How Do You Deal with the Guilt?

Updated on February 14, 2012
C.C. asks from Conroe, TX
24 answers

Don't know really how to say this...but here goes> we have a very close family...we all live in the same city except one niece lives in Nevada with her family. This is not a snotty statement, but I have more money than anyone else in the family. I have been very generous with everyone. Christmas before last I offered to take everyone to Disney or they could take the money instead, which I alotted $2300. They all took the money except my 2 grown kids and one grandson. Which we went and made alot of great memories and brought them all back soveniers. I have as of this minute $2400 out in loans to different ones. It was 4300...but taxes came and most have paid me back. The remaining $2400 is from my niece in Nevada....she could not file a rapid refund for some reason and has to wait 5 to 7 weeks to get her refund. A nephew just texted me and asked if I would loan him $2000 he would pay me back $2500 in five installments. I told him I would only do it if he were in some kind of big trouble. He did not say what he wanted it for...and just texted back...thanks anyway, with a sad face behind it. It's a new year and I have limited my loans to $100. I know they are all scrapping by barely, and I just hate it. One didn't have money left over to buy groceries. It is their own fault because of bad financial decisions, blowing money, buying too expensive cars and having them repossessed, not having insurance and having huge medical bills, running up credit cards like they don't have to pay it back. The list never ends. I love my family..we all get along great. But I feel so freakin' guilty because I have no money worries. My house and car is paid off, I have 1 credit card for emergencies with a zero balance...and they all know it. How can I resolve my guilt and get pass this feeling like I want to say yes to everytime they ask me for something? Thank you...but I'm sure there's no real answer to this question....It is all in my brain that I can't control.

What can I do next?

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answers from Houston on

Maybe you could pay for a Dave Ramsey session for everyone!!!!!!!!!!!! Might teach them how to handle money more responsibly!!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I LOVE Cheryl O's response. I was thinking the exact same thing. Gift them all with some good solid financial TOOLS and set them free! :))

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

You might want to read "The Millionaire Next Door" . . . loosely speaking the author posits that family members who receive "economic outpatient care" are sometimes the least likely to acquire wealth.

Just a thought.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on


While I applaud your ability to help and didn't think your statement was snotty at all, you should NOT be harboring any guilt.

You aren't their mother and their lack of planning (financial and otherwise) is not your fault.

Every time you loan them money you are enabling them. They don't have to learn from their mistakes and they don't have to learn how to be financially fit.

Buy them each the Dave Ramsey program or Suze Orman program and tell them that they too can be like you. Financially fit. Tell them you are no longer loaning out money. Don't feel guilty over it.

The best help you can give them is to say NO. I know it hurts. I know it does. Our siblings come to us for financial help as well. We've helped. You did GREAT when you asked your nephew what he needed the money for!!! You go girl!!!

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Go google Dave Ramsey's approach to loaning to family/friends. I agree with him that it's a big no-no and changes the climate of the relationship. I, like you, am in a good financial situation while most of my family members struggle, including my parents and in-laws. I grew up in a wonderful, loving home but with parents who made one unwise financial decision after another and their financial mess is the predictable and logical consequences to those decisions. I don't say this with hate or emotion -- it's just a matter-of-fact. As a teen, it became apparent to me that their decisions were foolish, and while I strive to adopt their marriage and parenting skills, I vowed to live a completely different life financially. Like the child of an alcoholic who won't touch alcohol, I won't touch debt. I have lived SO tightly and sacrificed so much instant gratification for a better future, and now I am living the predictable and natural consequences of that. Self-denial is no fun, but neither is not knowing how you're going to pay your bills.

So I adore my family members who are struggling financially, but I don't enable their irresponsible choices or rescue them from the curve balls life throws. They know not to ask for a loan, and if they ever did we'd kindly say that is not something we feel comfortable doing. I have given financial advice when asked, and try to be really encouraging. But in the end, we all get what we really want out of life and it's not up to me to make people live the way that's worked for me.

