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a girl lives in brooklyn
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.