What do you do when someone you love needs financial help? I think we all know someone who could use some financial help, and we all know someone who has ruined themselves by giving money to someone, only to see it wasted.
The desire to help those in need is innate. It is a very cold person who can see a loved one in need and not desire to help. But the desire to protect what you have is also innate. The thought that someone we love might misuse our resources keeps many people from helping in the first place.
So what to do?
If you are the lender in this situation, DON’T LEND ANY MONEY! The lender/borrower relationship is necessarily strained, and the last thing you want is to let money drive a wedge between you. The fact that your relation owes you money will be the only thing you think of every time you see him. And believe it or not, it’s the only thing the borrower will think of every time he sees you.
Instead of lending money, giving money might seem like a more sensible solution. If you give the money, without any expectation of having it returned, you’ve helped out without placing a needless burden on either of you.
But now you have another problem. Is the money you are giving actually going to help? Or are you simply enabling the other person to keep doing what they’ve always done? Is the other person learning new habits? Or are they being allowed to continue in their destructive habits?
Those are questions I can’t answer for you right now, the answers depend on the individual situation. But they are very important questions. You must learn the answers to those questions if you don’t want to see your money wasted.
There are perfectly legitimate reasons for giving money to help someone out, and giving money may be a great short-term solution, but don’t forget that the best way to help the other person is often to let them struggle to figure out the problem for themselves. The lessons that stick with us the longest are usually the lessons we’ve had to learn for ourselves. By giving someone money, you may inadvertently be teaching them the incorrect lesson. You may be teaching them they can depend on you when they’re in trouble, rather than depending on their own abilities.
Give when necessary. Withhold when necessary. Carefully consider all the aspects. Above all, use your head.
This article originally appeared in the April 30, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.