I have experienced those feelings of guilt (the first time I hired someone twice my age to clean my house I felt terrible. I'm not smarter or a harder worker than her, but I just happened to win the lottery of birthplace. But I pay her well and treat her well and I remember being the person who was cleaning other people's bathrooms and I was just grateful for the job), and feelings of scarcity (this abundance can't last! When is the sky going to fall?) I just try to get in the best financial situation I can be in so I can donate to the well-researched charities of my choice and I hope one day to help with scholarships since I feel strongly about education and teaching people how to fish instead of giving them a fish, as the analogy goes. And with my own family, I try to be generous without loaning. My mom can never treat herself to a massage, so I might buy that for her. Or treat them to dinner. Or hire family members who are looking for work. But honestly, my parents are happy. They don't need money and they don't need things. I was happy when I was a poor newlywed in college. Money is nice and fun, but it doesn't make you happy. I crave security, but I felt secure even when we were poor because we were so careful with how we spent it. And I acknowledge that security can be taken away as well, but it doesn't mean my happiness has to go with it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Easy. Stop feeling guilty. Buying generous presents is cool. Taking people on a trip or something very nice. But lending money out constantly. Enough. Just stop. You didn't steal their money - it's yours.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Think of it this way - by continuing to be the family bank, you are HARMING family members by not forcing them to reckon with their own financial decisions, live with the consequences of their actions and change their behavior.

We have this dynamic with my FIL. He had a great career, negotiated a wonderful retirement package, made great financial decisions his whole life, his wife is a senior executive in her field and is still earning a huge income, etc. so they are very well off. My husband and his brother, though, are still trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up, jump from job to job, under-earn their potential because they never stay anywhere long enough to move up, buy things they can't afford, etc. It's a battle I fight with my husband every day. The brothers each received six-figure inheritances a little over 10 years ago and have nothing to show from them, other than using that money to supplement their incomes and enjoy a standard of living higher than they actually earned for several years.

I am forever keeping my FIL at bay, telling him that he can't rescue my husband anymore. I know it's painful for him because he could write one check that would help fix our financial problems and not really even miss the money, but then my husband will be back in his comfort zone and will go right back to quitting jobs when the urge strikes and spending money on things we don't need and can't afford. He hates to see us struggle, but the handouts and "loans" don't help us, they just let us take our eye off the ball and get lazy about tackling debt, fixing our mortgage, earning more etc.

So know that when you say no, you are truly doing something good for them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

It is great that you can help and you are willing to help. However, you are enabling them and keeping them in financial ruin. You will most likely never see the monies you have loaned out/gifted again.

You have your own immediate family to consider. What if something comes up and YOU need the money?

We are in a similar situation being financially sound and we will not loan money to family. Flat out NO. Yes, that makes me sounds like a but I am not going to enable someone who is wasteful, makes poor choices and someone who is in the situation they are in due to greed, living way beyond their means, etc. I am directly speaking of a SIL and her family who feel entitled to our money and they have asked us to get legal help for the son who committed armed robbery... Hmmm NO NO and NO again.

What I do is very generous for birthdays and Christmas and my gifts are functional such as.... I make sure my retired dad has a full gas tank for his heating and food supply, I send food such as ham, steaks, etc to my brother because although he has a huge heart and takes in foster children, he is not financially able to do so. When they fostered their now youngest daughter I did send funds to cover a crib and specific baby needs that they needed asap. That child is now adopted and a huge part of our lives.

We also took a total of 12 family members on an all expense trip to Disneyworld and made wonderful memories with the children.

If you want to help you can... just do it in ways where you are not sending cash.

You should not feel guilty about your financial situation. You got there due to YOUR priorities, YOUR self discipline and YOUR good choices. Shame on your family if they lay a guilt trip on you.... they have made their bed.... don't continue to be the bank and enable them further than you already have.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Jessie Duplantis says that we should not finance poverty. In the simplest form he is talking about giving people a hand up and not a hand out. But in specifics, he's talking about teaching people to live according to Godliness and reading the word and finding out how God teaches us to live successful lives.

I think it's AWESOME that you can help and you have absolutely no reason to feel guilty for putting strings on it. And yet, I also think your family is doing a great job at paying you back. Do you realize how seldom families actually pay each other back?

