How To Conduct A Financial Intervention Without Getting Punched In The Face

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?


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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.

Related: How Should Parents Talk To Their Kids About Money?

 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.

Related: 13 Easy Tips To Take Control Of Your Money

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.

Related: How I Paid Off $25,000 In Student Loans In 15 Years! Don’t Be Impressed!

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Look at their finances – all of them.
  4. Develop a strategy together. Make sure they have input and are in control of their strategy.
  5. Let them know they have a support group they can reach out to in times of stress or financial temptation.
  6. Meet again, and again, and again.
  7. The combination of persistence, repetition, and support will increase the liklihood of success.

Related: Inexpensive Family Staycations Are More Fun Than You Think

Intervention Experience


Mad Money Cat

Mad Money Cat doesn’t need a financial intervention. She’s a multi-millionaire. #winning


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. 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dads Dollars Debts Apr 29, 2017, 1:49 am

    The closest I have ever come to an intervention was telling my brother to not buy whole life insurance and send him some useful blog posts. He did not listen and went ahead and bought the insurance.

    I find it hard to intervene in something that is so personal as personal finance. I do often drop suggestions about what I am doing, but without being asked I will not take it any further.

  • Jax Apr 28, 2017, 11:33 am

    Mr. Beach Life’s mom is horrendous with money but thinks its someone else’s responsibility to make sure she has all her wants in addition to all her needs. We are open to discussing how to make better financial choices, but if we ever tried to start the conversation that would be the end of the relationship. It’s really hard because she’s not doing well, but won’t help herself at all. The best thing we can do for her is be there for emotional support.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 28, 2017, 2:40 pm

      That’s our situation as well. It’s really tough when they’re close family members. You do what you can do.

  • Ty Roberts Apr 28, 2017, 11:12 am

    Thankfully I’ve not run into any situations were I felt lives were being ruined, but almost daily I have a SMH moment with someone I know.

    My network of friends and family know I’m into personal finance and will ask me questions from time to time. When that happens the voltage in the fence is off and I can say what I feel without fear of getting punched.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 28, 2017, 2:39 pm

      Exactly! At least they know who to turn to when they need it. That might be extremely helpful to them some time in the future!

  • Erik @ The Mastermind Within Apr 28, 2017, 10:38 am

    Most of my friend group is not as open minded as I am. If I brought up a financial intervention, I’d be thrown to the curb because “I don’t know what it’s like to have student loans, I don’t know what it’s like to make $30k, etc.”

    Here’s the funny thing… I probably make the most of my friends, and SPEND the LEAST. You wonder why I’m getting ahead? Because I don’t spend money and invest + save the rest.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 28, 2017, 2:39 pm

      Yep. It really is a simple formula – it’s a shame most people don’t see it, or don’t care. Oh well, we can only do so much to help our friends.

  • mike Apr 28, 2017, 10:02 am

    This is a tough one. We don’t usually run into the hardcore financial meltdown situation, but it’s frustrating when people have a continuous drip of Softball Bad Choices and complain about finances. After many years of accumulating small bad choices, the situation is much worse, but there isn’t one big “WHY DID YOU BUY A FERRARI?” situation to point to.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 28, 2017, 10:18 am

      It’s definitely hard to sit back and watch loved ones make bad decision after bad decision. At what point you decide to “butt in” is also tricky. Just being open about your own successes and that you’re willing to tell them how you did it might work. It all depends on them.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire Apr 28, 2017, 9:36 am

    Haha, love the title!

    I have friends (a husband and wife) that are horrendous with money. They blow through it as soon as they get it (material crap and eating out all the time). They do know my financial goals and, of course, say they want to jump on the bandwagon.

    But they just can’t stop spending on frivolous stuff to make any headway. Since their actions speak louder than their words, they obviously don’t really want to change so I don’t push either way. If they ask me questions, I give them my thoughts, but I’ve been careful not to make it unsolicited advice… I look slightly better without any black eyes. 😉

    — Jim

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 28, 2017, 10:19 am

      Yes, I think we all probably look better without a couple of black eyes 🙂 You’re obviously doing the right thing in regards to your friends. They will only change when they’re ready. At least they’ll know where to come!

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