What to do when the breadwinner stops making the bread

You are the one who went to college, got the Wall Street job, went on exotic vacations around the world and bragged about them to your cousins back in Detroit at family reunions. Now you are unemployed and more family members than ever have their hands out. How do you determine who to “lend” money to or whether you should be lending money at all? Here are a few tips.

1. First, make sure your family is aware of the changes to your financial circumstances. Whether you are unemployed, your annual bonus is nonexistent or you recently overheard the executive assistants gossiping about cuts in your department, it is important to communicate this to family members so they know that your baller tendencies are on hold. Be considerate of their circumstances when you communicate this message. Telling them that you “downsized” your Buckingham Blue Range Rover to a Lexus Rx Hybrid to save money on gas is likely to get you little to no sympathy. Talk in terms of percentages; say things like, “Yeah, the economy really sucks, without my bonus this year I will make 50% less so I am cutting back.” Communicating that you are also tightening your financial belt should make your family think twice before they ask you for money.

2. If you are still approached by family members for money, it is important to assess whether this is a recurring problem or a one-time ask. If the same family member always has their hand out, their money issues may be symptomatic of larger core issues (depression, gambling, living beyond their means, etc.). Have a heart to heart with your family member to try to unearth what may be at the root of their money problems. Then, if you discover a bigger issue, be supportive and help them to address the issue directly. Do not give them more money, no matter how bad they say they “need” it, it will only result in them coming back to you for more of the same a few months down the road. Instead, offer to pay for debt counseling or a gym membership – whatever helps them address their core issue.

3. If a family member comes to you asking for money for a one-time emergency or important expense, ask yourself whether or not you can afford to kiss the money goodbye. Research shows that 43% of the largest loans people make in their lives are not repaid in full and 27% of them never get a dime back at all. Add in the emotional complications of mixing money and family and you will understand why it’s recommended that you only lend money that you can afford to give as a gift.

4. Lastly, don’t be afraid to say no. After all, it is your money. Instead, get creative. If a family member asks for money to help pay bills because they got laid off, offer to help them revamp their resume or here’s a novel idea – give them an opportunity to earn the money doing odd jobs around the house like uploading and categorizing all your Stevie Wonder records into i-tunes.