Mom Hooked on Payday Loans

Ronnie's 74-year-old mother is spending too much money on things she wants, and she's using payday loans to fund it. She's $800 in debt to them again. How can he help her?

QUESTION: Ronnie in Baton Rouge has a 74-year-old mother who is a widow. She lives in a retirement community and brings in $2,000 a month. She’s spending too much money on things she wants rather than living on a budget, and she’s using payday loans to fund it. Ronnie bailed her out once and helped her work a budget. Now she’s $800 in debt to them again. How can he help her?

ANSWER: You’re not obligated to finance someone’s cocaine use. This is misbehavior. It’s not cocaine use, but it’s misbehavior. The fact that the someone is your mother does not obligate you to finance their misbehavior. She’s out of control, and when you finance her misbehavior, counselors call that enabling, meaning that you’re causing her to misbehave because you’re participating in the madness.

Something’s got to stop. I don’t think it needs to be you just call her up and go, “No, Mom, I’m not giving you any money. I don’t like you anymore, and I think you’re crazy.” I wouldn’t do that. I’m not suggesting that at all, but I think you are going to have to really forcefully insert yourself in this situation, explaining that we are not going to do this anymore. “And if you ever come to me for money again—ever—because you’ve mismanaged and haven’t handled this—and I’m going to be helping you with your budget every month—but if you misbehave and you don’t stick to what we’ve discussed, the only way I’m going to be able to give you money in the future is I’m going to have to take over all your financial affairs. And I’ll have to manage your money for you, and I won’t give you money to buy stuff on QVC.”

“Mom, I’m not going to participate in you misbehaving. That’s not an act of love.”

I would just call up the guy and say, “You’re not getting paid because you loaned a 70-year-old broke person on $2,000-a-month money as a payday lender.”

“Well, we’re going to call the DA.”

“Fine. Call ’em.” Because guess what? They cannot criminally prosecute as payday lenders. The very business model of a payday lender is to ask you to write a hot check, so they can’t turn around then and prosecute on a hot check. So that’s a complete bluff.

“Fine. Turn it over to the DA. Do it. Do it because you guys are full of crap. You’re scum. You’re bottom-feeders, and you’re not going to turn it over to the DA. If you do, I’m going to put you on the front page of the newspaper for prosecuting a 70-year-old woman that’s a widow that you’ve taken advantage of. I’m going to wear you out. So have at it. Please turn it over to the DA. We’re going to turn you into a PR disaster.”

But in the meantime, your mother has to stay out of those freaking places. I mean, I’m going to be nice, but I’m going to be very firm with her if I’m you. And that’s being loving, by the way. It’s not being disrespectful. It’s, “Mom, you’re doing cocaine. You have to stop it.” Payday lenders are financial cocaine. It’s crack.

That’s how she’s acted. It’s like she’s doing crack but with her checkbook. It’s just crazy, crazy, crazy. It has to stop. When you jack it up that way, you’ve got to get all up in Mom’s business further than just throwing some money over there occasionally. We’ve got to say, “Okay, here’s the freaking budget, and I’m going to check with you every week and ask you about this budget.” You could just ride your little butt over there and sit down at her kitchen table and check her budget with her once a week or once a month or twice a month or whatever you’ve got to do. You’re just going to have to hold her hand because she’s not capable for some reason or another, and this is going to keep coming up. We’re treating the symptom; we’re not treating the problem.