Who’s leaning on you?


For all of us, we’re often interconnected with others in ways we don’t fully realise. Family members, friends, colleagues and even acquaintances can lean on us for support, both emotionally and financially. While this support can be a beautiful expression of love and community, it can also become an invisible weight that impacts our own financial well-being and life goals.

Take a moment to reflect: Who are the people in your life that depend on you? Perhaps it’s aging parents who need assistance with medical bills, a sibling going through a tough time, or a friend who’s always “just a little short” on rent. These connections are part of what make us human, but they also present complex challenges when it comes to financial planning and personal boundaries.

The philosopher Kahlil Gibran once wrote, “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” This sentiment beautifully captures the essence of generosity, but it also raises an important question: At what point does giving become detrimental to our own well-being?

It’s a delicate balance. On the one hand, we want to be there for our loved ones, to offer support when they need it most. On the other hand, we have our own financial goals, dreams, and responsibilities to consider. How do we navigate this complex terrain?

First, it’s crucial to acknowledge that including others in our financial plan is not inherently wrong. In fact, for many cultures and families, it’s an expected and valued part of life. The key is to do so intentionally and with clear boundaries.

Start by taking inventory of your financial commitments to others. Are these commitments sustainable in the long term? Do they align with your own financial goals and values? Are they truly helping the other person, or are they enabling dependency?

Next, consider the impact of these commitments on your own financial health. Are you sacrificing your retirement savings (financial independence) to support a family member? Are you putting off important life goals because of financial obligations to others? Remember, as the flight safety instructions remind us, you need to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others.

Once you have a clear picture of your situation, it may be time for some tough conversations. These dialogues are never easy, but they’re essential for maintaining healthy relationships and financial boundaries. 

Here are some tips for approaching these discussions:

  1. Be honest and transparent about your own financial situation and goals.
  2. Express your care and concern for the other person, while also articulating your limitations.
  3. If possible, offer alternative forms of support that don’t involve direct financial assistance.
  4. Work together to create a plan for greater financial independence, if appropriate.
  5. Be prepared to say no, even if it’s difficult.

Remember, setting boundaries is not selfish – it’s a necessary part of maintaining your own well-being and, ultimately, your capacity to help others in sustainable ways.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a life that allows you to be generous and supportive while also securing your own future. It’s about finding that delicate balance between giving and self-care, between supporting others and maintaining healthy boundaries.

In the words of the Dalai Lama, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. But if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” By taking a thoughtful, intentional approach to the financial support we offer others, we can ensure that our generosity comes from a place of strength and sustainability, rather than self-sacrifice.

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