We all got ’em – the friends and family members that we watch from afar doing not-so-smart things with their money. Have you ever wanted to write what you were actually thinking in someone’s Facebook comment feed? I’m referring to pictures of brand new cars when you know they’re drowning in credit card debt? Fortunately, for the sake of the relationship, you likely hold back your keyboard trigger fingers and just bite your tongue. In these situations, you do have options! One great option might be to conduct a financial intervention. And then again, maybe it wouldn’t be so great. After all, if you’re not careful, you could end up getting an uppercut to the choppers. And so we persist, watching our dear loved ones travel down a path of financial destruction. All in the name of “I deserve it” or “I must have a reliable vehicle” or “If they can afford it, so can I.” *Sigh*
Is A Financial Intervention In Order?
First and foremost, you must decide if your loved one is exhibiting Softball Bad Choices or Hardcore Destructive Behaviors. We’ll get to the hardcore destructive behaviors in a bit. For now, let’s assume you’re dealing with softball bad choices – something like new cars with credit card debt. Now, you need to decide what your goal is when considering a financial intervention with your loved one. Remember that old saying, The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions? That is true. So before you go off and start a financial lecture to anyone not handling their cash the way YOU think they should, take inventory of the Big Picture.
The Big Picture
When considering the big picture, consider their goals, not just yours. They might not want to retire before their golden years. In fact, they might get extreme satisfaction and validation out of working everyday, completing projects, interacting with other individuals who share their passions, and driving expensive cars. They might be okay with having $20k in credit card debt because it’s a low-interest rate and they’ll pay it off with their next bonus. With that said, Do NOT assume their financial goals should be the same as your financial goals. Big mistake. Don’t make it.
Test The Fence First
If you feel it is absolutely necessary to intervene in someone’s finances without an invitation, I suggest you, first, test the fence. By testing the fence, you want to put out feelers to see if the subject at hand makes them want to punch you in the face. Think about how the dinosaurs would test the fence in Jurassic Park to see if it was LIVE. If it was, they would get a huge jolt – kinda like a punch in the face. It’s just like that!
If broaching the subject makes your loved one visibly agitated and ticked off, you might just want to mind your own business and be thankful you have a better understanding of how to handle personal finances. If, however, you are greeted with silence, curiosity, or even better, a sigh of relief, you have an open door to help! And without further ado, let’s examine some potential conversation ice breakers you could use to start. Keep in mind, presentation is everything! If you want to be successful, I suggest you bring up these ice breakers at an opportunistic time. Like, when your loved one brings up money first! Then you can transition into something like this…
Financial Intervention Ice Breakers
“I heard you say you were having a difficult time juggling your bills the last time we hung out. I know exactly how you feel because I’ve been there (make sure that last part is a true statement – it’ll build trust). If you’re open to it, I’d be more than happy to sit down and try to find some wiggle room in your budget.”
“I was surprised at how well we did with our money last year. I’d love to share some of our strategies with you some time!”
“You really stink at handling your money. Let me show you how it’s done.” – Just kidding. This WILL get you punched in the face.
Now don’t worry, it’s highly likely they won’t bite, but you at least planted the seed. Now, they’ll know who to turn to when they are ready to accept help – that could be weeks, months, or even years after your offer.
The important part is to be open and not judgmental. No one needs that. Chances are, they’re feeling pretty crappy about their decisions already and they don’t need their family member or friend kicking them when they’re down. They need you to help them. Be helpful.
Hardcore Destructive Behaviors
If, on the other hand, your loved one’s financial habits have become destructive towards themselves or others, it’s time to conduct a financial intervention, whether they want it or not. Typically, destructive financial behaviors are the result of addictions or other mental issues. Someone exhibiting extreme destructive behaviors due to addictions or mental health issues may or may not be willing to receive help. In these cases, the underlying issue must be treated to resolve the financial habits. And a professional therapist is the best option – assuming they’re willing to meet with one.
How To Conduct Said Intervention
However, if you’re dealing with the softball variety, a financial intervention should be conducted when the person is ready to accept it.
- You can either sit down with the person solo, or bring a few people in their circle together. Make sure there are no surprises for the person you’re helping. Surprises aren’t going to help. Period.
- Explain to the person how much you care about them and want to see them on the right track with their money. Make it conversational, not preachy. You don’t want your loved one feeling like they’re being ganged up on. If you get this far, the person is open to change.
- Look at their finances – all of them.
- Develop a strategy together. Make sure they have input and are in control of their strategy.
- Let them know they have a support group they can reach out to in times of stress or financial temptation.
- Meet again, and again, and again.
- The combination of persistence, repetition, and support will increase the liklihood of success.
Personally, I have conducted two softball financial interventions in my life – only after I was asked to intervene. The two people I helped were very close to me and I thought we did a fantastic job of outlining the state of their money, as well as developing actionable plans. And, we actually did. Since the interventions, I have noticed some positives being employed, but I have also noticed old money habits rearing their ugly heads.
I have learned from my experience, that pointing something out, even after having the intervention, does nothing other than create resistance. In both my cases, I allow these people to reach out to me when they want more guidance. It has been a cycle, but I do believe a worthwhile one.
What are your thoughts on having a financial intervention? Is it worth it? Have you tried it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!
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Disclaimer: I am not a therapist. This article was meant to give a little insight into helping loved ones who aren’t severely impacted with addiction or psychological issues. Please seek professional guidance for such issues.