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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Question 1

Dear Dr. T.

   Trying to navigate my connection with emotionally-distant/genetically-close relations - 4 young but of-age people raised with little education and now, no money or parents.  Two have requested emergency financial assistance, which I refused.  I feel some responsibility-by-blood but want to keep their expectations realistic and within my means. 


Dear Liz,

   Being asked by relatives for financial assistance is often emotionally wrenching. Family history and culture as well as your own wishes, attitudes and beliefs about money make handling such requests tricky. When one relative has more education and money, the others may be envious, resentful or feel that the person with the advantages should share the wealth. Since you have already decided not to give emergency financial assistance, but also say you want to keep their expectations realistic, it seems you have not really decided what you want to do. I think the problem is that you feel some "responsibility-by-blood" which is in conflict with your wish to protect yourself from what could become unrealistic expectations. To make sure that what you decide to do will not be in conflict with your values or your needs, you need to examine your own beliefs and attitudes about money as well as your concerns about your own financial security.
   I will answer your question with several of my own. I trust that, if you think about these questions, you will find the right solution for yourself.
So, here are my questions. Where did you get the idea that you are responsible for your relatives? Is this a message taught by your parents that you have never questioned?  Was there anyone else, beside yourself, who might have disapproved if they thought you did not want to share your money? Why should you want to help emotionally distant relatives? Do you, perhaps, feel badly that they did not have the same opportunities you had in life, and now no longer have parents to look after them? Do you wish you could be closer to them, and will giving or lending them money accomplish that?
   With regard to your own financial security, have you planned for your future and do you know what you need to do to secure it? If not, you should do so before lending or giving away money to relatives. A certified financial planner should be able to help you make a plan for your future. (I have one and find his help invaluable.) To avoid conflict of interest, I recommend that you find an advisor who charges a fee for his or her time but does not sell any financial products.
   I hope that this will help you to understand your own motivation for wanting to be helpful, as well as your hesitation, and help you to act in your own best interest.

Dr. T.

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