Home » When It’s Pointless to Give Others Money Advice

When It’s Pointless to Give Others Money Advice

When Not to Give Money AdviceWe who are in the personal finance blogging world, whether as writers or as readers, know how heartbreaking it is to see family and friends struggling continually in financial distress.  We’re eager to share all that we’ve learned and experienced about how to work toward debt free and financial independence, and see our loved ones get out of their financial hellholes.  But when should we share our money advice with loved ones, and when should we keep our mouths shut?  

Don’t Bother With Money Advice to Those in Denial

We all have people in our lives who are in a money mess but are not willing to see it:  Those who piddle away money like it grows on trees and then complain constantly pour their hearts out to you  about their never-ending money problems that are “completely out of my control”.  They refuse to admit that if they’d managed their money well from the beginning, or at least start managing their money well now, that they’d have a plush savings account that would ensure that financial emergencies were nothing more than a quick blip on their financial screen.

You gently (or not so gently) try and explain to them that all of those dinners out, little trips to the store and other non-necessity spending really does add up.  You try and explain the difference to them between what is truly a need and truly a want, but they don’t want to hear it and have an excuse for why they “had” to spend A, B and C.

My friends, don’t waste your time.  These folks are caught up in a world of not being able to discipline themselves and of focusing too much on what they want, and you’re likely not going to have much luck in changing their minds.  Like any type of person in a self-destructive habit or addiction, they’re just going to have to get to that rock bottom place before they seek out real change.

Then There are Simply Those Who Want to Spend

Another case in point are those who know what they’re doing, but simply don’t want to stop.  They know they’re in a heck of a mess, but that immediate gratification and need to keep up with the Joneses is more important to them than financial stability, and there’s nothing you can do to convince them otherwise.

Those Who Won’t Hear Constructive Criticism

Those who get offended or are unwilling to consider what you’ve got to share on money matters also are not ones you’ll want to bother giving money advice to.  Why?  Because it’s clear they don’t want to hear it, and it will only create strife in your relationship.  Better that you keep yourself quiet on money matters if you’re met with an unwilling ear and let them learn for themselves.

What You Can Do

There are some things that you can do for those who need the wisdom you’ve learned regarding money.  First, take opportunities when money talks arise to share what you’ve done to eliminate or handle a similar situation.  Second, share – humbly – your money successes and how you came about them.  Make sure this doesn’t come off as bragging, though, and make sure those you are sharing with know that your success didn’t come without a ton of sacrifice and hard work.  Third, be there when the chips fall and their ears are open.  They may be more eager to take your advice when they’ve hit that rock bottom place, but don’t give it until you’re asked.

P.S. My friend Hayley from over at Disease Called Debt has an awesome new e-book out entitled Achieving Debt Freedom: How to Recognize and Overcome the Emotions Linked to Paying off Debt.  It’s free through Sunday, July 20 on Amazon.  Maybe if you have a loved one who’s somewhat open to your advice, they’d be willing to read this fantastic book.

Do you have loved ones in your life who are making major money mistakes?  How do handle their complaints about money?


*Photo by Free Digital Photos


  1. When someone complains to me about anything, I gently asked them if they have a solution for their problem? If the continue to make excuses then I know they are not ready for help. If they offer a solution then I know they are looking for help. As far as money I will let people know our success, and if the inquire further I will offer help. I have sat down with family members to review budgets and seen it go now where, and will other who have go on to have great success. It really does depend on the individual and when they are ready.

  2. Will says:

    I find that being as subtle as possible gets the point across best. It’s persuasion 101. If you want to show someone the error in their ways, be gradual and gentle. Ease them into your way of thinking. Just telling them they are careless with cash will just make them dig their heels in and resent you.

    I think it’s a large part of why MMM is so successful. He doesn’t scream at his audience to make changes and he’s very calm when explaining his suggestions for improvement.

  3. Michelle says:

    I know MANY people who make money mistakes. I usually just be quiet because I know that even if I say something directly to them, that I will hear an endless amount of excuses. Some people just aren’t ready to change.

  4. You’re so right Laurie. When I first started learning about money, spending, saving, investing and the like, I thought people would love to hear my advice. I just imaginged everyone wanting to spend less and save more, but sadly, that isn’t reality. Like you said, some people just want to spend and then complain about how they have no money. I usually stop giving people advice, and remind them that presenting a problem without wanting a solution is just complaining, and I’m not a big fan of complaining.

    • Laurie says:

      I was the same way at first, Ryan. I loved sharing how we were spending so much less on groceries, etc., but I’ve learned that many people just don’t want to change the way they handle their finances.

