Most of us know someone in the family that is perpetually "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and are the CEO's of hustling somebody for a dollar.
Mary Jane, played by the amazing Gabrielle Union in the BET series Being Mary Jane, found herself in the sunken place of carrying her entire family both emotionally and financially. It seems being a "bawse" and taking care of your family financially is the price you pay for being successful.
While Mary Jane is a fictional character, how many examples do we have of celebrities going broke to pander to the poor spending habits of relatives and friends from 'round da way? This is even more of a relatable scenario if you are the successful exception in your family.
If one person in the family "makes it," the expectation is that they will support everyone. Establishing boundaries are even harder to do if just a few months ago you were living on your mom's couch eating a Cup of Noodles, now if she's asking you to return the favor, how can you say no? A favor can quickly become the go-to bail out plan. Suddenly, you have become your family's walking ATM.
The tough love required to dig yourself out of becoming their personal GoFundMe will require a backbone and these important steps.
You Are Not Their Savior
10 people should not be on your cell phone plan, using your Netflix account, and using your name to cosign a loan. It is not your responsibility to save your entire family from financial distress by becoming the enabler of their poor habits. Your financially stability is not only a necessity but a vitality.
There is an illustration that if a lifeguard is going to save someone they must put on their life vest FIRST before attempting to save the drowning man. This depiction also applies to being the "Great Hope of the Family Finances." You are not a savior, leave that to Jesus. A savior does not require accountability on the part of the person they are saving. They only seek to pull someone out of a poor situation without there being any requirements on the person being saved not to return to the poor situation.
While most of us would love a lump sum of money with no strings attached, our financial successes came with huge sacrifices. You are doing yourself and the sacrifices you've made along the way a disservice by reducing yourself to a check writer.
Bury the Guilt
Repeat after me, "I will owe no one anything but love," (Romans 13:8).
When we talk about debt, we often talk about physical debt in the form of credit cards, loans, bad investments, etc. However, the most crippling debt is emotional. Often, the thing that keeps us from progressing financially is tied to memories that keep us captive. The shame of memories from when we were at our lowest can keep us indebted to our friends and family.
So, to combat the emotional tether, it will require physical action. Pull out pictures or a symbol that reminds you of that time, put them in a box, and bury them. We will not be tethered in our present actions by a past memory. Saying your goals out loud and releasing yourself from being indebted will send you on a path to pursue the financial freedom you are seeking.
Start a Family Fund
If you have a parent or grandparent who have found themselves in a financial hole, I would suggest that you budget an amount monthly that you will contribute to an account. Name the account the "Family Fund."
For example, if you contribute $100.00 a month, then that is the ONLY money that you contribute to that account. Make your designated family member a joint account holder to the account. Then they will receive a debit card that they can use to draw money from the account. Once the money in that account is gone, you are no longer obligated to give any more. The responsibility is then theirs to use it as sparingly or often as they like.
We do not have to sacrifice our own financial stability in order to improve our families. Building generational wealth means that someone has to be the pied piper of the movement and strong enough to break the financial cycles that have kept us crippled. So, the next time fam says, "'Cuz, I'm tryna be a bawse like you."
Smile. Pull out a chair and say, "Great, get your notebook."
Featured image via Being Mary Jane/BET