For many people, 2020 pulled the rug out from under them. It may have been personal through being stuck at home with little interaction, physical through illness or mental health, or financial through the loss of income. One of the brightest spots of the year, though, were the stories of friends, neighbors and even strangers stepping up and helping out.
If you know someone who is struggling financially, it can be tough to know how to help. You want to support them, but you don’t want to offend them or make things awkward. While you always want to approach the subject kindly and gently, following these dos and don’ts can help you help others.
Do give anonymously.
Especially if you don’t know the person very well, you can always provide your gift incognito. Consider giving money through a church or other religious organization that can then pass along the funds without giving your name. Or grocery delivery is so easy these days you can order staples to be dropped off at the person’s home.
Don’t make it a loan.
When someone is in a tight spot, a loan will likely add to their financial worries, plus there are always risks to the relationship when you loan money to friends and family. If you decide to help someone, make it clear (to yourself and to them) that the money is a gift, and you expect no repayment. If they insist, you can suggest a ‘pay-it-forward’ loan: you don’t want to be paid back, but you hope they will find ways to help others similarly in the future.
Do offer time and tangible gifts.
You may want to help someone out, but money might be tight for you as well, so the offer doesn’t always have to be cash. Giving your time or services could be hugely beneficial. You could babysit, run errands or provide networking advice and connections to someone who is looking for a job. You could make a double batch of dinner and drop off a portion or find other ways to share your skills and talents with them.
Don’t attach strings.
Even if you don’t make someone an ‘official’ loan, we often attach invisible strings to monetary gifts. Some examples include insisting on helping them budget or asking questions later about how the money you lent them was spent. Unless the recipient is eager for your advice and guidance, it’s best to just assume the funds were put to the best use.
Do be a good listener.
Unfortunately, there can be a lot of guilt and shame associated with a lack of money, which can prevent people from asking for help. Offering a kind (and mostly silent) listening ear can be a true blessing to people if they feel they can share their worries without being judged. It may be tempting to offer advice (and you can do so if they ask!), but just letting them talk and feel heard is a generous gift in itself.
Don’t make assumptions.
Especially if you are good at managing finances, it can be hard to understand how someone got into a tight spot. What may appear to be poor choices could in fact be a series of unfortunate events like medical issues or a car accident or weather damage. If you want to help someone out, give freely and soak in the joy that generosity can bring.