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Feeling the burden of extended family? Take control. You do not have to end up in debt.

May 2, 2018 | Blog

Thebemed Wellness Cafe’

In our rainbow nation, different cultures can experience financial stress in different ways.

Sometimes, one person’s income is expected to pay for household needs and those of the extended family. At other times, the main breadwinner is sandwiched between the financial needs of the new and the old generation.

Both situations can cause a great deal of emotional stress, anxiety and unhappiness. Giving in to family pressures, can lead to resentment, fearfulness and constant money worries, while resisting them can make you feel guilty and often not good enough.

Community and family love and care is when everybody feels considered and looked after – YOU TOO!

So, you might be feeling financially stretched beyond your limit; paying medical bills, transport costs, school or college fees, clothing bills, and more for the extended family. You could also be maintaining your own household, as well as your parent’s. Take heart … and instead of going into debt, choose to take control!

Break the cycle – learn to take care of your own needs first!

With this heavy financial responsibility, it is often difficult to think about your own long-term future. However, with some clear thinking, you may be able to find a way to turn the cycle of dependency into a strategy for empowerment. Failing to ensure that YOUR future is provided for, you will be setting yourself up for a future that perpetuates neediness and dependence. No matter how large or small your salary, speak to a financial planner who will be able to give you some sound advice. It is really worthwhile, as this will get you thinking, and help you recognise opportunities you may never have considered.

Of course, this does not mean that you should ignore your family’s needs; rather, we are encouraging you to help them in a more considered way. Giving a helping hand in this way, you can be the one in your family who encourages empowerment by starting to make conscious choices about which requests to respond to, and which not. Decide whether the request will empower the person, or serve to perpetuate dependency. Expenses, such as school and college fees, school uniforms, electricity to have light by which to study, healthy food, are the kinds of things which could be considered to be empowering ‘spends’.

There are further actions that would support empowerment:

Plan your budget, and involve the family

Once you have decide how much you are willing and able to contribute to the extended family needs, then involve the whole family in drawing up the household budget. In this way, they should get a better understanding of what it costs to care for parents, children, and other family members. This might help everyone think more creatively about how each person can contribute. It is heartening how positively people respond to being included in sharing responsibility. Most importantly, it is essential to stay on top of spending, and know where every rand is going. The transparency of family budgeting can also pave the way to encourage each person, even the little ones, to create their own personal budget and take control of their finances. Furthermore, this will provide the opportunity to open a discussion about ensuring that all the adults in your family have a will.

Finding ways for everyone to contribute

It is a natural human tendency to want to care for and support your loved ones. This tendency can be put to good effect by having family discussions to find ways for all to contribute. For example, children who are not employed can contribute by doing household duties, or they can earn an additional informal income by doing odd jobs, such as baby or house sitting. Younger children and grandparents could be involved in growing a small vegetable garden, giving them a real sense of being able to contribute. A great benefit for children who participate in family budgeting, is learning the importance of planning and saving.

Preparing for a crisis

If your family is already familiar with discussing the controversial topic of money, it will be easier to lead the conversation into considering how to prepare for a crisis. This might be someone losing their job, or an unforeseen illness. This type of open discussion will ensure that no-one will bury their heads in the sand, hoping that someone else will handle the crisis.

Learn when to say NO … and when to say YES

Understanding the difference between real needs and less important wants, is a crucial skill for everyone in the family to learn. This discernment can prevent unnecessary financial stress and strain … and even being forced to go into debt! You need to be realistic about how much support you can give, and be firm in responding to money requests and curbing unnecessary spending. All the small amounts eventually add up and can push you financially over the edge. Remember, going into debt to fund unnecessary wants is disempowering.

For further information on this topic click on this blog: ‘Shopping for need or want?’

If you are a member, and would like assistance with how to start these sensitive family conversations, call 0800 22 93 55 to speak to a counsellor who will assist you with some confidential, expert advice.

If you would like to learn more about the counselling service go to the website and log onto the member’s portal and find the counselling tab.

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