Getting Bipolar Under Control

Heather was asked by her mom for financial help. Mom makes $42,000 a year and is 55 years old. She is also bipolar and a compulsive shopper. How can Heather start the conversation responsibly?

QUESTION: Heather in Florida was asked by her mom for financial help. Mom makes $42,000 a year and is 55 years old. She is also bipolar and a compulsive shopper. How can Heather start the conversation responsibly? Dave is quick to point out that Heather’s help won’t do much good unless mom gets a hold of herself first.

ANSWER: Until the bipolar is brought into reasonable care, whether it’s with therapy or prescription help, she’ll spend her tail off. You could work for two years and get the mess cleaned up, then she goes manic and the whole thing is destroyed. It’s more important to treat the problem than the symptom. The symptom is the money problems and the debt. The problem is the bipolar.

Work on that and gauge compassionately where all of that is. Then the next step is to start looking at the mathematics and ask how you address this.

There are a couple of rules you can remember. The first one is the more radical you get, the faster you get out of debt. If you play around with this, you’ll be in debt a long time. The second rule is the mathematical. She has a $42,000 shovel and you need to find out how big a hole she’s in. If she has $10,000 in debt, then she can get intense and pay it off in a year. If she has $45,000 in debt, it will take a little while.

You have to put together a whole system, not just dab around the edges with this. The whole system is living on a budget, live on less than you make and sacrificing, dealing with the manic stuff so that she never goes back. You have to do that, otherwise the sacrifice isn’t worth it.

The big thing about goal setting is this: When we are laying out a plan, it’s a goal-setting issue. It’s not what we are willing to do to get out of debt, it’s what we are willing to give up. Sell a bunch of stuff and get in attack mode.

Sit down with her and gently say that the first thing to do is to figure out what caused this and how we can keep that from happening again. Then ask what you are willing to give up to win and find out what winning looks like. What would it feel like to have no payments of any kind and $20,000 cash in the bank?

It’s going to be very hard because she’ll have to give up a lot of stuff to get this mess cleaned up. But I’ll tell you this: If she will, it’ll be worth it.

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