A financial intervention, the right way

I get a lot of email questions, and I genuinely enjoy reading through them. I try to answer as many as I can. Recently, I noticed a trend. Within a 7 day period I received several emails from parents concerned about the financial decisions their adult children are making. Including the detailed financial information of their grown children.

Caring more about someone’s financial life than they care about their own financial life is an awkward place to live. I see parents in this place with their adult children a lot. It also often happens between spouses when one spouse isn’t making smart money decisions. It can even happen between friends or roommates. Often this feeling results in several awkward financial conversations, and in some cases, a financial intervention. In the last 15 years or so I’ve been a moderator in dozens of financial interventions. In nearly every situation, the financial intervention was necessary, but the results varied widely.

You can want someone to do better, and to live a better life all day long, but until they want it for themselves not much will change. That being said, a financial intervention isn’t a terrible idea. But in all honesty, it will probably help you more than them and that’s okay. Here are few guidelines for making the most of a financial intervention:

First, admit your own wrongs. If you are a parent admit that you may not have done a great job educating them about money in their youth. If it’s your spouse, admit you should have brought up your concerns before things got so out of hand. If it’s your friend, admit you could have done more to encourage them during the hard times. Admitting your own wrongs puts you in a good place to speak the truth, and puts them in a good place to hear it.

Secondly, do not, under any circumstance, offer financial assistance. Offering to bandaid their financial problems with a gift or any other sort of monetary support only offers them a shortcut. Shortcuts work temporarily, but will absolutely not solve their long-term problems.

Lastly, offer yourself for accountability and support. Set a time to meet weekly or bi-weekly or monthly, and stick to it. Offer them a listening ear and encouraging guidance. This is the best you can do for them.

You cannot care about someone’s financial life for them. You have to let go. And a financial intervention is a great way to do that. I did a whole segment about this topic on my radio show this week. Check it out here:

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