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When To Ask Your Family For Financial Help

This is such a bitter pill to swallow. You really thought you had it under control and then suddenly, something, somewhere goes awry. With our terrible economy, young college educated people are finding themselves having more and more difficulty staying afloat. Between huge student loan bills, a sluggish job market and fickle real estate, it’s really difficult. It’s difficult in ways that our parents never faced. While they faced hardships of their own, it was entirely possible for them to raise a family, buy real estate and make a living on what was sometimes only a high school diploma. 

That is no longer the case. A college degree doesn’t hold the same weight in this economy. It’s hard for parents to understand how you could be struggling when they put you through school. It’s a fact all the same. What are you supposed to do when you reach that point, and how are you supposed to ask for help? 

The first thing you need to have is a complete picture of your finances. You can’t ask for help when you’re still going out on weekends and blowing a couple hundred bucks on cocktails and breakfast. I’ll say it before your father does, grow up! You have to go through your expenses with a fine tooth comb and see where you can really be saving and what’s just nonsense. If you haven’t done this yet, then don’t ask yet. Are you living beyond your means, but in a responsible way? That sounds like a loaded trick question. However, when you bought this condo the company was soaring, your job was secure and life was good. Now, the numbers are scary and you’re jumpy if they call you to human resources. Real estate is real estate. No matter what happens, eventually at some point, some day, it will rebound. Look at all those gentrified neighborhoods. The problem is that most of us don’t have the reserves to keep it and wait. Can you take on a roommate? Should you sublet it and live in a dump yourself? What kinds of options are available to you? Don’t ask your parents until you’ve exhausted these ideas.

Are you cringing when the phone rings? Is your credit spending out of control? Ugh, I sound like one of those commercials when everyone leaves to get a drink, but I have to ask. Consolidating debt is a smart thing to do. This is serious stuff. Go to a respected bank. Ask questions. Can you take a personal loan to consolidate the debt into one payment with a lower interest rate? You may find that you are in fact able to control this. Can you sell your car and take city transport? Can you sell some of those handbags in a consignment shop? Can you make a dent at all? Gym memberships, car rental space, even where you buy groceries all have an impact on your finances. I’m only asking because your father is going to ask the same questions. If you can’t say you’ve already done it, it’s still not time.

So what do you do when you’ve exhausted your options, you’re eating once a day and you can’t sleep? It’s time. Ask your parents to meet. Go to a neutral place. Choose a big quiet restaurant where you can vanish into the booths. You’ll be less likely to cry and they’ll be less likely to raise their voices. You want to come off as a mature adult asking other mature adults for help. Start right off and say that you need to talk to them about something important. Bring your financial information with you. They need to see how bad it is. No parent will let their kid flounder if they can help them in some small way. Remember that they love you and while your mom may be tearing up at some point, remind yourself that moms do that about everything.

Get a contract. This will show your parents that you’re serious. You can find them on line for nothing or in office supply stores. Simple, loan repayment options are what you need to find. If you have this, they’ll know you’re serious. Of course, once you all sign it, it’s a legal binding document so don’t think you’re using it as a bluff. You have to pay them back. I will say that again, you have to pay them back. You don’t know your own parents’ financial status. They’ll want to help you, but it may mean they’re cutting into their retirement savings…or worse, your inheritance. (Just trying to lighten the mood here, folks.) What you’re asking is a big deal. You have to be willing to work with them. 

Work out an agreement that is fair. It will already be in your favor, they’re giving you the money, so take steps to show you will be accountable. Make a monthly payment. Don’t get all moody if they ask to know how it’s going. They made an investment in you and they have a right to know. Take steps to insure this doesn’t happen again. Cut up credit cards. Take a finance class at your local community college. Save your money. Take a part time job. Do whatever it takes to get this situation right. If you need to go back to school, you can actually defer student loans while you have a student status again. (It doesn’t mean they go away, it means you have a breathing space while you further your education.) 

The most important thing to remember is to say thank you. When you have all of this behind you, both you and your parents will have a different respect for one another.