My husband’s sister and brother-in-law declared bankruptcy. The family helped them out — but they still spend, spend, spend

Dear Quentin,

My husband has a large family and his siblings have varying levels of financial security. One of her sisters is married and has teenage children, and although her husband has a six-figure job, they have struggled to pay their bills over the years.

Family members have given them a substantial amount of money and / or paid for their children’s school fees or other expenses. Then her husband – who is in his 60s and in poor health – lost his job and things got worse.

They had saved absolutely nothing and were already behind on their bills. They filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and were able to keep their family home. She is now employed and her husband is employed again, albeit at a lower salary than before their bankruptcy.

They received about $ 20,000 from an inheritance that should have helped them catch up, but sometimes they still struggle to make ends meet. I’m glad we and other family members were able to help them out when they needed it, and I don’t expect we will ever be reimbursed.


“She and her family don’t seem to be making any real sacrifices or changing their spending habits.”

The problem I have is that she and her family don’t seem to be making any real sacrifices or changing their spending habits, and – although I don’t want them to be on the streets – I don’t want to. that we or other family members have to keep giving them money.

If they don’t change their habits and have no savings or retirement plans, then I have no doubt that at some point it will be up to us to support them again. My husband and other family members have tried to talk to them about their finances, but they just don’t seem to listen or just don’t understand.

At this point, they’d say they’re fine – but that’s until something happens, like a big and unexpected expense, one of them loses their job or gets injured or, worse yet. , one of them dies.

What can we do?

Sister in law

Dear sister-in-law,

Three little words: No. More. Bailouts.

You and your husband can jointly make the decision not to accept additional financial assistance. If they know that this is what awaits them, they will be more tempted to spend, spend, spend. If they know that you are serious and that you have taken a position on this matter as a family, they will be informed.

You could – as a family and as a start – offer to pay for a series of sessions with a financial advisor or financial therapist. If they aren’t saving for retirement and / or a rainy day, how are they going to make ends meet? Relationships are not ATMs.

However, they will do what they do. You wouldn’t believe the number of letters I get from people that end with a question like, “How do I make him see this from my point of view?” Or, “How can I get him to change his ways?”

The harsh truth is, you can’t. People are responsible for their own actions.

See also: “I don’t want to be taken advantage of”: my boyfriend moved in during the pandemic and pays me $ 400 a month

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