This is a guest post from counselor Dave Jetson, who consults with KFG to provide financial therapy and who offers financial recovery workshops.
Many of us have heard the term codependency and may be familiar with how it plays out in one’s life. Fewer of us are familiar with the term financial codependency.
Financial codependency occurs when we make the financial needs of others greater than our own financial needs. When we focus on the financial needs of another person, expectations and resentments develop on both sides. Financial codependency can be seen in many different ways in a person’s life.
Typically, financial codependency plays out with family members and can also be seen in relationships with friends or significant others. Among friends, it commonly takes the form of one person continually loaning money to friends and seldom getting paid back. With couples, one partner may concede all the finances to the other and be unaware of their financial status or situation. Typically parents give to their children and may continue this giving pattern well into adulthood. Some parents give until they die, which indicates how large an issue financial codependency can be.
Many parents realize they have made mistakes and feel guilty around the way they may have raised their children. As a way to compensate for the inadequacies in their parenting, they create ways to help their children financially to relieve some of that guilt. Different ways that parents may present financial codependency to their children include: giving money for no reason, buying as gifts items the children cannot afford, paying for cars, trips, or household bills because children cannot afford them, making sure they always pay for meals even when children can afford and want to pay, helping children through difficult financial tight spots they placed themselves in, paying for college, paying for a house, etc. While all of these can be supportive ways to help children financially, if the motivation is to enable, tension can be created and the opportunity for the child to learn and grow to become financially independent is lost.
When we attempt to help another person financially, we are denying them the opportunity to grow from their own financial situations. We enable them to rely on us financially. Unless the pattern of financial codependency stops, it becomes a financial enmeshment that is difficult to change.
Looking at financial codependency at a deeper level typically uncovers strings associated with the giving. Conditions like “I want you to love me,” or “Now you have to do what I say,” are a couple of unspoken strings associated with financial codependency.
To create freedom from financial codependency it is important to recognize the underlying motivation for the financial codependency and the underlying feelings that drive this behavior.
While we want the best for our children and will do whatever we can to give them what we believe will be the best for them, we actually are doing a disservice by enabling them. The best way to help our children is to teach them at a young age about money and the role it plays in their lives. As they learn and grow, it is our responsibility as parents to be mentors and supporters while they walk through their own financial obstacles.