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There’s a reason money is a sensitive subject. Money talks can stir up shame, guilt and a pretty big fear of judgment. It’s easier to just keep it under the rug. But soon those poor money choices start to look a lot like skeletons shoved in the back of the closet.
Maybe you’ve been there. You know what it’s like to sweep the hard conversations under the rug or let the bills pile up because you’re afraid to open them. But you went through Financial Peace University, read The Total Money Makeover, or found another way to take control of your finances. Now you’re in charge—you tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.
But what about those relatives, neighbors and friends who aren’t quite there yet?
Money matters are too important to ignore. But that doesn’t mean you should break down your friend’s door and come in swinging. Here’s a three-step process for helping people who may be struggling financially.
1. Identify them
You can’t always tell who’s going through a financial hardship. People carry around a lot of shame surrounding how they handle their money—and they get pretty good at keeping that topic off the table. But there are still some red flags you can pick up on if you start to pay attention.
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For example, your daughter sheepishly asks for a few hundred dollars to make ends meet until her paycheck clears. Your best friend starts canceling plans that involve eating out. Your sister avoids money discussions like the plague. It’s hard to generalize, but you can usually get a sense of who is and isn’t losing sleep over the mortgage.
2. Approach them
Approach the person you’re talking to with an attitude of kindness and humility. Money talks are uncomfortable because many people worry they are going to be judged for their financial habits—or lack thereof. It’s a touchy and emotional subject. That’s why it’s important to start from a place of empathy.
Start by explaining that you know what it’s like to be stressed. Even if you haven’t been financially strapped, you know what it’s like to be worried, anxious or afraid. Stepping into those emotional waters with your friend or family member kicks shame out the door. No one wants to feel judged—and they sure aren’t going to talk to you about money matters if they think you’re perched on a soapbox.
Related: How to Talk to Your Parents About Money
3. Help them
There are so many great ways you can help people who are struggling to take control of their finances. Help them create an EveryDollar budget. Offer to be their financial accountability partner. Recommend Financial Peace University—or buy them a membership and help them enroll in a local class. Being part of an engaged community will make a huge difference on their journey to financial security.
At the end of the day, you want to approach these conversations with the right heart and the best tools and resources available. You know what it’s like to be stressed—and who wishes that on anyone? We all mess up every now and then, but we can all come back from those mistakes. And maybe you’re just the right person to encourage and inspire them.
Maybe you’re the one who feels like you’re floundering in deep water financially. Or maybe you’ve got it figured out, but you want to help out your family and friends. For a proven plan that helps people take control of their money, check out Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.