How to Say No When a Sibling Asks for Money

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iStock 000015742815XSmall4 How to Say No When a Sibling Asks for MoneyWe 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!

Be Deliberate

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.

iStock 000010326584XSmall How to Say No When a Sibling Asks for MoneyPlan 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.

iStock 000002745416XSmall3 150x150 How to Say No When a Sibling Asks for MoneyForget About Guilt

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.

Stay Firm

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.

Give Warning

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!

Act Wisely

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?


Comments

How to Say No When a Sibling Asks for Money — 43 Comments

    • It’s not easy, easing that guilt – and other family members often don’t help. Even an offhand remark by one of them (that really has nothing to do with the situation) can be interpreted by you as blame.

      Develop a mantra and repeat it to yourself. It’s not my fault, it’s not my fault…

  1. Luckily my relatives never ask me for money. I guess they’re either all pretty independent or just do well enough financially. I can be a bit of a pushover sometimes. So I probably would give in more than I should. I know I had a roommate or two that would expect me to bail them out if they were ever short on cash. I guess these same tips could’ve been used in that situation.

  2. Ugh, I hate this. My brother hasn’t asked me for money in awhile, but he used to use my credit card to pay his phone bill and then fail to pay me back. It definitely drove me crazy. I should have said no.

  3. :) My siblings know they have an ‘in house’ credit rating with me. The one’s who have borrowed smaller amounts and paid it back on an agreed upon schedule get to borrow larger amounts. It’s hard to say ‘no’. So, instead I say, ‘maybe’. Then work through the details. :)

  4. Marie, Nice post. I’d never give money to a sibling unless it was an unforseen emergency like an emergency operation was required to save their life, or something of that magnitude. I think it’s important to be responsible for your own financial affairs and not expect others to bail you out.

  5. My siblings and I have a huge age gap, so there are so many times when they ask me for video games, jamba juice, and just other random stuff. I always give in. I think a lot of this can’t be implemented with younger kids so I always gave in. Now that they are preteens, they understand money a lot more now and I always have to explain to them how much things cost and how I can’t afford it. They seem to get it. What they don’t understand is how much I have to work just to afford something. My brother (who’s 15) thinks that he will be making more money than me when he gets his first job out of college. Oh, the ignorance! :)

  6. Marie, this is such a wonderful article. It pulls on our deepest feelings when a sibling asks us for money. In the past we have “loaned” money to a relative, knowing full well that we would never get it back. Thankfully, they didn’t ask for more. We noted that shortly after the loan for their “desperate” financial situation they bought an item for almost the identical amount we’d loaned. It was for an antique they just couldn’t pass up.

    When I hear of a more distant relative who is in financial trouble I sometimes send them a small amount of money via my mother on the condition that it is given anonymously. That way they don’t know who to ask for more from!

  7. I haven’t had to deal with this but if it ever comes up I might give them money once with the condition if you don’t pay me back you never get a loan again. I wouldn’t expect it to get paid back because that is setting me up for failure but I think my family would pay me back. They’re pretty responsible people.

  8. I realise that this goes against eccepted ‘wisdom’ but I have never considered refusing my sister if and when she asks. Probably because I know she is not going to ask lightly and also was think family is important and the fact that I am the one in position to help is just by chance. My sister supports me in so many other ways that money is the least I can offer if needed.

  9. Great article – money can definitely mess up relationships. My sister-in-law used to ask my husband for money “for the kids”. He hated to say no because he was worried they’d go without things they really needed.

  10. On an alternative note, if my brother came to me with a solid investment opportunity to buy a piece of his business, I would jump at the chance, especially if I could add value as a partner. Obviously there are risks in going into business with family, or even worse giving a loan (*gift) to support a credit/consumer spending addiction. That being said, I trust his instincts and work ethic, and our family bond would allow for a lot of honesty.

  11. Marie,

    you made so many good points in this article, and I think the concepts can definitely be applied to other situations, not just money borrowing/lending. I think your points about making a decision BEFORE a situation comes up and not allowing yourself to feel guilty (their expectations are just that) are my favorite!

