For decades my father enabled his children by providing extensive financial aid. Though well-intentioned, the effect was to create dependency on a financial savior who had no expectation of being repaid. In fact, it served to prolong periods of unemployment — by many years.
My father passed away 6 years ago. One of my brothers had made multiple appeals for money — either in the form of investing in insurance products I don’t want/trust (to the tune of $100,000) so he can get a commission, or “underwriting” a series of seminars where he would offer “free” dinners to people listening to his sales pitch (to the tune of $7,000).
He will harken back to family history 30-plus years ago when my father helped me. He ignores that he got financial help in his late 50s through his mid-60s. I received help during a period of unemployment in my 20s. He makes not-so-veiled threats about the future of our relationship should I not support him in this way.
This erupted when I asked when he planned to get back on track. He owes me $1,200 for more than a year. He is deep in debt — $8,000 in credit-card debt and he owes $1,600 to the Internal Revenue Service.
Frankly, I have no faith in his ability to be successful in his career, nor do I believe he would repay me even if he had money – given his sense of entitlement and anger at perceived unfair treatment. I believe his demands would continue indefinitely, and he sees me as a “weak link” whom he can manipulate into giving help due to fear of estrangement.
I welcome any insight you can offer on how to deal with this, maybe your Facebook group also has ideas. Alas, this is a time sensitive problem, so if you could post today that would be so appreciated.
Dear Ms. P,
Philip Larkin and Nancy Reagan come to mind.
The relevant line from Larkin’s poem, “This Be The Verse,” contains an expletive, so I’ll link to it here instead. The former First Lady’s quote is easier: “Just say no.” Say it in whatever language you want. As long as he gets the message, that’s all that matters. Your father took a page out of the book of Matthew: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” That’s fine for those who believe in the power of prayer, but not so good when it comes to managing your life and your finances.
So what did your father teach you? He wanted you to have the best of everything, sure, but he didn’t know when to say no. And, now, neither do you. It just takes practice: “No,” or “Alas, no.” You do not need to give reasons. As you say, that created a sense of entitlement. I’m guessing you all made out pretty well, but some did better than others. What can you do with your father’s lesson? Reverse the lesson. Your father blurred too many boundaries helping everyone out with no end in sight and no proper due diligence. You can change that.
You could tell your brother, “I don’t want to commercialize our relationship. Let’s leave money out of it.” You may not get the reaction you want. He may cut ties or stomp his feet or tell you what he thinks of you. That’s fine. You’re not responsible for his actions. You are only responsible for your own. As this man discovered when his uncle borrowed $20,000 from his family, relatives are among those who are least likely to pay you back. They have too many emotional strings to pull. Tell him you love him and write off the bad debt, and end this cycle of entitlement.
P.S. I hope my response arrives in a timely fashion!
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