sister know that you will not be willing to help out next time and that you expect her to start supporting herself!
Consider how saying no will be helpful to your sibling. If you give in and give money, you may be hampering your sibling instead of helping.
Financial therapists believe that there are money maladies that need to be handled with therapy – two of which Financial Dependence and Financial enabling – neither is considered healthy in normal, able, adults.
According to Counselor – the Magazine for Addition Professionals, “Financial dependents often feel that the money they receive comes with strings attached, which creates feelings of resentment or anger, but their anxiety about being cut off from that unearned income keeps them playing the game” and Financial enablers “often feel resentment or anger after giving money to others, feeling as though others are taking advantage of them. Often, their self-esteem is entangled in their perception of themselves as a helper.”
Readers, what do you do when a sibling or other non-parent relative asks you for money? How do you feel about your decision and how did you communicate it to your sib?