The journey toward achieving your personal finance goals is uniquely dependent on your situation – no two financial plans or lifestyle choices are the same. However, one thing common to anyone looking to improve their financial health is the feeling that they might at some point feel as though they are on their own, suddenly solely responsible for making significant changes to their day-to-day in order to rebalance their life and remove the pressures of debt and interest.
The anxiety and stress of working one’s way out from existing debt is much easier to manage with a group of supportive people around you to help reinforce your proactivity, your mood, and your accountability. Who forms your personal finance support squad? Often, the same people who make up your peer group. Having said that, how can you be a better friend to someone you know who is dealing with debt?
Unfortunately, debt is a difficult thing to talk about, even between close friends, partners, family or even spouses. The stigma associated with financial instability is one of the biggest issues that prevents debtors from seeking help from within their personal communities.
The first thing to realize is that financial support – as in the loaning of money or goods – may not be the kind of support that is most important to someone struggling to keep their finances on track. Be there for that person emotionally first – be willing to listen, be willing to offer advice, but avoid providing gifts or stopgaps. Everyone needs to make the small steps toward a better financial plan by dint of their own work, and the feeling of achievement and progress are best cultivated through independent goal-setting. Furthermore, you will want to avoid creating the expectation that a gift or loan – even something as simple as covering for a meal – will need to be repaid in kind at some point in the future. Your emotional and empathetic support has its own intrinsic value.
Not everyone can fully conceptualize their financial rebuild from top to bottom. Often, individuals will seek feedback or collaboration on their plans, and acquaintances of those working through debt are often a valuable sounding board for these efforts. Helping someone plan, create goals, and brainstorm ideas for improvement might be one of the best ways to get their spirits up and their goals on track. Remember to defer when appropriate and don’t try to take over the process with what you feel would be the best course of action – structure around your friend’s needs and feelings about their financial situation rather than your own.
Someone who is facing a financial challenge may feel as though their ability to engage in social gatherings, events and other leisure activities is unfairly suppressed. That person’s peers need to show sensitivity and inclusivity in order to keep the valuable resource of social interaction and connectivity available. Planning free or low-cost gatherings will be an important skill. For many debtors, even a small expenditure such as a coffee break might feel significant enough to bring on feelings of discomfort. Respect your friends’ needs in this regard, and don’t push them into making small or “harmless” purchases that they might feel they “need” to make in order to feel included.
It can be hard to put yourself in the position of a person who is trying to rebuild their financial stability. However, doing so will give you greater perspective on your own personal finances, spending and saving habits, and will potentially improve your own financial health while learning how to support your friends in need.