When you’re growing up, your parents typically handle the bulk – if not all – of your financial needs. However, what happens when you become an adult, and the situation changes? Whether your parents are continuously asking for money and not handling theirs responsibly or are giving you based advice constantly, having financially toxic parents can make managing your cash far harder. If you’re wondering what you can do, here’s a look at how to handle financially toxic parents.
Regardless of whether you offer your parents financial assistance of any kind, your first priority should be to yourself and your household. Make sure your financial house is in order by accounting for expenses, setting money aside for retirement, tending to your children’s needs, and otherwise ensuring your household is on solid financial footing.
Additionally, if you’re married and have joint finances, talk with your spouse before offering your parents any financial support. Ultimately, giving your parents money impacts your partner, too, so being on the same page about what is and isn’t reasonable is a must.
In the end, any support you offer should only come from funds that are generally considered discretionary. That way, you aren’t giving yourself a financial hardship in exchange for handling your parents’ monetary difficulties.
Know Your Limits
First and foremost, giving your parents money on occasion isn’t inherently problematic. Typically, parents only become financially toxic if they’re asking for or expecting far more than you can reasonably give. For example, they may request so much money that it would derail your budget. At times, they may employ guilt to convince you that you owe them, essentially hoping to shame you into giving in when they ask for financial support.
Regardless of their approach, you need to know your limits. Review your budget and savings and determine what you can and can’t reasonably do. That allows you to figure out what you have to offer in advance, ensuring you can provide a quick response if they ask for money at an unexpected time.
Additionally, as mentioned above, if you’re in a committed relationship with shared finances, factor in your partner’s limits, too. Being on the same page is essential, so get their input before you finish drawing any lines in the sand.
Don’t Discuss Your Money
In some cases, financially toxic parents are more likely to ask for help if they know you’re in a good position when it comes to money. Whether it’s understanding that your income is high, that you have plenty saved, that you received a bonus, or anything similar, they may view that information as an opportunity.
While withholding that kind of information from family members isn’t always easy or plausible, don’t discuss your money with your parents whenever possible. If they aren’t aware of your financial state, they may not see as many chances to swoop in and ask for cash.
Speak with Siblings
At times, having a frank conversation with your siblings about your parents asking for money is worthwhile. That’s particularly true if other family members are also being subjected to requests for financial assistance that are getting out of line. It creates an opportunity for you and your siblings to get on the same page, allowing you to act as a unified front against any financially toxic actions on the part of your parents.
However, only go this route if your siblings are in a similar boat and share your perspective. If there’s a significant difference in income, savings, or other aspects of your financial lives, your siblings may see things differently. In that case, it may be better to leave them out of the equation and avoid discussing money matters with them.
Additionally, if your siblings exhibit financially toxic behavior, you might want to treat those relationships similarly to how you manage your parents. That ensures you aren’t saying “no” to one but not the other, creating a degree of consistency.
Once you know your limits, you may need to speak with your parents to set some boundaries. Essentially, you want to outline what you are and aren’t willing to do, using concrete language and a definitive tone.
The idea here is to put a halt to any financially toxic behavior that is directed at you. While they may continue asking for financial support, the guidelines make it easier to say “no” to requests you can’t shoulder.
When you’re setting boundaries, it may be best to cut off all financial support across the board, as that makes the matter less complex. However, if you are willing to help in some areas, make sure they are as well-defined and rigid as possible, removing any ambiguity about what you will do.
If you’re concerned that your parents’ financially toxic behavior gave you some bad life lessons about money, research can help you learn the truth. Spend time reading materials from reputable sources. Speak with a financial advisor regarding your situation or various money situations. Gather information directly from banks and lenders.
By doing your research, you can make sure that you’re properly informed. As a result, you’ll have an easier time making sound financial decisions moving forward, allowing you to develop healthier money habits that will serve you well over the long term.
Cut Off Contact
If you’ve set boundaries and your parents aren’t respecting them, you may need to cut off contact, at least temporarily. While this is often difficult, it can be the right choice in some situations. It ensures you aren’t constantly subjected to their requests or other financially toxic behavior, which can reduce stress significantly.
Additionally, cutting off contact can serve as a wake-up call, though it doesn’t always. If it does, your parents may reevaluate their behavior, essentially causing the lack of contact to serve as a source of motivation to change.
Ultimately, this step is a last resort, particularly if other aspects of the relationship are generally good. However, it’s critical to remember that it’s often an option on the table, so don’t be afraid to head in this direction if the situation is genuinely irrecoverable.
Do you have financially toxic parents and want to tell others about your experience? Do you have any more tips for people dealing with financially toxic parents? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald has worked as a Financial Advisor for the military for past 13 years. She has taught Personal Financial classes on every subject from credit, to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Mrs. McDonald is an AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor and has helped her clients to meet their short-term and long-term financial goals.