Wednesday, April 24, 2024

DEAR CHRISTINE: Feeling guilty for not helping brother

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Dear Christine,

I FELT it necessary to write you because I need to hear your views and I always like the advice you give. Mine is not a relationship issue, but I know your advice will be sound.

My brother and his wife are the proud parents of two beautiful children. They both have very good jobs and live in a really good neighbourhood. However, they are still renting, and neither one ever learnt any life skills. Both worked and lived rent-free with their parents until they met and married in their mid- 20s. Consequently, they are up to their necks in credit card debt because of their need for instant gratification and their determination to keep up with the Joneses.

For the past year my brother has called me almost monthly, asking for money “for the sake of the children”. These children are six and nine years old, respectively. I have given them what I and my husband can spare, but I have two children of my own who are both in college overseas. If you do the multiplication you’ll realise it’s pressure on me when I help out, especially since my husband has had to take a pay cut in his salary.

I have told my brother (my youngest sibling and only brother) and my sister-in-law, they must learn to save, budget and pay their bills on time. I have warned them about the dangers of using a credit card as though it is a monthly salary and I have asked them to scale down on their spending. I even advised them to seek professional financial and marriage counselling but they flatly refused.

Five months ago my sister-in-law called to ask if the family could move in with us until they got their financial situation sorted out. They asked us if we would allow them to live for eight months. I thought since my children are abroad, it would be no problem, but my husband said “no way”. He said he based his decision on the fact that they refuse to seek financial counselling. He also stressed that they would probably just use their savings from paying rent to further splurge away on their lifestyle.

Needless to say, they were both furious with us. What I later learnt was that my brother started drinking and gambling. Of course, his wife blames this on my family. She said if I would help, my brother would not be in this position.

Christine, I have been living in guilt ever since I found out about my brother. I am also sorry that my nephews are “suffering silently” because of their parents’ lifestyle.

I asked my husband to reconsider but he is adamant that unless they seek that counsel he recommended and change their lifestyle, he will not lift a finger to help.

Am I fostering bad relations between me, my brother, his wife and my nephews? Why am I feeling so guilty even though I know they need to wise up?

– B.A.

Dear B.A.,

You are only human and perhaps you have a heart of compassion which sees past all the bad financial decisions your brother and his wife keep making. Neither you nor your husband is to blame. They are!

If they are truly desirous of seeing a financial change in their affairs, they’ll seek the financial counselling your husband has requested, or perhaps make changes to their lifestyle, like finding a more affordable house to rent, rather than dwelling in their “good neighbourhood”. In any case, what’s so hard about seeking financial counselling? The ball is in their court.

From where I sit, your husband is trying to put them on the right road for life. He is not keen about dealing with the symptoms; he wants to get at the heart of the matter and find the right cure. I am sure with his pay cut he has had to make some adjustments.

Also, you have not made the decision worse. They have!

Their weight is not for you to carry. As it is, you are carrying a heavy enough load. If you see it fit to give your nephews any kind of financial assistance, that’s fine, but your brother and sister-in-law need to fix this mess they have created. They need to be more responsible.

– CHRISTINE

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