  5. Liz says:

    My MIL is terrible with money. She loves shopping so she is always out buying stuff. When she decided that she needed to watch her money, she then started shopping at thrift stores instead. I’m fairly certain she is still spending about the same amount. I was a little surprised (and offended) when she gave my husband and I a book on personal finance (Smart couples finish rich) for xmas last year. UMM are you kidding me?

  6. Wow – I just posted about this in my family as well! It’s so hard to see my aunt and uncle barely get buy from day to day, but yet they drive new cars, spend money on smartphone games, and take lavish vacations. Until their mindset is right ( in that they HAVE to make a change) giving advice is futile. It sucks.

    • Laurie says:

      Ouch. 🙁 Yet, we have seen the same thing many times. It’s difficult to watch family members wasting their money, knowing that retirement is coming one day, isn’t it?

  7. Yep, you’re so right Laurie! I find that it’s a mindset/outlook shift that needs to happen before the spending/saving shift can occur. What I encounter is the defensiveness and denigration of “well, we could never do what you two do, we just have too many needs/hobbies/stuff that breaks/demands on our time.” And, yeah, with that mindset, they won’t! I try not to give unsolicited advice and respond to requests with open, friendly advice, but ultimately, it’s up to them. It hurts, though, to see people suffering financially.

    • Laurie says:

      I hate the “we could never” stuff. I want to shake them and say “YES YOU COULD!! Try it and see how wonderful it is!” 🙂

  8. Great point…it really is useless to give advice when someone is in denial. Just like with AA…the first step is to admit you have a problem. If someone doesn’t think they have a problem, they will not take unsolicited advice. I think you’re right about sharing HUMBLY about your success…when they are ready to join in that journey to debt freedom, they will want to know the steps that you took.

    • Laurie says:

      Humility is key: if in sharing a person comes off as prideful, loved ones won’t want to be “rich” as they’ll associate more money with more pride, when in reality more money simply amplifies one’s current personality.

  9. You are right Laurie, these people are not worth our time or energy. When they are ready to hear it and change, they will. There’s only so many things you can focus on in life and I don’t want to “waste” my limited time on something or someone that won’t change.

  10. I just wrote something on this fairly recently! It’s so tough to keep quiet but if they aren’t ready to hear it you’re wasting your time. I have a friend (not super close) who is just going down a major financial rabbit hole. To make maters worse, he is depressed about his life situation, so he spends even more (and not just on himself, but on other people-buying them drinks, etc.), then he further gets depressed because of that money he spend. Downward spiral. It’s tough to watch. 🙁

    • Laurie says:

      Ugh, and it’s such a constant cycle too, that type of a situation. You feel bad because you know that they’re just making things worse, yet they are too clouded to understand the way to real freedom.

  11. Lauren says:

    Unfortunately, I know people who don’t so much continue to spend and make mistakes in that way, but they simply do not know how to manage their money properly. You can actually be cheap and still not know how to handle money! It’s frustrating, because a simple budget and change in habits would make a huge difference. I’m just tired of offering advice and help for nothing.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s a great point, Lauren. Yes, offering advice when it is consistently ignored is frustrating and tiring. This is why we mostly don’t say anything unless asked sincerely for advice: it’s too taxing on the psyche otherwise!

  12. Nicola says:

    I work with someone who complains ALL the time that she has no money, yet she’s quite happy to buy breakfast and lunch out every day. I just don’t bother saying anything; I don’t think she actually wants to change!

  13. Awesome post Laurie. It is pretty interesting how much I find myself in finance conversations with my friends and family, and you’re right! There are some people that are just pointless to advise. Thanks for the great read!

  14. Similar to Brian, I try to gauge whether it’s a “vent session” when we have a conversation, or if it’s a request for help. Then I go from there. And if I mention my own things going on financially, then the lines of communication would be open, and maybe they’ll feel more comfortable asking for help directly. Or maybe they’ll learn a bit through osmosis. 🙂

  15. Brit says:

    When we first started to pay our debt, our family were terrible in supporting us. They didn’t understand. You just keep going and explain politely. At this point we are looked as the cool kids to some and some, now, look for advice. The best to deal with giving advice to them is when they come up and ask. When they ask me questions we answer but don’t offer anything else. Is when they see how we are doing and how stress we are that it finally sunk into some of then and now they seek advice. Great post, Laurie.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s great, Brit, that they are finally starting to see and ask how you’re doing it!! Your awesome changes are being contagious – yay!