  12. Thanks for such a great post. DH and I have been dealing with just this issue with his little sister(37),
    We have bailed her out so many times that she thinks of us as her parents sometimes. They bailed her out all the time, even though they were barely making ends meet. They died last year and DH gave her his share of their paid-for house free and clear if she would do just one thing: Never ask for money again.

    He told her if she asked he would cut her off and never speak to her again. He told her that their relationship depended upon her getting her financial house in order and taking money out the equation.

    Less than six weeks later, she was on the phone asking for money. She demanded it,
    actually. When he said no she called him some unforgivable names and told him she knew he would eventually cheat her. She went into a cursing tantrum and he told her never to call again. Because he didn’t say not to write, she writes regularly with increasingly dramatic stories, but he has not responded.

    It was her choice.

    • What a tough situation. I am sorry to hear you are going through that. I am proud of your husband for sticking his ground and not giving in. That is really important. I also think it is good he isn’t allowing guilt to sway him. That can be really hard. I am sure the letters are hard to read though. It is not a natural feeling to just ignore family. I hope he can keep up his strength.

      • I know one thing — I would not read the letters.. This is abuse and is ridiculous.. Due to past verbal abuse from my DH’s sibling– we do not allow any phone calls— only e-mail. If that gets crazy that will go also.

  13. My husband and I make the decision together ahead of time as we have specific financial goals as well. That being said, if it were a first time requester we would most likely agree to a reasonable sum delivered with the Dave Ramsey book, Total Money Makeover and a discussion that we are following this plan ourselves. BTW that book is my favorite wedding gift ever.

  14. Whenever this discussion comes up there is always the story about people who borrow money for desperate need and then are found buying luxuries for similar value. While I haven’t been in a situation to lend money (except once and it was paid back very promptly) I feel I would discuss this expectation that they should not buy ANY luxuries till the loan is paid back (I appreciate the distinction may not be clear to some borrowers but I would discuss it). Also if someone said they needed to borrow money for X I would try to buy X directly, e.g. pay the bills myself, buy the kids’ stuff myself rather than hand over cash. This is a bit controlly and is not giving the lender much autonomy, but I think that is the cost of borrowing.
    Re the antique vase, it would have been quite funny, if you had offered to hold it in your house as collateral for their loan.

  15. I have been in this cycle for years with a brother that is 11 years younger……..he is 48 years old. He has such a cycle of failure and excuses. When he gets a job he really does enjoy working but it seems as though something happens and then its an ordeal getting another job. He about bled my brother that is 8 years younger than me into borrowing money on his line of credit during bad times in his own business. We feel so sad for my brother but he is financially killing us. This is the hardest thing in the world……..he is like a teenager …what is wrong with him……..we both resent this………….the guilt is terrible.

  16. My sister-in-law asked my wife for $300 to pay back someone who was nagging her for repayment of borrowed money. My wife, without hesitation, gave her the money. I’m absolutely furious of it. 1) because my wife did it without asking me, 2) because her sister had the nerve to ask my wife for money, and 3) because she loaned her money, knowing it was for paying back someone she was avoiding paying off. Pathetic! Her sister is terrible with money. She never buys anything with her own money, its always on credit. Not to mention she offered only to pay $50 a month back, LOL. That will take 6 months for only $300! I want to demand she pays it back next month, because she has a job! She was obviously taking advantage of my wife, because she thought that she wouldn’t be aggressive trying to get the money back.

  17. My husband’s sibling is not able to pay a large real estate tax burden, etc.,
    The sibling has been allowed to live in the parents home–and my husband and this particular sibling were left with a 50/50 split on the home and contents. My husband has not received anything.. Anyway, the sibling can live in this home as long as the taxes and insurance are paid.. The larger extended family and my husband have already paid the taxes once and refuse to pay anymore.. I am so tired of this person who thinks that they can get money from everyone else just so they are not inconvenienced to move and realize it is time to sell the parental home as the parents have passed. The will is not fair and I would encourage all parents never to leave a home where one sibling can live there mortg/ rent free etc., while the other children have to stand by and take this inequity.

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