Dealing With Money & Family Guilt: It Never Ends

Dealing With Money & Family Guilt: It Never Ends


In the summer of 2014, my father passed away suddenly. Please read my final thoughts on this topic.

You may not have a reason to feel guilty. You may not know the entire situation. I will always love my father. At the end of the day, I wish I had not given my father any money at all because I learned that that was certainly not the help he needed.

I do not have a close relationship with either of my parents and have been responsible for myself since I was in high school.

Money and Family: Nothing Changes

It’s amazing to think that I wrote about this same exact problem about money and family two years ago and it is still an issue.

Two years ago I gave my dad close to $1K for repairs on his old car. Between then and now he has asked me for smaller amounts of money for less important things and I declined.

Consequences Shmonsequences

Earlier this year, my dad “got sick of living here” and drove from WY to NY. He drove out there, stayed for a few weeks, was miserable, then drove back to WY. It did not occur to him that he is of poor health and has little money. He wanted to go so he did. That time, he was able to come back to WY without any consequences. He still had his apartment and the drive was fine, even though he was right back where he started.

Last month he, once again got “sick of this place” and went on another road trip to NY. Unfortunately, on this second trip, his 1988 Subaru wagon with 350,000 miles on it kicked the bucket in South Dakota. He abandoned it and had to buy a bus ticket back to get back to WY.

Does My Dad Need a Car?

According to him, there is a bus in the city that will come pick you up but you must put in your request at least 24 hours before pick-up time. This isn’t ideal but for grocery shopping and doctor’s appointments he will have advanced warning anyway.

Currently he is relying on helpful neighbors to bring him to the doctor’s and grocery store.

I do realize that for him, it isn’t about the car or transportation but about independence.

Why I’m Not Giving My Dad Money

In my lifetime I have never seen my dad work a full-time job. He received an inheritance form the death of his mother soon after I was born, blew it all, and now has nothing.

I felt very guilty the first time he asked me for money. It felt as though I have an obligation to help my dad as long as I am able, even though we do not have a very close relationship.

Now, however, I feel that he took it for granted and did not appreciate the help. There is also something about him not having shame to ask his daughter for money that leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

The last time I wrote about this I mentioned trying to set my dad up with a budget for spending & savings. Unfortunately, it is very late in life for him to start learning how to make sacrifices. Even the idea of only going to the store once a week via public transportation is difficult for him to comprehend.

Why I Still Feel Guilty About It

My father, while trying to guilt me for money, said this, “You’re 30, you have your whole life ahead of you to make that money back.” My dad is 70 and constantly feels his days are numbered.

I thought about his logic though. To him, it doesn’t matter what my current circumstances are because I will be able to get that money back in the future. I can put myself out now because, eventually, I’ll get the $1K back.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much how my dad has lived his life. Putting everything off for his future self to worry about and not dealing with the consequences once gets hit with them.

Part of me sees the car trouble as consequences of my dad’s actions and he finally needs to face them.

Another part of me still feels guilty. Since he is 70 and in poor health, should I just help make his last years as easy as possible?


I am very interested in your opinions. Have you been guilted into financially assisting a friend or family member? How did it work out? Do you feel it is important to help parents if you’re young enough to recover? Are we obligated to help our parents at any cost?


15 Replies to “Dealing With Money & Family Guilt: It Never Ends”

    1. I cut all ties with my mother when I left her house at the age of 17. There were financial reasons for that but more so emotional ones and in the end, even though she was my mother, she was not a very good one so I did not have as much guilt in that situation as I do with my dad. While what my mother did was very blatant and obvious, my father’s emotional manipulation has been more subtle.

      Also, since I (technically) don’t have a mother, there is a part of me that had been trying to hang onto the relationship with my father so I could have at least one parent. That is one of the more difficult parts of the realization that he is taking advantage of me – now I am left without any parents. Emotionally that is pretty hard to come to terms with.

      Thanks for sharing your complicated family story, sometimes I feel as though I’m the only one who deals with this type of stress.

