Don't Wag Your Finger

Jennifer says her brother was killed in a car accident. He left his young family $1.5 million in life insurance. How can Jennifer talk to her sister-in-law about managing the money wisely?

QUESTION: Jennifer in South Dakota is calling because her brother was killed in a car accident a year and a half ago. He left behind a young family, and he had several different insurance policies amounting to about $1.5 million. Her sister-in-law doesn’t know how to manage money, though. How can Jennifer talk to her about managing this money wisely?

ANSWER: The better a relationship you have with her, the more effective truth-telling will be. In other words, if you want to tell me what to do, you better be on your A game and a close friend who’s earned the right to do that. Otherwise, I just blow you off, right? That’s why we use hate mail for humor here. That’s why people waste their time when they write hate mail, because I don’t really give a crap what you think. I’ve never met you. I’m sorry if you’re upset, but go jump in a creek, you know? And she’s going to feel the same way about you coming in and sitting down and going, “You know, I’m really concerned that you’re being a doofus with this money because my brother was really good with it, and it seems like you’re spending like you’re in Congress.” That’s not going to work except to the extent that you’re like one of her best buddies.

You don’t go in with your finger wagging—ever. Instead, you start talking about times that you have made mistakes. Start talking about how you’ve been hurting, too. Talk about concepts and hurt and pain. These are your shared touch points. Be real about it, but don’t get into accusing her. Just talk about how you’ve been hurting, and sometimes when you’re hurting, you spend money to feel better.

Go with her to Financial Peace University. You’re loving and supporting. You’re not throwing out a spirit of judgment. That’s the only thing you can do. You really can’t course correct somebody except to the extent you have a relationship with them. This idea of accountability to people you’ve never met is a bogus concept. It’s not real.