Struggling to Say No? How to Set Financial Boundaries According to Therapists
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Setting boundaries, especially with family members, can be a tricky balancing act — and finances are no exception. But if an inability to refuse requests to borrow money is derailing your financial goals, it may be time to establish healthy financial boundaries.
What is a financial boundary, and how do you set them with a family member without stirring up hurt feelings or negative emotions? We talked to two financial therapists about why money boundaries are important and how to have that difficult heart-to-heart conversation without damaging the relationship.
What Are Financial Boundaries?
Healthy financial boundaries are limits you put in place on how you’ll handle recurring financial requests from family and friends. Setting financial boundaries allows you to be clear about how you’ll support loved ones without impacting your own financial goals.
A recent study from Savings.com indicates 45% of parents are still providing financial support for adult children. On average, parents spend $1,400 a month for items like groceries, car or student loan payments, a cell phone bill or rent/mortgage assistance.
In fact, parents 10 years or less from retirement are contributing as much as $2,100 a month of financial assistance for adult children — more than three times what they contribute monthly to their own retirement.
Apparently we have all forgotten the airline safety PSAs about securing your own mask before helping others. While parents naturally want to ensure a brighter financial future for their children, an inability to set financial boundaries can be ultimately damaging for everyone involved.
Warning Signs That You Don’t Have Healthy Financial Boundaries
Suppose you’ve gone through the process of establishing solid financial goals but are constantly missing those targets because you’re lending money. That’s one of many clear warning signals you’re in an unhealthy financial relationship.
“People with poor financial boundaries have a difficult time saying no when asked for money or to help with paying for things,” explains Dr. Traci Williams, board-certified clinical psychologist and certified financial therapist in Atlanta. “They might experience anxiety, shame, sadness or guilt if they do not give in to family members’ requests.”
You may need to establish clear financial boundaries with those seeking recurring financial requests if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- Worrying that family will be mad or say mean things if you don’t give them money.
- Prioritizing the family’s financial needs over your own financial needs.
- Feeling resentment toward your family for their financial demands.
- Being ashamed or guilty when you have to say no to family financial requests.
- Feeling obligated to provide financial assistance outside of your comfort zone.
- Being hesitant to communicate your limits regarding lending money.
- Feeling like you can’t or won’t discuss boundaries around money.
Aja Evans, LMHC and financial therapist, acknowledges that establishing clear financial boundaries can be harder in certain cultures.
“There is a level of expectation in some cultures to help family,” she said. “I am in no way, shape or form saying not to do that. But it is extremely important that if and when you are helping your family out financially that you are in a position to do so or that you feel OK about doing so.”
By Kaz Weida