Don’t Become a Personal Finance Bully

This article is by Adam from Money Relationship. He recently paid off about $2,100 of his personal debt.

Most of you probably read personal finance blogs on a regular basis. By reading them, you are increasing your knowledge about money and probably turning your finances around. Doesn’t that make you want to spread your knowledge all over the world? I know I want to.

However, there is a difference between sharing your knowledge and forcing your knowledge on people. For example, I am surrounded by family members that don’t handle their money well. Some of them are unemployed and don’t seem to care while others enable their children’s bad money habits. Seeing them struggle makes me want to teach them how to handle their money properly. But, is it right for me to say something without being asked?

Bully

You’re Bad With Money!

Personally, I don’t think it’s right to force personal finance down the throats of people who don’t want to learn about it. I mean, it’s their life. As much as it hurts me to see them struggle, I feel it would damage their finances even more if I flat out tell them they suck at handling money. I mean, I would have been a little perturbed if someone told me I sucked at handling money (which I obviously did). So, how can you help someone without ticking them off?

Be a Role Model

This is something my wife and I are working on. We are paying off our debt to show all of our relatives and close friends that it can be done rather painlessly. Being a good role model is a subtle way of letting people know that it’s cool to be financially savvy.

Eventually, your friends and family are going to approach you about how you did it. They will see how you no longer have financial stress and how it’s making your marriage better. The ball will be in their court and hopefully they will start asking you questions.

Leave Hints

Another good approach would to leave very small hints. You need to make them so small that they really have no idea that you were trying to get them to notice.

A good example would be to leave a copy of something like The Total Money Makeover lying around you house in plain view. All you do is invite them over and hang out around where the book is located. Chances are good that they will bring it up and then you can talk to them about it in a very non-confrontational manner.

You could even leave the webpage for Frugal Dad or Get Rich Slowly on your computer. Heck, you could even have Money Relationship on the screen! ;-) It might spark a conversation like, “who is this great one they call The Frugal Dad and why do I need to learn about him”? You know, things like that. You can then talk about how these websites have helped you get a grip on your finances and live a more frugal lifestyle.

* * *

So there you have it. How NOT to talk to your friends about money. What do you think? I imagine there are some emergency situations where you need to step in. I mean, if one of my family members was on the verge of bankruptcy, I would certainly do something. Wouldn’t you?

But, let’s say someone isn’t on the verge of bankruptcy. How would you subtly talk to them about money? Have you been blunt with someone in financial trouble? Did it work?

Comments

  1. I don’t think it ever works to force things on people. Once you use force, walls go up and that’s the end. The walls blocking out the words are stronger than any words you could put forward.

    When I feel that urge to force things on people, I try to pull back and figure out a way to put that energy to constructive use. The thing to do is to listen rather than to talk. Listen and learn more about why it is that people do the things they do. There are always reasons.

    Then, when you come across someone open to hearing the message, the message will be even stronger and you really will do some good. We don’t get to save everybody. But we do get to save a few. And then those few each save a few others. Over time, it adds up.

    Rob

  2. Family members I could talk to and suggest things, but friends… not so much.

    With friends, the best you could do is see if they would go to a seminar with you on finances, or read the same book together and have a review after you have both read the book.

  3. In retrospect I talk about personal finance too much in the home and around the kids. But that’s my passion and I love helping people overcome debt. I’m even volunteering as a Financial counselor at my church. I think I need to bring it down a notch; especially around the kids. They understand personal finance – so I’m good there. Thanks, Jackie.

  4. I agree with Rob that there is no sense in forcing things on people. Once I try that, they get all defensive and there’s no chance of convincing them.

    From my experience being a role model, while more difficult, seems to be much more effective. I’ve been having situation when friends asked me about very specific things that I did and they wanted to know how and why I did those things. Only when they become interested themselves in a matter will they listen.

  5. My sister was always hitting me up for a “loan” for one “emergency” after another. I was financially able to give, not loan, her the money so I did. I finally had enough when she called me crying that the finance company was going to take her car if she didn’t make an $800+ payment by the end of the week. Again she asked me to “loan” her the money, and I did. A few months later she got a $4000+ bonus from her company and I never heard a peep from her about repaying the “loan.” The next time she asked I said “NO!” I said enough was enough, that she had to get her finances under control, and that I would help her if she wanted my help. She got mad and didn’t talk to me for a few weeks. About 6 months later she finally asked me to help. She is now, with my help, working her way toward an emergency fund, and has been working on her budget. If I hadn’t stop enabling her and made her see her situation she would have continued to be a drain on me and would have never started getting her finances in order.

