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My parents have always had financial problems, and they recently lost their home. They have a place to live, but since that time my father has been asking me for money. He calls me over to talk about this when my mother isn’t there and my husband isn’t home. He’s even asked for half of a $150,000 inheritance I received from my grandparents. He’s really making me feel guilty, and I’m not sure what to do.
Your brain knows what to do, but your heart is having a hard time doing it. Your father is a manipulator, and we’re not going to let that pattern continue. There’s nothing wrong with doing a few, short-term things to help them get back on their feet. But in return, you should expect them to change the behaviors that have put them in this situation.
Also, there should be no more private meetings with your father. If he wants to talk, make sure he understands it will be with your husband and mother present. To this point all of his schemes have been on the side, and this needs to be brought out into the open and stopped. You love your parents. That, along with your dad’s behavior, is what’s making this so difficult. But participating in this sort of thing isn’t going to help them. You take away a person’s dignity when you subsidize them permanently. You also change their status and their ability to stand on their own two feet.
Any help you give needs to be short-term in nature—a gift. You and your husband should be in agreement on exactly what you’re going to do, and it should be on your terms. Don’t get involved in giving them money every month for the rest of their lives just because they had you. That’s not how this works. There’s an ongoing sense of entitlement here that needs to be nipped in the bud!
My husband and I are trying to improve our financial situation by following your plan. We were wondering where home improvements fall in the Baby Steps.
Unless you’re talking about an emergency situation, home improvements would fall into the category of wants, not needs. If you’d like new carpet, nicer windows or an updated kitchen, these things need to wait until after you’ve completed the first three Baby Steps.
Let’s review. Baby Step 1 means saving up $1,000 in the bank for a starter emergency fund. Baby Step 2 is paying off all debts except for your home. The third Baby Step is going back to your emergency fund and building it up so you have an amount equal to three to six months of expenses in case something goes wrong.
Once you’ve gotten to this point, you’ll be able to save and do some other things, including a few home improvements!
* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He’s authored four New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 6 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.