How to Tell and What to Do if Helping Others is Hurting You and Your Financial Outlook
Caretakers are helpers and natural givers. They are generous people who have a loving and caring spirit. We all have some caretaker tendencies, and that’s a beautiful thing. Caretakers make this world a better place.
We appreciate the caretakers and consider this trait to be a strength. But at some point, these behaviors can cause financial stress and resentment if someone cares or gives too much. That’s when the caretaker tendencies can go from positive to presenting a problem.
Listen to Episode 119 of the Fiscal Fitness Podcast all about evaluating your caretaker tendencies:
When You Give Too Much: Are you sabotaging your financial progress?
How to Know if You’re the Caretaker Type
A caretaker is someone who uses their time, money, or energy to assist their immediate family members, friends, or colleagues.
- Are you always stepping up to meet the needs of those around you?
- Do you support a spouse or partner by working a lot or in a job you don’t enjoy so they can pursue a hobby or dream job?
- If you ask yourself often, but “What would they do without me?”
If so, you may fall pretty high on the spectrum of caretaker tendencies.
As financial coaches, we sometimes have to coach our clients to balance their caretaker tendencies with taking of care of themselves and their own finances. We support people to give, but in ways that don’t cause stress on their health or finances.
The goal for our clients when it comes to their caretaker tendency showing up in their life is finding the balance. How can we create a strategy to honor their goals and their financial security while still being able to give. Our goal is never to say stop giving of yourself. It’s to help you find a way to do it while still making progress in your own life.
One important thing to ask when evaluating your caretaker tendencies is this: Why Do You Give?
We always want our clients to put their money toward the things they value. And for a lot of people, there is a lot of value in giving. It fills up their cup. But even giving can be rooted in the wrong motivations, like:
- Ego: hearing someone say once you’ve given them money that “oh I couldn’t have done it without you” gives you an inflated feeling of self-worth
- Obligation: Especially if it comes from a place of trying to make amends
- Attention: if you give to another person and then that person tells somebody else “This person saved me” it can give the caretaker attention, making them feel special, loved and appreciated
- Superiority: typically we see this in a caretaker that is wealthier. Giving is not a financial hindrance to them and the reason their main motivation for giving is having a feeling of importance or dominance.
If you find yourself giving for any of these reasons, ask: What do you gain by these behaviors or these decisions when you make them?
To try to embrace where the desire to help comes from because truly most caretakers it is just this innate desire to help people and again that is such a beautiful thing, so we don’t want to temper that. We want that to stay, we just want to add to it these strategies that allow you to take care of your own finances at the exact same time.
Even if your motivations may be pure, you can still be giving to your own detriment if the recipient isn’t in a place to receive your help. Ask if the gift you’re giving is helping the recipient or enabling them. If they know that you are always there to bail them out or always there to lean on, are you actually helping them? Are there other ways you can help by building up their own self-reliance or taking their own responsibility? Are you teaching them to fish or are you giving them the fish.
“We all do things for people we love and that’s ok, but if you’re doing it consistently and all the time, you are enabling them not to be responsible” – Ron Miles
Ask yourself, if I were to truly help them, what would that look like? Can we come up with some strategies or some ways of helping that aren’t financial?
Exercising Your Non-Caretaker Muscle
If you are a caretaker who does a little too much caretaking, start small. Here are some actions you can take to help flex this muscle and step back from caretaking gradually:
- Attend a party but don’t be one of the helpers
- Be in a relationship, especially a friendship, without being needed
- Journal out what you think a healthy and reasonable amount of giving looks like?
- Fund a giving savings account so that you can give but within a set boundary.
- Find three ideas that don’t involve money before you give money
No go forth and be a caretaker. We love caretakers. But we most love caretakers who also take care of themselves.