I have five adult children who constantly come to me with financial emergencies. I am 70 years old. Our family is fractured, so I’m trying all I can to preserve relationships. How intrusive can I be in their use of money?
Financially Fatigued Mom
Dear Financially Fatigued Mom,
The Scripture is true: “I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4, ESV). I would add to that: “I have no greater relief than to see my children paying their own way in life.”
This is an emotionally charged topic. Navigating family relationships is challenging enough; but throw in the financial expectations they may have, and it can be very explosive. Here is my advice.
Set new boundaries
Your desire to preserve relationships within your family is important and appropriate. But, unless you set boundaries, you will likely never accomplish your desired goal. Adult children who continue to look to you for financial help will depend on you instead of God. Enabling them prolongs your pain and prevents them from maturing in financial matters. Your goal should be to help them “grow up” and handle money wisely.
You should resolve to only provide them with Biblical financial counsel — and not funds. Before anyone comes to you for more money, let them each know privately the way that you plan to handle things in the future.
Set new expectations
Consider writing a letter so they fully understand your intentions. It could go something like this:
In the past, I have tried my best to help you financially. Because I love you, things will be different from this day forward. My goal is that you learn how to handle money wisely and escape the need for my financial support in the future.
- I no longer will be giving you money; rather, I am resolved to give you the wisdom and tools that you need to escape the financial emergencies that you experience from time to time.
- Please go through a financial literacy program. Crown offers online courses and budget coaching. You can enroll in other courses, read financial literacy books, or seek my advice for different materials to help you learn.
- Develop a budget, and begin to live by it. This is how I am able to make due on what I have.
- If you are burdened with debt, I want you to work with Christian Credit Counselors. They will help you work out a repayment plan and teach you how to better manage your situation.
- God created us to work. I will help you find a job. If you need skills training or certifications, I will help you. I can show you how to make a resume, and I want you to take a career assessment to learn where you would be most fulfilled.
- If you do all of these things and still have need for temporary financial assistance, I am willing to provide you with a short-term loan. My expectation is that you will sign a note and repay me on time. I will expect to see your paychecks, bank accounts, insurance coverage, bills that you are struggling to pay, IRS filings, etc. so I can provide some coaching in addition to the loan.
My motivation is to help you thrive as an independent family unit. I hope you will be able to see my sincere love and concern for you in this new phase of our relationship. Let’s not let money come between us. Love, Mom
If they live at home
If adult children are living at your home, consider the following:
- Have them contribute to room and board, and agree on a time limit for their stay.
- If they need help with a down payment or first month’s rent, consider a loan with a deadline for repayment. If they do not pay you back, do not loan again until repaid.
- If the child has a mental illness or struggles with addictions, attend a support group for your well-being. Expect them to seek counseling or attend support groups as well.
Resolve to trust the Lord
Remember the words of the Apostle Paul:
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:12-15 ESV)
Ask the Lord for strength to allow them to suffer the consequences of financial mismanagement. Be patient, calm and affirming. Remind them in love that you desire to help them.
If they request money that conflicts with your values or compromises your financial situation, just say “No.” Do not speak harshly, shame them, or manipulate them. Do not feel guilty. You must take care of your needs so you are prepared for your future. Even if you have plenty of money, desire their financial independence and point them to God’s financial principles. You may need to structure your will for beneficiaries who do not handle money well. If you lend, keep careful records. If and when they fully repay you, consider giving them the money as a reward for their diligence and honesty. Do not tell them this up front. Keep it as a surprise to encourage their continuing financial education.
I hope this helps you overcome the emotional fatigue and financial stress you are experiencing. It is not “intrusive” to share the truth in love and to expect better for your children’s financial future.
In addition to the Crown resources listed above, please consider listening to—and having your children listen to — the Crown Stewardship Podcast for more in-depth wisdom on the application of God’s financial principles.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Seven Gray Swans: Trends that Threaten Our Financial Future. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.