Giving a Drunk a Drink

Dear Dave,

My sister and her husband are wonderful people, but they don't know how to handle money and are in debt up to their eyeballs. On top of this, they just found out they'll have to pay $30,000 in taxes this year. I paid off my home and became debt-free almost two years ago, but some big medical bills have eaten into my savings. Should I take out a home equity loan for the amount of the taxes to help them?
Toni Dear Toni, Absolutely not! You just told me they won't behave when it comes to their money. Well, you don't give money to people who won't behave properly with money. It's like giving a drunk a drink. In this kind of situation you'd go borrow the money, they would still be broke and you'd be back in debt with a mortgage hanging over your head again. A quick fix is never the best way to try and help people in these kinds of situations. You have to help them learn to change their ways. Teach them to fish, because if you just give them a fish it will just stink! Keep in mind that none of this makes your sister and her husband bad people. But you really shouldn't endorse this kind of behavior or participate in the denial associated with it. You can love them as much as you want, Toni, but YOU can't fix their problem. And handing them money definitely isn't the solution. If they're willing, sit down with them and show them what you did to get out of debt and get control of your money. Start out by showing them how to do a budget and give every dollar a name on paper before the month begins. And do it with a loving heart. Because we've all made mistakes with money! Dave

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