Financial Crisis: What Do You Say?

house for sale

For all that I supposedly know about money and personal finance, I learned this week that there is one thing that I still don’t know. I don’t know what to say to someone whose life is in crisis due to financial problems. Because money is so private, personal and (in this country, at least, taboo), do you say nothing at all? Do you change the subject rather than get drawn into problems you can’t fix? Do you try to offer advice? Is it like a death, where you say how sorry you are, offer to babysit the kids and bring over a casserole? I just don’t know.

A friend/neighbor (she’s not quite a good friend, but she is a good neighbor which makes this a bit more awkward


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23 Responses to Financial Crisis: What Do You Say?

  1. Emma says:

    You can’t change what happened or what was said. It would be a tough spot for anyone to be in.

    If it were me, I don’t think I would’ve given advice either. But, I would let them know that I’m thinking of them and praying that the situation will get better.

    You’re right in that they won’t change until they make the decision to change. And, I liken it to drug or alcohol abuse, most people won’t change until they’ve hit bottom. Until the pain of change is less than the pain of the same.

  2. Juan Carlos says:

    How do I deal with other

  3. Joan.of.the.Arch says:

    For next time this happens maybe you can be ready with 2 or 3 local financial counselors who help people organize, deal and work their way out of dire circumstances.

  4. Minimum Wage says:

    A lot of people would say I have a bad attitude, but it’s hard for me to have sympathy for people who overspend.

  5. Minimum Wage says:

    How do I deal with other

  6. disneysteve says:

    Minimum Wage – I’m with you. Not that I like to see a family losing their home, but it is tough to have sympathy when they totally brought it upon themselves. If it was due to a medical crisis or job loss or some other problem not in their control, that’s one thing. But when it is due to leasing cars, lavish vacation and using their home equity as an ATM, that’s a whole different story.

    What do you say when you learn of that situation? I’d say nothing because they probably wouldn’t like to hear what I’d have to say. Just nod my head and say, “that’s too bad” and wish them luck.

  7. Monika says:

    I have NO symphaty for people who lived beyound their means. When the times were great they enjoyed it, now they are paying for their own stupidity. Why not get a second or third job?

  8. baselle says:

    I think that saying I’m sorry is really about the best you can do. You listened, you empathized. Short of throwing money down that rat-hole there’s nothing much you can do.

    I had a similar problem with visiting a business that was going out of business. I went there many times and got to know the owner. What do you say to a business owner going out of business? Do you pick over the stuff (I did) or does it seem unseemly? Do you give advice? I didn’t have any advice to give.

  9. Hilary says:

    I think you were right not to offer advice. When someone confides like that, offering advice feels like a slap in the face, and it’s really not what the other person is looking for.

    The best possible thing to do at this point would probably be to offer help – help move boxes, for example, or offer to babysit the kids so the parents can take some time to themselves. But, be careful not to get pushy, and try to keep from seeming judgemental (especially since you disapprove of their choices).

    Another thing that would go a long way is a nice note telling her that you’ll miss them as neighbors.

    I think it would be unwise to act like the conversation never happened – she will feel vulnerable and embarrassed.

  10. Hilary says:

    Also, if you do choose to loan money, BE CAREFUL. Make sure you have a contract, or maybe use one of those online sites that negotiates loans. It is an easy way to lose friends.

  11. kilcher says:

    The way I see it, debt is like a drug problem. People can go on and on about how they want to quit but they need to seek help for themselves. For the most part what we talk about here is common sense. Once someone decides they truly want help it’s not all that difficult to figure out what to do.

  12. Welcome back common sense! says:

    Sounds like “Minimum Wage” above needs either (a) a better job or (b) a second job.

    A lot of our problems would be solved if we would put the same effort into work and resolution that we put into whining and crying.

  13. “I’m so sorry” is the only thing I can think to say in those circumstances.
    One can only hope that more people learn how to use all available resources and rescue themselves – or at least provide a couple months more breathing space – before life gets to that point.
    None of us want to see another foreclosed home down the street.

  14. Minimum Wage says:

    Gee thanks, I have no marketable skills and no career-related experience so a better job is pretty unlikely.

    I spend three mornings a week hooked up to a machine so I can’t work during those hours. I don’t have a car or a drivers license so getting to and from a second job is difficult or impossible.

    For example, there are a lot of swing shift jobs that get out too late to catch a bus, or night shift jobs which get out too late to get to my medical appointments on time.

    I see all sorts of moneymaking opportunities on craigslist that r4equire a car or at least a license and it’s very depressing.

  15. says:

    along the lines of Juan Carlos’ suggestion, you could refer them to and they could get a better loan to get out of debt faster.

  16. karen cain says:


  17. I agree with Hilary’s post. The best thing you can do is offer some type of help with moving boxes, cleaning up, etc. Anything really. This is the kind of thing that usually breaks down that barrier of awkwardness. She may then feel comfortable enough to open up again and may even ask for advice. At least this way there is the possibility for some help to come to her. As was mentioned, it’s also true that people won’t change until they make a decision to change, but I believe there are a lot of people out there right now in the same situation that obviously just don’t know how to change. These can be the perfect opportunities for those of us who have some way to help, to do it at a time when the person may be at a point where they will actually take it to heart.

    Most of all if you decide to help, just be real like you have been in this post. People by and large mostly want to know that someone can understand them and meet them where they are.


  18. m says:

    What I would say to anyone in any type of crisis (other than suicidal, which would require a dift. approach) is to say I’m sorry for their situation, let them know I’m there if they want to talk more, and ask if there is anything I can do to help. If they say no, I let them know to come to me later if there does end up being something.

    I don’t think giving unsolicited advice–about anything–is appropriate, but letting people know you are happy to share your views if they’re interested, or to lend an ear, or do whatever else you’re able to do is usually much appreciated.

    I think listening, not judging, and offering to be of support as you are able should they want it is the best one can do in such situations.

  19. Pingback: Monroe on a Budget » Blog Archive » What to do (long) before the financial crisis hits

  20. Alex says:

    Hilary’s advice is the best and kindest. However, I would NOT lend them money (unless you don’t mind never seeing it again). For me, stumbling upon Dave Ramsey was the bet thing that happened to my finances.

  21. Stephen says:

    Since you are asking, perhaps you could just come out with something like “Gee, Suzie, I am really going to miss you. Look, if it would help you avoid ever having to go through this again, Let’s sit down over a coffee and figure out what it would take to sort things out.” Direct, non-judgmental. How she reacts is not your problem, but I’ve found that, just like after a death, the worst thing for someone in trouble is if nobody else understands. Talk about it. Be kind, but straight from the shoulder. Give her a chance to say “yes.”

  22. Lorrie says:

    I don’t believe there is anything wrong with living comfortably. The straw that broke the camel’s back was her husband loosing his job and that is 98% of the time unforseeable.

    I agree that there are many ways to help that don’t involve money.

    Last but not least, if each person had a little more compassion for another person, I think we would be a better nation

  23. Bob Soltis says:

    To solve the Financial Crisis:

    1. Fire the DNC (Do Nothing Congress) to include all incumbant repusivicans)
    2. Stop all aid to all countries who havent supported the US in the War on Terror.
    3. Flex more mustle on the world and demand they shape up or ship out.
    4, Shoiuld be #1. Kick the UN out of this country.

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