I think you should check out the book by Kenneth Copeland, The Blessing of the Lord. Gather up some teaching about proper living. Give them each a copy of whatever financial book or set of tapes or even the Dave Ramsey stuff...though I'm not a fan of his... Give it to them. MAKE them read it and MAKE them demonstrate in some way that they are making changes in their lives.

At the same time, don't punish your loved ones for making mistakes. We can't all be as perfect as you obviously have been. I have huge credit card debt. And yet I recently found out that I have been the longest running, most faithful giver to one of the ministries that I give to. I say that to demonstrate that not everyone that does well with money is good with money. You can chew on that one for awhile.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Don't feel guilty. I was once an enabler, but not anymore. My family doesn't call and ask to borrow money anymore. I started asking what it was for, or give me the bill and I will pay it. Since people make bad choices and don't want to disclose what the money is for they will stop asking. So, the Bank of C. is closing down. No, start practicing that word "NO", you can do it and they will stop asking because they don't want you to know wha they are using the money for. I admire you for wanting to help your family, but family has got to learn ro help themselves.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

And people think the ones with money don't have anything to worry about.

It sounds to me that you are an easy one to ask for funds (if the person is related to you). Do you give because you want to, or because you feel you have to for some reason (because they're kin, for instance, or because they'll like you if you do)? The answer can be both, of course, but you need to sort out your motivation.

I think your response to your nephew was fine. You would have helped him if he really needed the help. Evidently he didn't, or he didn't want to say so. He might have been thinking, "Hey, I want to do such-and-such, and my aunt is an easy touch for cash so I'll contact her."

That's one thing to think about when it comes to your motives. Do you want to be an easy touch, or do you want to be truly helpful when you're needed? If you want to be truly compassionate, then you *have* to learn how and when to say no. You need to be able to use your resources instead of being used by those who want your resources.

I somehow think there would be a problem if I were your sister, was irresponsible with my money, and then was down on YOU because of the hole I was in. But, if I felt a sense of entitlement just because you had money in the bank, maybe I'd act like that. Especially if I knew you'd feel guilty.

I *do* think there are real solutions to this. But I think you're too close to the problem to be able to deal with it by yourself. Have you considered consulting a counselor? If you go to church, ask there for a good recommendation. An impartial view of the whole situation could be very, very helpful.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

You get over the guilt by realizing their inability to manage their money is your fault! You enabled it! Do you really think they would have made so many poor decisions if they didn't know they had you as a safety net.

The best thing you can do for them is to continue to not lend them money, not even 100 dollars.

You should feel guilty when you lend them money. Because of it you were keeping them from standing on their own two feet. You handicapped them.

It will be hard on them this year when they get used to it but in the end when they are successful without you they will finally be happy.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I am so glad your kids have seen the good example that you have shown them about living within their means and the happiness and contentment that follows. Too bad the rest of your family doesn't get it.

Just remember that they have been caught up in the vicious circle that things will bring happiness. They aren't happy and the only way they can find it (they think) is to have more stuff. They look at you as having more than you need so they deserve to have some of your money. It is socialist thinking that the rich need to give to the poor. The problem with that is that the receivers don't get to learn the joy of working hard for something.

Don't feel guilty for doing the right thing and making the hard choices. Keep praising your kids when you see them wait and save up for something. And if you want to give money to someone, give it to those who work hard (like matching savings).

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Don't feel bad, my family is the same way. I am going to make this as simple and plain to help YOU... Just remember one thing... We are supposed to help those for the glory of our Creator. You can't help someone who isn't trying to help themselves. It will someday get to a point to where they are taking from you. My oldest sister (of six, I'm the youngest) asked me to rent her a vehicle to drive her kids and self back to Nevada from Louisiana after the holidays. I agreed, but should have said no when she asked me to book and pay for one way plane tickets she didn't have enough for. But I wanted the family to be together for the holidays. She ended up keeping the rental vehicle a week longer and had stopped helping me pay for it. I was out a few hundred dollars and I have written her off, because that wasn't the first time she had screwed me over. But it certainly was the last. Sometimes when people don't learn to stop abusing and using you, it's best to keep them away from you. I'm not saying your family is like that, but don't allow it. I've also learned if I don't have it to give away, don't loan it. :D God Bless :D

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

I don't understand why you feel guilty. You don't owe it to anyone to give them loans just because they're family. My motto has always been that if you mix friends or family with money, be prepared to call it a "gift." If you expect to get that money back, write a contract and make them sign and date it along with the terms of repayment.

