Do you know what sucks? Financially struggling. But good or bad, you personally had a hand in the fall, and you can have a hand in the recovery. This is of little comfort for those that are currently struggling. I realize this. While I do believe accepting full responsibility for financial strife is the best strategy for recovery, what if you aren’t the one that is financially struggling, yet you are feeling the affects of the situation? In other words, what if you have a good friend who is currently experiencing a financial conflagration. What should you do? How should you help them? If you’re anything like me, your emotions take a hit when your friends’ emotions take a hit. Selfishly you want a resolution as much for your own stability, as you want for theirs.
I’ve been in this situation before, and my first reaction was to dive in as Pete the Planner and try to save the day. But that was a terrible idea. When a friend is struggling, they need a friend, not a B-rate Superman. If you are a problem-solver, then you need to help your friend arrive at their own conclusions and solutions. You can’t just dive-in and start giving orders. Frankly, this is a really hard thing to do, for several reasons. If you personally are in a good financial position, then you have confidence in your ability to make good financial decisions. And this seems like justification to put on the conductor’s hat and start pushing your friend down the right track. Proceed with caution.
Behavior and circumstance lead people to financial struggle. Even when circumstance seems like the culprit, behavior can be seen sneaking away from the scene. When you see your friends struggle, it’s tough to judge whether circumstance or behavior is to blame. But here’s the good news: it’s not in your best interest to try and figure that out. This also means you shouldn’t swoop in to fix a circumstance, because the issue may be behavior. And if you attack, what you perceive to be the behavior issues, then you risk blowing-up the friendship. You are to be the wall that holds them up, not the roof over their head.
- Encourage pitch-in meals and gatherings- Maybe you and your friend used to go out to eat all the time and spend various amounts of discretionary income. You obviously shouldn’t do this anymore, and you sure as hell shouldn’t encourage your friend to go out and blow-off steam.
- Do not offer financial assistance- Unless things get insane, do not give your friend money. The temptation to swoop in and save the day with money should never prevail. Just take this option off the table.
- Check-in on them- There should not be radio silence while your friend tries to figure things out. You don’t have to talk to them about their financial situation, but you shouldn’t let them feel like they are alone.
This isn’t manipulation and you aren’t a Svengali. You are a caring friend who’s nearly desperate to help your friend get back to “normal”.
****Bonus: Use the opportunity to examine your own financial life. I remember when good friends of mine got divorced. It was devastating, but Mrs. Planner and I used the situation as an opportunity to deeply examine our marriage and improve any possible weak spots. Your friend may have found financial misfortune due to circumstance, not behavior. If you step back and examine this, then you’ll be able to learn a lesson from bad situation.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.