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4 Land Mines to Avoid If Your Parents Have Money Struggles

If you’ve never been in this situation, we hope you’ll never have to experience it: having to talk with your parents when you realize they’re in a bad money situation.

You used to be their little kid. They used to take care of you. And now, here you are as a grown adult, talking with your parents about their financial shortcomings. There’s no sugar-coating it. It’s tough.

But as tough a situation as that might be, it’s still a reality that you may be caught in the middle of. Before you make any quick decisions, decide that you (and your spouse) will not do these four things during this potentially tricky situation.

1. Don’t offer your opinion if you haven’t been asked.

This goes back to the “powdered butt syndrome”—if someone powdered your butt when you were a baby, then they don’t want to hear your advice about money.

That’s sad, because you’re not a kid in a diaper anymore. You’re an adult with valid opinions and—quite possibly—helpful solutions that can benefit your parents’ financial situation.

No more money fights! Get on the same page with your money!

If they don’t ask for your opinion or help, the only things you can control are your tongue and how you handle money. So listen to them and set a positive example by having your money in order, which will create a more peaceful tone in your life and stress level.

2. Don’t enable them to continue a bad pattern.

If your parents keep racking up debt on credit cards, don’t give them money so they can turn around and pay off that debt to free up more credit. That doesn’t get to the root of the problem or change behaviors over time.

If you really want to help, pay for them to get help through a financial coach. This should be an unbiased third party who will help them understand and move past their problems without emotions being involved. Dave has a team of coaches who would love to sit down with your parents and figure out how to get through their situation.

Sometimes parents can be stubborn, right? What if they won’t talk with a financial coach? As difficult as it may be to watch them continue down a destructive or ignorant path, you can’t control their decisions. Just let them know the offer to talk with a financial coach is always on the table.

3. Don’t let helping your parents become a stumbling block in your own marriage.

Let’s say your parents ask you for money. You’re able to help them out, so you give them a little. Three weeks later, you notice your dad has bought an iPad.

We never would tell you to loan money to family, because you’ll add a layer of unneeded awkwardness to your relationship. Give to them if you’re able and willing and your spouse completely agrees with you. But if they are repeatedly asking you for money, they are putting strain on your relationship with them—and probably on your relationship with your spouse.   

If you’re married, your first relational priority is with your spouse, not your parents. tweet this. You and your spouse must agree on how to give and spend your money. If you both agree that it’s appropriate to financially help your parents, agree on the boundaries and goals of the help. Reevaluate this often if the giving is ongoing.

4. Don’t fall victim to a guilt trip.

Sometimes, parents can remind you of everything they did for you when you were a kid. But there’s the difference: You were a kid. Do your best to remove the emotion from the decision and think of the most logical way to handle the situation.

Do what you can to help your parents within the boundaries you’ve decided for your household. But also realize that sometimes the best thing you can do is let them learn on their own.

If you’re in this situation and are interested in talking in-depth with a financial coach, we are here to help. Dave Ramsey has a team of financial coaches who specialize in these cases and would love to talk with you or your parents. Find out how our coaches can help you today.

Have a specific money question? You can ask a coach here for free.

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners.