What To Do When Parents Ask for Money

What To Do When Parents Ask for Money


I’ve been very public about the emotional stress of my father asking me for money. At one point, I did give him money. Later on, I refused. There are over 60 comments, all with stories similar to my own. It is heart-breaking to hear so many others dealing with what to do when parents ask for money.

There has also been some criticism on the matter. A common sentiment is that children have an obligation to help their parents. Or that negligence in this way is shameful. Or that it’s selfish to not give a relative what they want. Everyone’s situation is different and it’s difficult to know all the sides of a story.

Care about what you can take with you

Care About What You Can Take With You

Recently, my father passed away suddenly. Although our relationship was complicated, I loved him completely and miss him every day. He will always be in my heart.

While sorting through the emotions of this, I did ask myself how I felt about my financial decisions regarding him. The issue of him borrowing money from me had become a center-point of my stress for a long time. I couldn’t just ignore all the complicated feelings included in that.

Let me tell you, when I was sitting next to my dad’s hospital bed, the last thing on my mind was money. I had just flown “at-all-costs”, literally, to see him in his last hours. Were his last hours spent berating me for not giving him money? Or even thanking me for when I did give him money? Not at all. All we talked about was love. Money was so far from all our minds.

cody, wy

Do I Regret Not Giving My Dad Money?

When I look back on everything, do I regret not giving my dad the money he asked for? No. Honestly, I regret the first time when I did give him the money he wanted.

While I was sorting through dad’s things, I found a lot of pictures he had of the times I visited. Those are memories that are now impossible to recreate. I am so grateful that I was able to share those times with him. I instantly wished I had been able to visit him more.

The first time these money issues came up, was when he asked for over $600 for car repairs. I eventually did give him the money plus some. But I told him that I had originally planned to use that money to visit him. And if I gave him the money then, it meant I would not be able to visit him that year. He understood and accepted that.

Instead of having more memories with my dad. Instead of having spent more time with him. Instead of sharing more experiences with him. Instead of all those priceless things, I gave him money to get a car fixed. That car barely made it another year. He wasn’t thinking about that car in the hospital. It was so important at the time, but so unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

Lamar Valley

Spend On, Don’t Give To

Now, I know that “life can’t wait” sometimes. But I truly wish I had spent the money on my dad by visiting him. Rather than give the money to my dad on something that didn’t even matter.

To those of you who are going through similar situations, I urge you to remember this. Giving someone money is not helping them. It does nothing for them. And in the long-run will hurt your relationship with each other. Instead, if you want to be compassionate, spend your money on them in a truly helpful way.

Spend money on going to visit them. This will allow you to spend time together, hopefully relax, and let you see what their living situation really is like.

Spend money by getting them professional help. A bankruptcy lawyer if they are that destitute. A therapist if their mental issues are holding them back. A job coach if they are continuously unemployed.

Consider these things an investment rather than a loss. I can guarantee that no parent will say “You didn’t give me enough money” as their last words.

yellowstone lake

Fight The Guilt With Knowledge

Being asked for money by a loved one brings up immediate feelings of guilt. Especially if you aren’t able to or don’t think it’s right to hand it over. I recommend learning more about their exact situation before doing anything.

People can get manipulative when they’re desperate. And they tend to exaggerate. It’s possible that the relative is exaggerating the direness of their situation to make you feel even more guilty. They know this will get to you and then they will get what they want. It is not disrespectful to ask for more information. Once they ask you for money, they are essentially giving you permission to investigate their own finances. Whether they like it or not.

Take some time to investigate their income, expenses, debts, bills. Again, with this knowledge you can determine actions that would be most helpful. Not what they think would help them. But what would truly help them.

I wish I had done this. I experienced a lot of guilt around my father asking me for money. Especially when I did not give it to him. It turns out, I didn’t have a full grasp on the situation. While going through my father’s things, I found extra income that he never mentioned. I am happy that he was able to earn more money. But clearly this should have been acknowledged at some point. There were times I asked him about his money-in and money-out, but without actually seeing everything myself, I could never know the whole story.

Spending time with a parent is better than giving them money
Always grateful for the time dad and I got to be together

Giving Is Not Helping

I want to reiterate how strongly I feel about this. Spending money on a loved one is something you will never regret. Sharing time and experiences with them is all you’ll have after they’re gone. Not houses, cars, clothes. What they think will make them happy, may not be what will truly make them happy. Give them the help they need, not want. In the end, your relationship will hopefully be stronger, not have guilt or stress, and be warmly remembered.

Every picture here is from visits with my dad. No matter what tough times we went through, he will always be in my heart.


21 Replies to “What To Do When Parents Ask for Money”

    1. Hi Leslie- Thank you for sharing your story. Really helpful Mine is similar and now my Dad has a terminal illness and is continuing to be self-centered and demanding. I find the more I am giving, the more he expects/takes and when I’ve said no, his reaction is hurtful. I think it is about setting boundaries. I’ve acknowledged sadly that he is not someone willing to admit and take responsibility -it is always someone else’s ‘fault’ and it’s all being ‘done’ to him–“no one is helping me” he says.
      Your Dad was fortunate to have you as a daughter. Take care.

    1. I certainly wish I had a time machine to go back and tell this to my 25-year old self. But then going through the process and learning the actual lesson has been invaluable. I will definitely treat my close relationships a bit differently from now on.

  1. What an important distinction and I’m so glad you’re able to look back on those visits and time together. I agree – no one really cares about the money in the end. All you want is a little more time.

    1. This has certainly made me realize that for all the energy I put into money… it matters so little in the grand scheme of things. I’m definitely going to try to change how I handle my family/friend relationships.

  2. Leslie, I am so sorry for your loss, but happy that you were able to go see your father in the hospital and speak with him one more time. Of course, you weren’t thinking about money in that moment, and that in itself is a blessing: the ability to say, when a true emergency arises, that you can spend what you need to in order to do what you have to.

    I’m glad that you feel at peace with your decisions. At the end of the day, most of us haven’t gone through what you did so it’s good that you feel you made the right choices.

  3. Sorry for your loss, Leslie. I remember reading one of your first posts about giving him money. I’m sure it was a struggle to make the decision not to. I’m grateful that you’ve shared what you learned. It’s valuable for all of us to learn.

    1. It really was an eye opening experience and lesson in how to treat people. I hope I’m not in a similar situation with friends anytime soon but I do feel that I could handle it better now.

  4. I’m sorry to hear about your Dad, my thoughts are with you.

    You look a little bit like him in the face – so cute to see the resemblance! I was thinking of all your thoughtful advice about lending/giving money recently, when a close friend of mine had no place to stay because of domestic violence. He stayed with me awhile, which was following your advice above, and I did give him some money so he could get himself set up in a place that he felt safe. He says he’ll pay me back, but I was looking at it as a gift from me to him — so if he does, great, but if not, I hope he’ll pay it forward when someone else is in a really awful situation.

    Miss you, hope to talk to you soon!

    1. It sounds like you handled things well in that situation. I hope your friend gets things sorted out and finds the strength to be in a healthier relationship when the time comes.

      I consciously used the word “give” above, never “borrow”. In this situation, no one is borrowing. When it’s more than $20, you’re not borrowing. Of course it would be nice to be paid back, but money like that should never be lent with the actual expectation of getting it back. That’s a big reason why spending it on the person will often mean less resentment down the road.

  5. I’m really sorry Leslie :( It must have been a relief that you were able to get to see him and spend his last hours together.

    This is a fantastic post – linking to it tomorrow.

  6. good advice, going thru something similar and its hard. my dad only contacts me or it feels like it only when he needs money. im a single mom i dont ask him for help.

  7. This is the most beautiful blog I’ve read. My spouse and I are dealing with a situation where you do it because it’s what’s right. GOD’S will. My FIL AND MIL have had alot of financial issues and when things get tight they are talked about in private with my spouse and at the end of a conversation you don’t say ” don’t tell your wife”. That’s the WORSE thing is secrecy! I felt so betrayed and felt like my spouse was married to his Dad! The MIL has admitted many times over the years she knows she hoards! And gives excuses to why she does this. Then the FIL who has a job and inherited a good bit spent all of the money within a year! A year! Just a day ago my spouse and FIL went to talk and he brought up he needed to borrow $ and my spouse offered a certain amount the FIL response was well I need a little more and my spouse raised the amount well I need more than than. My husband said well I don’t know my FIL made sure to tell my spouse “don’t tell your wife”. So my spouse felt awful and told me what he offered to his Dad and I said to him. Wait he borrows against his farm to pay off CC and has dragged his feet from getting this settlement check ( he put it off for a YEAR) sign and date the papers and he would have the check within days. He has MANY assets he can sell and within days double his cash intake!

  8. You are still feel guilty and you know why deep in your heart. You gave money to your dad and you punished him by not visiting him. He asked your help because he really need it at that time.

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