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Should You Be Obligated to Help Family Members in Financial Trouble If You're More Successful?

Vanderpump Rules' James Kennedy has a lot of pressure on him to support his family.

James Kennedy Tries to Help His Brother Get a Job a SUR
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As Lisa Vanderpump put it, one redeeming quality about James Kennedy is the fact that he helps take care of his family financially. It’s impossible to say he doesn’t have a heart or that he’s completely selfish — he’s not. When it comes to his brothers and parents, he gives all he can. We saw him hand his younger brother a check $5,000 so he had some post-college cash, he's helped his mom with rent, and has sent money to his father.

It’s a lot for a young man to take on.

It is becoming more common for adult children to support their parents, or at least help support their parents if they have the means to do so. The Financial Post advises that before you do this, consider "if [you] can afford to help and if so, by how much.” Also ask if there are other family members that are able to contribute.

But really, that’s just the surface. There are so many emotional and financial factors that go into supporting family members when you’re not the parent.

“When someone needs financial help, one of the questions is why? Today, when adult children have to support their parents financially, some questions and issues might include: why didn’t my parents save better, why do they spend money they don’t have, are they too proud to ask for help, why should I help if my siblings can’t, they didn’t support me or weren’t there for me so why should I be there for them?” Financial Post says. “How open should the process be? Should there be an open family discussion with everyone involved? If only one child is financially able and willing to help, should it be a private arrangement to protect the feelings of the parents?”


Although it seems like so many millennials move back home to mooch off their parents, Money Under 30 reports that one in five millennials help support their aging parents.

“We’re not talking about loaning some money for dinner here and there. The study found these Millennials are giving their parents an average of $18,250 per year,” says the report. “Three quarters of the financial aid goes towards general living expenses like food and housing. Half of those giving their parents money were shocked to find out just how much money their parents needed. We naturally assume our parents have saved enough for retirement. But many didn’t, or lost a lot of it during the recession … The young adults who find themselves taking care of mom and dad carry $63,000 of their own personal debt.”

By all means, help if you are swimming in cash, but experts advise you do take yourself into consideration when making it rain for your family. James Kennedy may be young, but he needs to worry about himself too. This is where it becomes complicated emotionally — and guilt often comes into play.

“When you reach a certain age, you become aware of everything your parents did for you during your childhood. And you’ll do anything to help them during their time of need,” reports Money Under 30. “But you need to think about yourself, and your old age, too. “If you’re supporting your parents (or think you may have to one day), you may have some questions about how to deal with sticky situations that pop up …You give mom and dad money: Can you dictate how they spend it? Before any money is loaned, there should be clear expectations about the frequency and amount of the contribution. That could be a time to also talk about how the money is going to be spent. As long as the money is going toward needs, you have to accept that you loaned the money and it is now in your parents’ hands. If you see that irresponsible purchases are being made, you can clarify your expectations for lending the money.”

A few tips:

  • Siblings and spouses should be informed of all payments and asked to contribute if they can. They should be kept informed of all parent/family-related financial decisions so resentment doesn’t form.
  • Try to “lend” or give money with the intention that you may never get it back and won't be angry about that later on.
  • Help your parents or family develop a budget too live within their means.
  • Face awkward conversations head-on to help the relationship through the tough time.
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