When you’re growing up, your parents usually provide for—if not all— of your financial needs. However, what happens when you become an adult, and the situation changes? Whether your parents are constantly asking for money and not handling them responsibly or are constantly giving you advice, having a financially toxic parent can make managing your cash very difficult. If you’re wondering what you can do, here’s how to handle a financially toxic parent.
make yourself a priority
No matter what kind of financial support you provide to your parents, your first priority should be for yourself and your family. Make sure your financial house is well-suited to expenses, by setting aside money for retirement, meeting the needs of your children, and otherwise making sure your household is on solid financial footing.
Additionally, if you are married and have joint finances, talk to your spouse before giving any financial support to your parents. Ultimately, giving your parents money affects your partner too, so it’s important to be on the same page about what’s appropriate and what’s not.
Finally, any support you provide should only come from funds that are generally considered discretionary. This way, you are not giving yourself financial hardship in exchange for handling your parents’ monetary difficulties.
know your limits
First and foremost, giving your parents money on occasion isn’t inherently problematic. In general, parents only become financially toxic if they are asking for or expecting more than you can reasonably give. For example, they may request so much money that it derails your budget. Sometimes, they may use guilt to convince you that you are indebted to them, essentially hoping to embarrass you when you ask for financial help.
Regardless of their point of view, you need to know your limits. Review your budget and savings and determine what you can and cannot reasonably do. This allows you to find out what you have to offer in advance, ensuring you can provide a quick response if you ask for money at an unexpected time.
Additionally, as mentioned above, if you are in a committed relationship with shared finances, keep your partner’s boundaries in mind as well. Must be on the same page, so get their input before drawing any lines in the sand.
don’t discuss your money
In some cases, financially toxic parents are more likely to ask for help if they know you’re in a good position when it comes to money. Whether it’s figuring out that you have a high income, that you’ve saved a lot, that you’ve received a bonus, or something like that, they may see that information as an opportunity.
While it’s not always easy or plausible to withhold such information from family members, don’t discuss your money with your parents whenever possible. If they don’t know about your financial situation, they might not see as many opportunities to swoon and ask for cash.
talk to siblings
Sometimes, it’s worthwhile to have an open conversation with your siblings about asking your parents for money. This is especially true if other family members are also being subjected to requests for financial aid who are getting out of line. This creates an opportunity for you and your siblings to be on the same page, allowing you to act as a unified front against any financially toxic actions on the part of your parents.
However, go this route only if your siblings are in the same boat and share your point of view. If there are significant differences in income, savings, or other aspects of your financial life, your siblings may see things differently. In such a situation, it is better that you take them out of the equation and avoid discussing money matters with them.
Additionally, if your siblings display financially toxic behavior, you may want to treat those relationships the same way you handle your parents. This ensures that you are not saying “no” to one but not the other, creating a degree of continuity.
Once you know your limits, you may need to talk to your parents to set some boundaries. Essentially, you want to use concrete language and a certain tone to outline what you are and are not willing to do.
The idea here is to stop any financially toxic behavior that is directed at you. While they can continue to ask for financial aid, the guidelines make it easier to say “no” to requests you can’t.
When you’re setting boundaries, it may be best to cut off all financial aid across the board, as this makes matters less complicated. However, if you are willing to help in certain areas, make sure they are as well defined and rigorous as possible, removing any ambiguity about what you will do.
If you’re concerned that your parents’ financially toxic behavior may have given you some bad life lessons about money, research can help you uncover the truth. Spend time reading material from reputable sources. Talk to a financial advisor about your situation or different money situations. Gather information directly from banks and lenders.
By doing your research, you can ensure that you are properly informed. As a result, you’ll have an easier time making sound financial decisions going forward, allowing you to develop healthy money habits that will serve you well over the long term.
cut off contact
If you have set boundaries and your parents are not respecting them, you may need to cut off contact, at least temporarily. Although this is often difficult, it can be the right choice in some situations. This ensures that you are not constantly subjected to their requests or other financially toxic behavior, which can greatly reduce stress.
Additionally, disconnecting the contact can serve as a wake-up call, although it is not always the case. If this happens, your parents may reevaluate their behavior, which essentially serves as a source of motivation to change the lack of contact.
Ultimately, this step is a last resort, especially if other aspects of the relationship are generally good. However, it is important to remember that this is often an option on the table, so don’t be afraid to move in this direction if the situation is truly irreversible.
Are your parents financially toxic and want to share their experience with others? Do you have any other tips for people dealing with financially toxic parents? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald has worked as a Financial Advisor for the Army for the past 13 years. He has taught personal financial classes on everything from credit to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Mrs McDonald is an AFCPE Accredited Financial Consultant and has helped her clients meet their short term and long term financial goals.