But someone else's bad financial decisions are not your responsibility to cover. I think it's very kind that you want to help your family make ends meet since you have the financial stability and resources to do so. But your financial resources don't obligate you. You're not a bank... and even banks have standards as to who they'll give loans to.

When family members come to you from here on out, I would offer them resources like online links and state departments as well as local food banks that can help them out. Have those printed resources handy to give them and it'll be soon clear that the Bank of C. is closed for business. Keep your money for gifting.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Bless you. Yes,this is difficult. I think the guilt is exactly what you have to deal with. Why do you feel guilty? Because you have more? Because you could financially, but do not always give loans?

Let me start by saying that I also have dealt with guilt for the same reason. Part of me says that the reason I have made responsible decisions regarding money all my life is that God gifted me with that skill and attitude. Therefore it's nothing to take credit for or take credit away from anyone else if they were not blessed with that skill or attitude. Then part of me would say to myself, what a jerk you are, you earned the money, you denied yourself many things, you saved the money, and they didn't. So I worked on that issue for a while and I am at peace. I really think I'm the lucky one that was blessed with these skills and I neither feel guilty or proud of my financial health.

So what to do about loaning money? I hate it! It sets up obligations that I don't want. So now, if I see someone needs the money and if I want to (or my hubbie wants to) we just give it to the person, no strings attached. I don't want to see it back. On the other hand, if we agree not to give money, I don't feel guilty. I have told folks I don't do loans anymore. I don't know if this was helpful, but it's one person's way of dealing.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Victoria on

Buy them all Dave Ramsey packages for Valentines day!!! Really this goes for the saying " If you give a man a fish he is full for that meal but if you teach a man to fish he eats forever". While it is not your responsablitliy to give them anything to teach them how to better handle there finances it would be the best gift you could give them. I am going to private message you also about the exact situation.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Don't feel guilty for what you have earned! But, I would stop being the "rich" one and handing out loans/expensive gifts left and right! It sounds like you "help" them out of one situation and they get right back into another bad situation. They do not need to know about your personal finances. If they ask for money, just tell them that you've had some unexpected expenses recently and you're not in a position to help.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

You made all the sacrifices all those years for your security now. NO GUILT.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime." ~Chinese Proverb


answers from New York on

Research a GREAT charity and give to them. There are thousands and thousands of orphans living in Bulgaria, Russia, Romania, China, etc etc These orphans usually receive just enough food to live. They experience hunger between each meals. The are not spending their money on new furniture and big screen TVs. There are many Worthwhile causes out there. You should feel guilty for giving money to people who have the ability to help themselves instead of helpless children. Then you can honestly say you have given all you can for now.


answers from Biloxi on

Please do not feel guilty.
You are not a personal lending institute for your family.
If you continue to bail them out, they will never learn to budget.
Just keep practicing "no".
It gets easier.



answers from College Station on

Don't feel guilty. You earned your money. They did not. I am glad they re paying you back.
I like your limit. Stick to it. You are really doing them a favor. You are not the First National Bank of C.!



answers from San Francisco on

You've been a generous and loving person, some of your relatives appreciate your generousity and some probably view you as an easy touch. You have no reason to feel guilty. If I have money and a family member needs it (for a good reason), I will give. I learned the hard way that there are some relatives that will NEVER pay if I have it, I'll give it without great expectations. I tend to be a soft touch when little children are envolved because I don't want to see them homeless. Thankfully, their parents finally seem to be getting their act together.

No one likes to feel that they are being taken for granted. I do find that sometimes you just have to love the ones you love "from a distance". Just find some other things and other people to be with. Back off from some of the family gatherings....

Please give yourself a break, you've been responsible and have raised responsible kids....No need to feel guilt Mama!


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