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Dear Heidi: How can I stop giving my sister money?

It's tough meshing money and family, but setting clear boundaries and operating from the right mindset can help to guide your actions.

There’s some good, old advice that says, “If you want to avoid awkward situations, disappointments, and heartbreaks — don’t loan anyone money or co-sign for a loan.”

They're sage words, but when it comes to family, is this fantastic advice an impossibility? The answer is unique to you, your family, and your situation, but nearly always, money is a sticky subject.

For example, during COVID, millions of people worldwide have incurred heavy financial burdens, through no fault of their own. Global pandemics tend to ruin everything! Perhaps a family member has recently felt financial pangs, which you were fortunate enough to escape and needs financial help. If they ask, should you offer support?

Loaning money is the stickiest of sticky wickets and should be examined and evaluated situation by situation. If a hard-working, reliable family member suffered a financial set-back, and you are in the position to offer help, why not?

You can take things further and put restrictions and limitations on the loan, such as a payment schedule, or make it a one-time only loan. Make it clear to your family member that you want to help and are happy to do so, but please do not take advantage of your good fortune and kind nature.

You don’t want your kindness to become expected, you want it to be respected and appreciated. However, it's also important to be empathetic and mindful that while you might have an embarrassment of riches, your family member does not, and is in a compromised position where they feel compelled to ask for help. Put yourself in their place, be clear and kind, but there is no reason not to be proud of your accomplishments. These days, being able to meet your financial obligations without strain is an accomplishment!

There could be times when a family member needs financial help, but you are not fiscally sound yourself, so you can't offer any funds. But there may be another way that you can help. For example, offer to babysit, offer a ride, or make them something homemade. It's not money, but sometimes small, good things can help make the bigger, tougher things a tiny bit more tolerable.

Alternatively, if you can afford it, take some other good, old advice; “Don’t loan anyone money. Instead, consider it a gift.” You’ll be spared from disappointments, and you'll keep your relationships intact — as long as such gifts don’t become a habit.

Be proud of yourself and your station in life, while being mindful of everyone else’s unique situations. That will help to ensure that you treat others with respect and kindness — and that includes yourself.


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