  16. Tonya wrote something on this recently on another site, and I completely agree with you. It’s pointless to even say anything to people who don’t want to hear it. I have a few family members like this and despite the fact that they know that I help people with their money for a living, they never want to ask me about anything. I have shared blogs that I have written that pertain to them and I don’t think they even read them because they choose something completely different. Sometimes people just have to make their own mistakes and you have to let them.

  17. Wade @ DestinationFinancialWisdom.com says:

    I have a friend who I’ve know from Kindergarten. Credit card debt, car payments, mortgage, doesn’t save for anything. I did convince him to put something into his 401k. Plans to save nothing for college or beyond his small 401k. He can’t be helped and doesn’t want to be helped. At one point they paid off their credit cards when the bought a different house..rolled them into the balance..but they are right back up there. We don’t discuss money at all after a couple of my feeble attempts.

  18. I have a close friend who has recently found herself in a lot of debt. She knows about my own battle with debt and so she talked me about her situation. When I told her about the things I’d done to cut back to try to save money and all the things I try frequently to make money to pay off debts, I could tell that she wasn’t going to do those things by her reaction.

    I was tempted to push her on it and tell her how she could really turn things around if she tried but I didn’t in the end. I hope that one day she’ll speak to me again about it – I don’t want to affect our friendship by speaking out of turn, at the end of the day it’s her business!

    Thank you so much for mentioning my eBook Laurie! I really appreciate it. Hope you, Rick and the family have a great weekend my friend! 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, it really is a balance, Hayley. Helping is good, but not if it offends someone. Guess you’ll have to wait until she’s really ready to make the changes. You guys have a great weekend too, Hayley!

  19. E.M. says:

    I think leading by example is a good thing to do as well. I don’t bother with my family outside of my parents. My one aunt and uncle seem to love spending, especially when it comes to anything new that comes out on the market. As for my parents, I’ve given them advice and l tell them what we’ve been doing that works for us. I think they’re mostly thankful I didn’t end up in their situation, but they’re willing to listen most of the time. I did mention to my friends how I plan to use credit card rewards for traveling, and they thought it was a cool concept!

    • Laurie says:

      Your parents really seem to be changing things around – at least a little bit, and that’s great!! But I agree that with most, it’s best not to bother. No need to create undue strife over advice that likely won’t be taken anyway.

  20. What a great topic Laurie – I think it’s especially important to keep these points in mind if you’ve just been learning about all these new financial skills, and you’re super-enthusiastic to share it with everyone you know. You probably won’t get the reception you expect from everyone.

    I totally agree with the view to only give advice when it’s crystal clear they want it. It’s ironic though that many of the people who don’t want to hear good financial advice are probably very keen to act on some ‘hot stock tip’ advice from just about anyone…

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly, Jason! We were super excited about what we’d learned in the beginning, and were so confused when no one wanted to hear about how we were saving money. But as you said, unless it’s crystal clear that they want the advice, it’s best to keep quiet, or to mention things you do more off-handedly.

    • Laurie says:

      Great that the people in your real life are reading the blog, Stefanie!! Then you can share your wisdom indirectly and they can read if they want, not read if they don’t want, but at least you’ve done your part.

  21. I think for the most part unsolicited advice will fall on deaf ears. I always like to share my failures first before my successes’s when I am talking about money to someone seeking advice, that seems to work well. Even for those who do seek advice, only a few will actually take action. It certainly doesn’t feel good when you care more about someone else’s situation then they do.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s good advice, John! And you’re right: it’s tough when you watch someone you care about making continual bad financial decisions and yet they don’t seem to want to change. Thanks so much for the comment. 🙂

  22. Kathy says:

    My husband’s favorite quote is “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.” That’s how we feel about giving financial (or any other kind) advice. Unless they specifically ask we don’t offer. It’s up to them. The only exception we made to this was when our son and his girlfriend moved in together. We told him not to merge finances until they were married, not to buy a house together until they were married, and not have a baby until they were married. He followed all three points of advice and they are now happily married.

  23. Your post reminds me of how I used to be! Head stubbornly in the sand. Annoyed by good advice. Convinced it was all beyond my control. Dave Ramsey’s book got me out of that spell. Glad to be functioning in reality at last!

  24. debt debs says:

    Awesome, Laurie! You nailed this! So true that they are not ready to hear it. I will think of this when talking with my sister…. about other stuff! Thank you!

  25. Mackenzie says:

    You’re totally right, Laurie. When people are in denial about their debt and their spending, there’s nothing that one can say that will make them listen. Unfortunately, most times, the person has to hit rock bottom before they start listening to advice 🙁

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