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Sticky Credit Card Problems


Sticky Credit Card Problems

It’s amazing when one stops to consider the many ways our credit can get us into trouble – even when we’re not the ones causing the trouble. There are many quagmires when it comes our finances, including elder financial abuse, agreeing to be a co-signer and a host of other disturbing or disconcerting problems. Here are a few of our thoughts regarding those difficult situations.

The Needy Sibling

Everyone wants to help their family members, but what happens when a brother or sister can’t cover his own monthly expenses? And what if it’s more than just a simple oversight and instead is more of a recurring theme in your sibling’s life? Should you continue to pay her MasterCard several times a year or should you show baby sister some tough love?

People ask these questions not because they want an answer, but because they want to know they’re not the first person in history to lose $300 on a credit card bill that baby sister used for a weekend spa getaway. They want to hear,

Aw, wow… I feel your pain. Been there and done it.

What you have to decide is whether you’re OK with never seeing that money repaid. It really has nothing to do with a sibling disrespecting another who helped bail him out of a tough financial quagmire, it’s just that some folks are stronger financial stewards over their monthly budgets. Some aren’t.

If your older brother or baby sister have come to you more than once to borrow money for their monthly obligations, this time, instead of handing it over while making her chant “I’ll pay it back. I’ll pay it back. I’ll pay it back”, say to her,

I know it’s tough trying to stay within a budget and I know you have good intentions, but how about you and I sit down and let’s make a monthly budget for you?

Keep in mind, though, there’s an ego that could easily bruise in the process. No one knows better how to approach your sibling than you – so approach it carefully, with an open mind and an open heart. It could make a significant difference in her life.

Evil Stepmother

Blending families is no easy feat when a couple marries, each with his or her own children. It really could go either way with how a stepchild treats his new parent. Some love the idea of Dad remarrying while others feel threatened by this new woman and her own kids who have suddenly taken Dad’s attention. Many rebel and when they do, it’s often in the form of manipulating Dad (who may already be feeling a little guilty) out of his American Express.

So what happens when your delightful new stepdaughter manipulates your new husband one time too many and runs up the AmEx with hundreds or thousands of dollars? One thing’s for sure: you don’t confront the stepchild. First, it’s going to annihilate any progress you’ve made in trying to get close to her, but more importantly, it’s Dad’s place to set her straight.

The trick is getting him to understand you’re only trying to keep the family budget in check and not trying to “punish” her. Your best bet is to tread lightly, but also maintain your stand. Come armed with the last few months of credit card statements so that he can see it in black and white. Maybe you could introduce to him your way of handling your own kids’ materialistic desires,

I give Jane and John $50 a month to spend as they choose since I’m trying to teach the importance of budgeting their money. Maybe we can get Jen on board?

Fair warning, though. These situations are often a slow dance – and you’re rarely leading it.

Role Reversal

Mom and Dad raised you properly: to respect your money, save some of it and be sure to give back, right? Dad’s the one who forbid you from buying the motorcycle when you were 18, even though he never actually come out and said, “I forbid you” and Mom’s the one who explained to you if you’d just wait one week, you might not want what you think you can’t live without today. Both of them were always right.

Now, though, the roles have shifted a bit. You’re in the “responsible adult” role and Dad is getting older and his lifelong money habits have gone to the wayside. You’ve noticed a spike in his Visa and you noticed a few of his other monthly obligations aren’t being paid. Before you assume he’s making bad choices and it’s time for you to give him that same talk he gave you all those years ago, keep in mind that it may not have anything at all to do with slipping spending habits. It could be medical or psychological. Again, this is another one of those topics where you tread lightly. You have to get it under control, though.

First things first – you need to rule out any kind of medical dynamic, such as dementia. If he’s of sound mind, it could be that he’s just living a little. That said be sure his spending is what he wants to do and that there’s no third party lurking around convincing him to buy this and pay for that. There are many con artists out there. If his spending is becoming a problem in that its outpacing his income, sit down with him and explain that your budget is limited and while you’d love to tell him to spend to his heart’s desire, it’s becoming a bit worrisome for you (and any siblings who play a role).

There are those who disagree, but if he can afford to “blow the inheritance”, why would anyone not want their parents to do so? Is it financially prudent? Of course not – but that might be the very reasons the purse strings have loosened. He and your mom might have been financially prudent their entire lives – he just might want to kick up his heels in his later years.

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