  6. People don’t change unless they want to change. It is that simple. You can’t force anything upon anyone, no matter how subtle or loud you are. What you can do is be there for that person when they ask for your advice or assistance in getting their act together. If they know that you are good with your own finances, when they are ready to get themselves straight, they will come to you.

    I have found this out myself ever since I began turning my life around and being very candid about my own finances on my blog. Instead of trying to hide my mistakes, I put them out there for the world to read, including my friends and soon I was being asked for advice from my friends about what they could do to improve their situation.

    I have loaned out my copy of TMM (which I haven’t seen back, and that is okay) and listened to my friend’s financial woes and done what I could to inspire them to change or offered specific tactics to getting back on track.

    Letting them come to you is the best way, in my opinion. You aren’t attacking them for their failures and they actually want your help.

  7. I agree with this Adam. Don’t impose our will on others, unless you absolutely think they are donking up.

    Just be a good role model and eventually they’ll seek your advice.

    Happy Friday!

    Sam

  8. I think eventually it shows by example – ie, everyone else is screaming worriedly about their paycheck come payday and I usually don’t even know it is payday. Then when they ask, I explain

    Some of the sites I visit have great spreadsheets for budgeting, or a great article on something, and those I WILL forward along to family members who have expressed an interest in getting their financial lives on track. Show by example is about all I can do. And not enable. And never ever loan or give enough that it would put my finances in jeopardy!

  9. I agree with Rob, forcing is not gonna work. However, you can talk to people until there are blue. They will ultimately do what is easy before they will do what is right. People change when they want to

  10. When people choose to discuss their problems with me, I will usually mention resources (like Frugal Dad, Total Money Makeover, etc.) that I have used to figure out my finances. After that, I don’t say anything else unless they come back to me for more info.

  11. One of the reasons many are not receptive to financial advice, etc. is that along with it, they get a lot of judgment.

    People who genuinely trust you and feel you are supportive are more open to advice, resources, etc.

    You cannot shove anything down anyone’s throat, no matter how much you want to or they (in your opinion) need it. Especially with family and friends.

    Aside from modeling behavior, you can be someone who is open and nonjudgmental and accessible.

    People with money problems are generally people who’ve experienced some real pain and issues that result in overspending,etc. (People whose lives are balanced and joyful aren’t overspending, IMHO.) They need more love and acceptance to help them really come to terms with their issues…and then seek help and implement change.

    People don’t discuss money issues, for the most part, because people are generally ashamed of being in debt (no matter the reason, and please understand, some debt is NOT their fault; it could be a spouse, medical issues, losing a job, or all of those) and having financial issues. Many people have lost jobs that paid well and suddenly found themselves going from a whole different lifestyle to another, even if they did not overspend, etc.

    So, show compassion and don’t force feed anyone anything, no matter how subtle you think you’re being.

    But if you have a personal story that you can share to inspire them, find some way to do it.

    • I agree. I kinda look at it in the same light as someone telling me that I eat bad. If you would come to me and say that I was eating bad and I needed to stop, chances are pretty good that I will keep doing what I want. However, there will come a time when I realize that my poor choices are hurting me and I will seek help. At that point, I will be willing to listen.

  12. In the “real” world, I’ll give my opinion if asked and I’m really open about my finances so that people can pick and choose habits as they wish. I’ve never made anybody mad talking about money except for when they ask for advice and don’t like my answer.

    For example, my friend and her husband wanted to buy a specific house. She asked me to take a look and see what I thought. I thought the house was 35 years old and needed a lot of work. I also thought they should put off buying any house until they paid off his $110,000 student loans. They also had $900 a month in car payments. They were only making $65k-$70k a year jointly…I thought a house would be over-extending.

    I stated all those thoughts in a very nice way, like “Don’t y’all still have $100k in student loans? Maybe waiting will make it easier to pay for any problems that pop up…” and “Have you thought about buying cheaper cars and putting the extra towards the debt so you can buy a house faster without worrying?”

    Yeah, they looked at me like I had turned purple…I actually haven’t talked much to them since then…

    So, yes, financial bullying is bad. The “wrong” answers will also get you in trouble sometimes as well.

    • Very interesting story. I would be surprised if they even qualified for a mortgage given those debt ratios. Wow!

      How are they now? Are they living in that house that will bring them to financial ruin?

  13. Steve is very right.

    Life is all about choices and that is something that people get very emotional about. There are two different kinds of people with financial issues. People who don’t really want to change and people who want to change but are overwhelmed by information.

