Your blog has been really helpful in establishing boundaries with family, but my mum has brought us into conflict and I don’t know how to approach it.
Background: I finished uni with depression and no job prospects, so spent a year living with my parents working occassional cash-in-hand cleaning jobs, which I used for “fun” things. I would give my mum the cash and she would transfer the amount into my bank account, as we had to travel some way to either deposit or withdraw cash. Eventually I got a fulltime job offer which meant I had to retrain under the UK’s Apprenticeship scheme, so I earned around £3/hr until I finished training.
The first month of my apprenticeship I massively overestimated my new income, and overspent, going into my overdraft for the first and last time. I talked to my parents about what had happened. I’ve been consistently in the black ever since. I have no outstanding debt.
This happened three years ago, and I now live on the other side of the country with my partner. He has a good steady income, and we own a home together. I’m currently unemployed, and had been wanting to leave for health reasons, so had been saving for months.
My mum has made me aware that she has been reading my bank statements. Today she sent me an email boasting about a microloans scheme she invested in a few years ago. She referred to my “fun” money as an addiction (full disclosure: I can’t always resist microtransactions, but I set a monthly limit and otherwise live a very quiet life) and said she wants to “pretend it isn’t happening”. She implied that my dad is scared of talking to me about this, while he and I discuss my finances whenever I ring him. In the past she and my sister have made references to my parents bailing me out financially… which has never happened.
I’m hurt and confused for several reasons. My finances aren’t my mother’s business – I am financially independent. While I have been irresponsible in the past, I’ve tried to learn from it and have never put myself or my partner in financial risk. I feel the need to prove to my mother that I AM handling my money like an adult, but I don’t understand why she is involved at this point. I suspect she’s upset about the way her mother and brothers are currently treating her, and is taking it out on me, but I still don’t know how to respond to this.
What do I do?
Not-in-Debt in Norwich
Hi there Not-In-Debt,
There is a simple, rather mechanical solution to this and a conversation to be had.
The solution is: Remove your parents’ access to your bank accounts. Open a new account that they don’t have access to, transfer all your funds into it, and then close the old one. Eureka, no more parental monitoring of your bank statements! Your mom will inevitably have feelings over not being able to monitor your financial activity and you can say “Thanks for the advice and help in the past, this is what works for me now!” or “The last time you went over my bank statements it reminded me that I should probably just handle this on my own without your input” and ignore the rest.
The conversation is some version of:
- “Hey, I appreciate the financial assistance when I was just starting out, but how I handle my finances now isn’t up for discussion. Let’s retire this topic of conversation, thanks.”
- “Hi, I appreciate the help when I was just starting out and learning how to handle money, but I’m in good shape now, and if I want financial advice I’ll ask for it.”
- “Hey Dad, let’s talk about something else, my finances are under control and pretty boring.”
I would either ignore or call out passive-aggressive attempts to bring in other family members (“Dad is scared to talk to you about this” “Mom and Dad always talk about the time they bailed you out”) – You can say “Well, ‘bailing me out’ isn’t an accurate description of what happened back then, and there’s absolutely no reason for you to harp on it now, Sister, so why do you even bring it up?” When you have this kind of attempt at triangulation going on, another good practice is to ignore hearsay and deal only with what people will say to you directly. And when you DO want financial advice or information in the future, it’s probably best to find a trusted Not Your Family resource
As with any boundary-setting, it might take a few tries to make it stick, and you might have to cut a few conversations short to drive the point home (“I just said this wasn’t up for discussion, why are you still talking about it? Ok, guess it’s time to hang up the call, talk to you soon.”)
I’m glad you’re in good financial shape and have a supportive partner. Good luck finding work you like and taking care of your health.