A tired little old lady recently came in asking me to help her organize repayments for her brother in law’s $5,000 debt. Already living under her roof, the brother in law had come to her asking for help with this debt, and to please not mention it to his wife, my customer’s sister. My customer was conflicted, but had agreed to help him out because he was family.
As we worked out a repayment schedule, she sadly realized, “I want to retire but I can’t.” She’s had a huge heart to help, but wasn’t really in a position to give all that financial assistance to her sister and brother in law. She had enough money to reduce her work schedule and possibly retire later, but the new burden she accepted jeopardized all that. And it wasn’t hers to accept.
Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey writes, “Most people are natural givers…[but] only the strong can help the weak. That’s true of money as well. A toddler is not allowed to carry a newborn. Only adults, who have the strength to ensure the newborn’s safety, should carry babies.”
Helping someone who’s in strife financially could land you in the same position. It might feel like you’re being cold, but when you’re asked to help a friend or family member out with money, very carefully consider your answer. You may need to say ‘no’ in order to keep your own life and money on track. A brilliant observation by Margaret Thatcher, former prime minster of Great Britain, was that “No one would have remembered the Good Samaritan if he hadn’t had money.” He couldn’t have helped the injured man on the roadside without having his own finances in order. Because he was financially strong, he was actually able to pay for the man’s care for as long as it took to recover.
If your position isn’t strong enough to bear the extra burden, politely decline the request. If you’re the one making the request for help, make sure you ask someone who’s actually able to help you without being dragged into your catastrophe. Only the strong can help the weak.