Q: We are friends with another couple in our neighbourhood. Despite having good jobs, they keep going deeper into debt on their line of credit and often times their parents help them out; they’re always on the edge financially. They’ve said they need help with their finances, but they keep delaying the inevitable. I see how stressed they are and it’s hard to stand by and watch. How can I help them?
A: It’s hard to stand by and watch family or friends suffer. However, people are much more receptive to receiving help when they seek it out themselves. Start by taking a step back and put yourself in their shoes to understand their situation better.
When someone is feeling stressed financially, they often feel like a failure. As adults, we’re expected to know how to manage our money, but it’s something most of us are never taught. With feelings of financial failure comes stress – stress about not knowing how we’ll support our family or how we’ll protect our lifestyle. Many people fear rejection by their community if they can no longer fit in, whether it’s with the right image or the right “stuff.” Think about teens who are so concerned with what their friends think of them; adults keeping up with the Joneses are no different.
As someone’s stress level increases, so does their ability to look for solutions to their problem. You might clearly be able to see what your friends should do, however it’s not that easy when you’re in the thick of it. Many people aren’t sure where to start, and when they experience a set-back, they abandon their plan altogether. “One easy payment” month after month amounts to a lot of hard work.
Encourage your friends to seek out realistic options, not an easy, quick fix. People mismanage their money and end up in debt for any number of reasons and you might not realize the full extent of their situation. It also takes time and determination to turn old habits around and make changes. Let them know that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, that their situation isn’t hopeless and that they have more options now than if they wait. Generally speaking, we start to feel better when we start working towards a solution instead of staying focused on the problem.
Your support and encouragement to deal with their debt may not be appreciated in the short term, but as things get easier for them, so too will talking to you about your help and support.
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