My family (specifically my 6 siblings) have always been extremely important to me.
We did not have the easiest childhood. I talked about my life growing up in a cult at a high level in my first blog post. Life was pretty painful for all of us.
We are each other’s main support system:
For the most part growing up, the only support system my siblings and I had was each other. From a young age, we learned not to trust adults.
My younger sister told me last year that she knew at about 4 years old that she was completely on her own in the world, and that she couldn’t trust any grown ups, especially our parents.
My older brother died when I was about 14. He was 16.
More than ever since then, my siblings have meant the world to me. I understand how lucky I am to have their friendship and support. I know that life is short, and it could be over in the blink of an eye.
Main goal in life: to see my siblings happy, healthy, and free of the cult
After escaping the cult and starting my own life at 14, one of the biggest goals in my life was to become financially stable enough to help out my younger brothers and sister.
I dreamt of the day that they would also leave the group, and I imagined myself being able to help them financially when they did.
To some degree, I was able to do this for them, however, at a hefty cost to my own financial security.
How I help my family:
Over the past 10 years, I’ve calculated that I’ve spent over 60k in helping out my siblings. This is money that could have gone to paying down my own debt, of course.
About half of this money has gone to my younger sister, who left the cult about 5 years ago. While it didn’t work out for her to live with me (where all expenses would be covered), I pledged to send her a set amount of money each month until she could get on her feet, plus cover other expenses like food, her phone bill and health insurance.
The financial support I provided was through the years when I was the most broke. Sometimes I sent her my last bit of income after paying bills, and just hoped I could make it to the next paycheck.
I’m still sending her money, but she knows I’m cutting it off after a few thousand more.
She is now in her 3rd year of college, and will be graduating with a very small amount of loans. She is in 1000% better condition emotionally and physically compared to when she first left the group.
I’m so proud of all that she’s achieved in such a short time!
I can’t help but cry thinking that she’ll be able to get through college with a tiny fraction of the debt that I got out of school with, and with infinitely more emotional and financial support.
I also help my younger brothers financially, as needed. They are both still very attached to the cult and my mom.
It’s excruciating to see them still in the group. I know if they ever left, I would do everything I could to make their transition easier.
Almost all of the rest of the money I allocate for family goes to one of my older sisters.
She left the group about 16 years ago. Because we had no education, money, or familial support, when she first left the group she had to live in a very dangerous part of the city in our home state which she moved back to.
She worked minimum wage jobs at dangerous spots in town, mostly bartending and waitressing.
She lived for years in a truly terrifying area in town because that was the best that she could afford, even while working double shifts on minimum wage.
Her dream was to save up enough money to finish her GED and attend college for a degree in journalism.
Long story short, she got brutally attacked at the age of 20.
Ever since that horrible event happened she hasn’t been the same. She had already gone through tremendous pain and abuse in the group – and this was the last straw.
Over the past decade, her mental state declined to where now she has been diagnosed with several very severe mental health illnesses.
Her current mental state is such that she could not live with myself or my sisters. She’s violent, aggressive and refuses medication or therapy.
My other older sister and I cover as much as we can toward her living expenses, and Social Security covers a small portion. We will probably do this for the rest of our lives or hers.
We have to help her out financially. She doesn’t have a chance in the world if we don’t.
Balancing helping family against securing my own financial future:
My husband and I have gotten into our share of ‘debates’ over this – and of course I always win ;o)
He feels that it isn’t really fair for family to expect monetary help from me, especially while I still have a huge amount of debt (for the record, they don’t ‘expect’ anything – I offer it).
I, on the other hand, feel strongly that the risks are too great for a teenager or young adult trying to transition on their own from an abusive and restrictive environment, with minimal financial support. If there is no one there to offer support, the outcome could very well be what happened to my older sister. I’m not going to let that happen to my younger sister or other siblings.
Also, helping my older sister isn’t even an ‘option’ right now – I have to help because she’s in a very high risk situation. She could easily die without our assistance.
Yes, it’s probably an unwise decision financially and it’s certainly slowed my ability to repay my own debt, but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I did otherwise. I know my siblings would do the same for me, if the situation was reversed.
My situation is unusual, but I know of lots of other people who help family or friends (or even strangers), even if doing so is against their own financial best interests.
If you provide family (or anyone) financial support, how do you balance doing so against not compromising your own financial security?