Personal Finance and Intrusion

I’m worried about my grandmother’s finances. She lives on Social Security and a small pension from the state, but if that were all there was to her story, it would be fine – she owns her residence and is just fine in terms of taxes and debt. The problem is that her oldest son still lives with her and is a constant drain on her financial state. He’s simply incapable of holding down a job.

My grandmother is far too caring of a person to allow one of her children to be out on the street, so she allows him to live with her and has likely agreed to leave her home to him when she passes on.

The end result of this situation is that there are two adults living on a small pension and one person’s Social Security benefits. This worries me and makes me sad on a daily basis – I think about her and really wish there were a way I could help her with her situation. The only problem is that if I do financially assist her, that assistance will translate directly into spending money for her son, who I don’t really want to help because of how he’s draining away my grandmother’s golden years.

A big part of me wants to intrude in this situation. I want to somehow be able to storm in the door and somehow make everything all right for my grandmother.

In the end, though, this intrusion would serve no real purpose. She’s a grown woman with a caring heart who has the power to make her own choices, and she chooses to spend her extra money taking care of her son. It has very little to do with how I feel about it – it’s really her choice, not mine.

I hear often from readers who are faced with a similar situation in their own lives. They see a financial mess in the life of someone they care about and they desperately want to intrude in it. Much of the time, I feel like they’re writing to me for “permission” – some sort of approval of their intrusion.

My reaction is pretty much always the same: don’t intrude unless it directly affects you and even then, only intrude in business to the extent that you need to to protect yourself. Don’t stick your nose into someone else’s business – all you’ll do is create resentment and almost always you’ll fail to solve the problem you wish to address. Often, you’ll make the problem worse.

Instead, just let the people you care about know that you’ll help them if they need it, in the form of advice or financial assistance or whatever the situation calls for. Sit down with just that person (or persons), let them know that you care for them, and let them know that you want to help them specifically, but don’t push them. Let them make the choice – it is their life, after all.

Of course, some situations demand that you protect yourself, and you should always take any measures you feel are necessary to protect yourself. Just make sure that everyone involved in that protection is on the same page – that means, if you’re married, talk over such decisions with your spouse.

As for my grandmother, I talk to her on the phone every week and I’ve had a few conversations with just her about her situation, just letting her know that if she ever needs anything at all, I’m just a phone call away and I’ll help her in any way that I can. But I won’t make her pick up that phone – it’s her life to lead and her choices to make, even if I don’t agree with the choices.

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