Christmas get-togethers with family are almost always good for a laugh. Family is hilarious, for better or worse, right?
But the holidays are also a good time for talks that might not go over as well at other times of the year. You can take advantage of the festive ambiance—full bellies, good spirits and cheerful, twinkling tree lights—to address some tough issues. We’re thinking money.
Let’s face it. No one wants to be told they need help handling money—especially if those people are your parents. After all, they diapered, fed, and clothed you. They probably don’t want your financial advice.
But when it comes to debt, the reality is that your parents’ problem can quickly become your problem when they enter retirement. That’s when they risk running out of savings because it all goes toward debt. Then you feel obligated to support them. Or, worse, they expect you to. No one wants that, and it’s not biblical.
Genesis 2:24 reminds us that when a man leaves his parents to cleave to his wife, his parents become secondary.
The same is true if the money problem is with a sibling or any other adult family member. As 1 Timothy 5:8 says, a believer’s primary responsibility is to his or her spouse and children: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (NKJV).
Your own household comes first. But you can help your loved ones find a way out of debt. In fact, saying something is your responsibility. It’s a way to honor your parents as the Bible commands—without enabling them.
So how can you approach the topic? Try these three strategies.
1. Use Yourself as an Example
If you’re breathing, you’ve made a money mistake—or 12. Sharing those experiences can communicate humility so your parents don’t feel patronized. Try this approach:
“Mom and Dad, I can’t tell you what to do. In fact, I don’t want to. But I can tell you what worked for me.”
Gently say that you love them so much that you want to see them enjoy the retirement they envision. And be clear about your intentions for the future. If you can’t or don’t want to support them financially, tell them. Then remind them every so often. It should motivate them to take personal responsibility.
As Proverbs 21:20 says, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has” (NIV).
2. Offer Them Tools They Can Use on Their Own
If your parents are ready to take the first tentative step toward making a change but they still want more information, give them a book that helped you. Consider The Total Money Makeover or Financial Peace Revisited. Then follow up with them once they’ve finished.
If they’re even more pumped to get started, offer them the hope they’re seeking with a membership to Financial Peace University. What better way to invest in their future than that? And at Christmas, isn’t hope the one thing so many of us really want?
3. Find Someone Else to Help
Are Mom and Dad more likely to take advice from a Magic 8 Ball than you? Or is their situation so complex that they need a customized solution? Put them in touch with a money expert who can help. A financial coach can create a personalized plan, from tackling that first little debt to saving for a comfortable retirement. This one-on-one approach will give Mom and Dad an unbiased and fresh perspective on taking control of their money without forcing them to reveal every little embarrassing detail to you.
This Christmas, help your family help themselves—all while showing them how much you care. Give them the gift of hope and bless them with a financial education today.