      1. I often feel the same way. Right now I have a small group of blogger friends who are in the same situation, and we all complain to each other. You can email me whenever you’d like. I would actually love it if you emailed me because then I can rant back :)

  1. I am in a very similar situation. My mom (65) is super financially irresponsible. She retired 10 years early because she hates working, bought a house, but then hasn’t paid her property taxes in year even though she could afford it if she had a budget. She is probably going to loose her house in the near future and is kind of excited because she thinks it will force me to let her move in. Meanwhile, she goes out all the time and randomly buys plane tickets to visit me 1000s of miles away instead of paying electricity. She feels that I should support her at 28 because I have a job and she does not and owe it to her for raising me. (She’s told me that pretty much word for word.) My total family income is 40K and I have an unemployed husband and dog to take care of. We live in an expensive city (force to live here b/c of my job) and rent for a 500sq ft cottage without a yard is 50% of my income. I still manage to save money through public transportation, never eating out, etc. Still, it is hard and I make a lot of sacrifices (ie turning down all requests for dinner/drinks out with friends, quitting my gym, eating rice and beans and oatmeal most weeks). I finally told her that I do not want to and cannot give her money (although I pay for her phone so that I can keep in touch). I have also banned discussing finances because it is too stressful and refuse all gifts or money as they might be held against me later. It has been really hard and I am plagued with HORRIBLE guilt. Every time she visits I cry for days after because I am made to feel like a horrible daughter. If I had money I would probably give her a monthly allowance, but it would go to a specific purpose. For example, bills would be paid directly to the company. I do feel like it is duty to be charitable to those less fortunate (especially parents), but it is a fine line between less fortunate and irresponsible. My husband would like me to cut off all ties, but it is hard because I have been manipulated for my entire life and it is not easy to walk away.

    1. Sorry to hijack your post Leslie.

      Diana, your life sounds too much like mine. I am so sorry. I recently had to tell my mom that I could no longer talk to her because of her toxic ways.

    2. Diana, I am so sorry to hear about your situation! The guilt that comes from family loyalty is incredibly strong.

      It’s interesting that while I realized the relationship with my mother was toxic and ended it just after high school, my father’s manipulation was so indirect that it took me a long time to finally realize what he was doing. It seems for you, michelle, and myself, our parents quickly learned they could emotionally manipulate us with money and have abused their position as a parent to make us feel guilty as their children. Ugh.

      Your one duty as a parent is to love & take care of your children. How is that so hard!

      Thanks to both of you for sharing your stories. It is very difficult for me to write personal posts like this and knowing that other people are dealing with similar situations is extremely helpful. I do want to add that going to therapy has helped me a lot in being able to stand up to my father without feeling like a bad daughter.

      1. Thank YOU for sharing. When I read your post I was amazed people out there going through something similar. I have multiple people speak very highly of therapy. Trying hard to get up courage to go. ;)

  2. > My father, while trying to guilt me for money, said this, “You’re 30, you have your whole life ahead of you to make that money back.” My dad is 70 and constantly feels his days are numbered.

    I would have responded, “So why haven’t you used your past 40 years to make money?”

  3. It’s a truism that parents know how to pull the strings to your heart because they’re the ones who tied them. I feel for you and with you. My experience has been similar in some ways and different, of course, in others.

    I’ve supported my parents for 13 years now, and it’s going to be some time yet before it stops, if it stops. It was my choice to start helping once the family income went on the rocks, they didn’t ask and I could see it hurt them when I had to start pitching in, and when the help had to increase rather than decrease, then hurt grew exponentially. That was the main reason, other than my sense of duty that I think we all share to some degree, that I kept on with it and didn’t feel any sense of conflict the way I started to when any of the money filtered over to my brother toward whom I felt much more resentment for his sense of entitlement.

    Now *he* had that hand out and a barrelful of reasons why it “made sense” for me to help him out “just this once.” He was perfectly capable, physically, of holding a job and a budget and all that but wouldn’t and couldn’t and didn’t and had all kinds of excuses. But I had that sense of misplaced guilt that this was my brother I was refusing to help. I hated him for refusing to be a responsible adult, for guilting me, for creating even more burden on me when I was already carrying the family on my own. It took me a long time but after a while, I learned to stop trying to force him to stand on his own and stopped helping him to try to make him stand, and even though I couldn’t totally dissociate him from the family and the support, I did make sure he never got a cent from me again.

    In this, my brother is your dad, Leslie. He’s held a job, at best, for two and a half years, at a time. It’s always been getting by on the kindness of others, on the generosity of others, on the fruit of others’ labors. And if things didn’t turn out the way they “should have” it was because someone else didn’t do it the way they “should have”, ie: the way he said they should or the way he envisioned it, or if they did follow his vision, then something else went wrong. It was never his fault.

    There are other complications, of course, my parents could never handle throwing him out/cutting him off entirely despite his obvious issues so that made it even more difficult to force him to be responsible in any way. But the essential problem is there, and very similar, and I have no illusions that it’s only going to be worse when we get older. My mom’s gone and my dad’s not able to cut him loose so that’s just going to be another thread of enabling until …? And then it’s on me again to cut him out.

    I can only hope and pray he’ll never have a kid to inflict on them what your parents have done to you; he’s done enough to me, his younger sibling, that’s incredibly manipulative. I can only imagine how much worse it could be coming from a parent where you feel even more responsibility.

