Can I Motivate My Parents?

Jack wants his parents to do better financially, but what will it take to make it happen?

QUESTION: Jack in Washington, D.C., wants to know the best way to motivate his parents to succeed financially. They are close to retirement and heavily leveraged. Dave says you can encourage those who have hope, but motivation is another story.

Dave's ANSWER: I don’t know that you can motivate anyone. Sometimes people are de-motivated by a loss of hope. Proverbs says hope deferred makes the heart sick. Sometimes you have hopelessness that keeps people from moving. You can remove some of that by showing someone hope. The best way to do that is with your story or unpacking their numbers with them to show them that the light at the end of the tunnel does not have to be an oncoming train.

You hear me do that on this show with lots of callers. I might show someone how they can pay off $50,000 in non-student loan debt in less than a year. They are not bankrupt; they are just scared. Just to say that to someone has a lot of power.

Find out whatever income that your mom and dad have versus the amount of debt that they are in, then begin to lay out a plan. If they see that they can get traction on this plan, that gives people energy to overcome hopelessness. You can’t really motivate the unmotivated. If it’s not a hopelessness problem, if they are just lazy and don’t give a rip, you really can’t fix that.

You have to stand back and watch people whom you love but have that quality make bad choices. It’s painful to do that. I would tell them your story and offer them an olive branch and a hand-up, and show them how you can help them do some things. You’ll be their counselor or accountability partner if they want that.

You just want them to have some fun with money because it’s been so long since they have. Tell them you’re excited about this and ask if you can help them some way. Sometimes that will move people. But you can’t make people do stuff.