Asking for help isn’t always easy, but if your request happens to involve money, that can add another layer of emotional difficulty. “Some people endure a lot of pain and suffering before raising their hand and saying, ‘I need help,’” says financial psychotherapist Alex Melkumian. “This can be especially true when it comes to money, because there’s a real taboo around talking about it.”
So if you’ve ever asked yourself, “How do I ask my family for financial help?”, the key is to be up front about your needs while also being flexible about how your family may be able to help you. Here’s how to start the conversation.
CONSIDER YOUR FAMILY’S COMMUNICATION STYLE AND UPBRINGING
There is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution for bringing up the topic of money, so the best way to broach it will depend on your family’s preferred communication style. “Some families would be put off by not having a talk like this officially scheduled, because they’re more formal,” Melkumian says. “Yet for others, sending an email to pre-schedule would feel like a slap in the face: ‘Why did you feel like you couldn’t just come talk to me about it?’”
You'll also want to consider if your upbringing has had any effect on how your family handles money in general. For instance, some families take a “you work for what you get” attitude and may only be willing to lend you money, Melkumian says. In others, helping family members out financially is part of the family’s culture, so they may be more inclined to give you money without expecting you to pay it back.
BE HONEST AND CLEAR ABOUT YOUR NEEDS
Before sitting down with your family, be sure to think through the practical details of your request: How much money are you looking for, and what will it be used for? You’ll need to be able to answer these questions and be willing to share details with your family in order to have a productive discussion. “It shows your intentionality in that you’re not just asking for help without thought,” Melkumian says. “You’re being respectful of the conversation and appreciating the other person’s consideration.”
When you’re specific in your ask, it avoids putting your family member in an awkward position. You don’t want them to have to guess what you need and throw out an arbitrary number. It also gives them an opportunity to offer an alternate amount of money that they’re more comfortable with.
BE OPEN TO MULTIPLE SOLUTIONS
While you should be specific in your ask, it’s just as important to be open to different ways your family might be able to help. “I would recommend talking through at least three different scenarios,” Melkumian says, including:
A loan that’s expected to be repaid in a set amount of time, with interest
An interest-free loan that’s expected to be repaid in a set amount of time
A gift that isn’t expected to be repaid
Of course, if your family member has other ideas, discuss what would make them feel most comfortable. “In the end, while money is important, family is more important,” Melkumian says.
Ultimately, when asking your family for financial help, be appreciative of their consideration. “Remember that you’re giving the other person the opportunity to be helpful,” Melkumian says. “Sometimes the reverse-psychology technique is comforting, too. If your sister came to you in need of help, would you help her? Many of my clients say, ‘Absolutely.’ And that gives them some peace to go ahead and ask.”