  4. Leslie, it’s hard for anyone to put themselves in your shoes. If I was thinking about this from my own perspective, I would help my father or my mother. But that’s because they’ve both been excellent parents my entire life, helping me every time I needed help and giving me the best childhood they could provide.

    Knowing what I know about your family, I say don’t give him the assistance. Sure, you have time to recoup the loss, but it’s not your responsibility to make up for his irresponsibility. I’m a strong believer in teaching people. Yes, I will help someone I love who is just down on his luck. But after I’ve helped them and hopefully helped them to better understand their situation and how to improve it (coworkers and family members have come to me for help formulating budgets in the past), I’m not going to continue enabling their bad behavior. Maybe he is old, and it’s too late to learn to be a responsible adult. Is that your responsibility?

    Really though, this is about how YOU are going to feel about yourself if you don’t help. I can tell you all day long that you shouldn’t, but it’s all about how you’re going to feel if you don’t do it. I wouldn’t feel guilty. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t (damn double negative!). It’s not wrong for you to want to help, and reading your comment to Michelle about having one parent broke my heart. Do you really think your dad would cut ties if you didn’t help? I just can’t imagine a father cutting ties with his daughter over that, especially when he has an alternative. Sure, it’s less than optimal, but he should have thought of that before now. Harsh but true.

  5. I’m sorry that you are going through all this! Familiy issues can be so hard…much harder than regular relationships. We have been estranged from my husband’s parents for long periods of time before and it’s so strange and awkward…it sucks.

    I hope it gets better for you =)

  6. Ugh, this is a horrible situation. It seems to me that in these kinds of situations, a little help leads to more help, and doesn’t end the cycle of dependency.

    My fiance’s family is broke as hell, and while it’s hard to watch, I know we have to put ourselves first. I also know opening it up with a helping hand at one time will open the door for a steady trickle (been there done that). In one case, it’s not entirely the person’s fault (and in fact she is supporting other family members who are even more hopeless) but in others it’s self-imposed.

  7. Eesh. This sounds vaguely similar to my in-laws. They did work hard, but then my mother-in-law could only work part-time (health problems). Then not at all. And that was around when his dad got laid off. But mainly their money problems came from spending when they had it and not thinking of the future. For example, 20 years of profit-sharing spent in under a year. They got lots of pretty new appliances and furniture. They paid off a timeshare. But not their actual house.

    So when they were going to lose their house, we bought one. About a year ahead of schedule. We scrambled to get a down payment, various unexpected repairs put us back in debt… It was ridiculous. But with ruined credit and $1,200 a month income, there was no way they’d get a place to live up in Washington. And if they did, it would have been a minimum of $650-700 a month.

    So we sucked it up. And it cost us, emotionally and financially. It’s been tough, and there’s been resentment on our side. I’m sure his parents sense it. At least they care, which it seems like your dad just doesn’t.

    If he pulls the “you have your whole future ahead of you” try something like “yes and it will end up like yours if I’m not careful with my money.” Okay, maybe something a little more tactful. Or not. Sometimes rudeness really makes your point.

    My in-laws really didn’t get it until we were very clear and somewhat rude about it. A lot of people will unthinkingly take whatever you’re willing to give them. (Some will happily take even more than that.) My in-laws didn’t bother/think to look into alternate transportation until we told them we weren’t driving them anywhere anymore. Then magically, they found programs that would get them around cheaply and/or for free. (Head banging against wall.)

    And in case it sounds horrible that we stopped driving them anywhere… When they had my husband drive them to the grocery store, they took two hours. Every time. But the real breaking point was when we got back from the ER when I had my second miscarriage. And my husband had been in the ER two days prior with pneumonia (on an asthmatic, that’s especially bad). Maybe — maybe — five hours after Tim broke the news to them, his mom came out and reminded him he’d need to drive his dad to the store for his meds the next day. He kind of brushed it off, but she told him again the next day. He lost it.

    Since we stopped driving them everywhere, things have gotten calmer. I guess the point — other than a rant, apparently — is that you have to set boundaries. They’re sanity savers. They’re also the only way a lot of people will respect your needs. Most importantly, they’re the only way to be sure you’re meeting your needs first, which is important for any happy version of your future.

  8. No – you don’t have to give your Dad money – just treat him respectfully – no it is not earned – it is the one commandment with a promise – and you can show respect even if he doesn’t. About college – you went out of state I take it …. must have been expensive. After 7 years of college, I can tell you a 30+ hr job will not support you and out of state tuition – unless maybe you had grants, loans, or other financial assistance to lessen the financial load.

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