    For the first group, all we can do is stop enabling them. It’s hard but we have to let people go down their own road. They won’t change until they hit their personal wall.

    For the second group, it just takes time until they find the right resource that speaks to them. This is where we can help WHEN they ask by pointing them to different sources such as all the great personal finance blogs out there, books, counseling services, etc…

    Unsolicited advice is never welcomed and honest advice is likely to be ignored.

  14. Yeah, blunt isn’t a good tactic. I did have a friend whose wife racked up an insane amount of credit card debt. I advised him to a. pay if off ASAP because the revolving interest fees would way outweigh the loss of interest income and b. have her get some counseling to delve into why this happened (it’s not like they had luxury cars, designer clothes and the latest, greatest gadgets–most of the spending was on @#$% like Happy Meals and Beanie Babies and beer…).

    He did neither and a couple of years later, the same problem (only worse) reared its ugly head again.

  15. I have a quick spreadsheet that I put together a couple of years ago which has come in handy for people that tell me that they are “broke”. Usually, they’re complaining about one particular expense, or category, and I end up asking a few more questions and the spreadsheet is filled in. I email it to them so that they can look at the “snapshot” of their expenditures vs income. This has helped my friends recognize areas that they need improvement in, or that there’s money available that should be designated to a savings account instead of frittered away. My daughter also uses it to coach low income families that haven’t set up “real budgets” yet.
    In most cases, I share my own information because I’m in a tough situation with my housing and medical expenses being high. I’m planning on moving to reduce the housing expense to something more reasonable then the 50% (almost) of income that it is. My sister was in a similar situation and chose to pay her mortgage down to where she could refinance at a much better rate.
    I wouldn’t call it unsolicited, because we’re on “topic”, just a reminder that some situations may not be sustainable in the long term.

  16. Role model is the way to go, or offering a bit of non-judgmental advice and resources when asked. I supervise 14 people at work, and most of them are a bit younger than me. Sometimes they ask for financial advice, and I offer a couple of succinct tidbits and websites (yes, FD is one of them). Some folks have noticed that I don’t come back from lunch with shopping bags every day like I use to. I tell them that I’ve smartened up a bit, and I really don’t need more stuff. My team processes pre-employment background checks including credit checks, and we see some abyssmal credit checks and hear some horrendous stories. I’ve asked my staff if they think this will cause them to live more financially conservative lives than they would have otherwise (they’re all under 25) and I was met with a resounding yes!
    As far as the role model thing goes in my personal life, we’ve somehow acquired a bit of coolness just by being really happy (we were happy spendthrifts too, by the way), and we have some friends and family members giving a second look at a more frugal version of happiness. We have another dear friend who is a financial train-wreck, and shows no interest in budgeting, etc. so we never even discuss finances. But when and if he’s ready, we will be resources for him.

  17. Ha ha, I like the having a book hanging around tip! Personally I know what it’s like to want to ignore people who are ramming things down your throat… Subtle thoughtful advice from friends always works better.

  18. Members of my family are still learning how to manage their finances, it’s a slow process but I try to send them articles about finances, etc and of course as they visit my blog they can see that Frugal Dad is on my side bar :-)
    I have yet to be financially independent but I am living in a simple and frugal manner.

  19. I love talking finances so I have to be careful not to bore people in general. In relationship, there are times when I have an opportunity to share about our choices and at least once someone wanted more information and help. Honestly, though, our lifestyle doesn’t appeal to many. Many of my siblings prefer to stress over money but continue to buy on credit and generally overspend. We are content with our decision to live within our means, save and give to others but it does mean that much of what we own is second-hand and that we need to spend carefully. In the long run, though, I believe that we lead by example and if anyone wants advice we’d love to offer what we can.

  20. In my experience, no amount of sound financial advice can correct a behavioral problem. Spending too much and saving too little is definitely a behavioral problem that often originates early in life.

    Set a good financial example for your children and explain the difference between “needs” and “wants.” As parents, we all want what’s best for our children, but sometimes saying no can pay dividends in the future.

  21. I started hinting to my younger sister that she should be more serious about her personal finance. She used to be the saver in the family and now she’s the spendthrift. She’ll be graduating in a year and I’m sure she’ll be in shock when she finds out how much she owes in student loans. I know I sure did.

    I want to help my mom but when I bring up any subject about money she gets defensive. I really want to help her pay down her credit card debt and save more. I started helping her pay off some of her cc debt and it seems never ending. I come from a family of spenders and it’s really hard to be the only saver right now.

    Thanks for sharing your post!

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