Q&A: Unsolicited financial advice

Dear Liz: Your answer to the financially savvy brother whose advice is lost on his sisters was a bit harsh and shortsighted, so my guess is that you may not know anyone who has siblings who will continue for the next few decades to need help. It is hard to deny a sibling help while enjoying the benefits of prudent saving. It is harder to watch a sibling suffer, even if they should have avoided it. Seems to me completely different from giving advice about child rearing, which I might add is sometimes simply a statement of the obvious and one that should not even have to be mentioned, like don’t let your kids scream in public. This young man is almost certainly going to live with either guilt over not supporting his sisters when the mother dies or the frustration of having to give up hard-earned funds to avoid the guilt. You should have said he needs to write them a letter citing the guidance given and making it clear not to come to him when they get in trouble.

Answer: Thank you for providing a perfect example of why people find unsolicited advice so annoying.

The brother asked what he could say to his sisters to make them more financially responsible and to his mother to make her realize she should stop supporting them. The answer, of course, is nothing. There are no words that can make other people change unless they want to change. Since his family has made clear they’re not interested in his advice, continuing to offer it would be pointless.

The brother didn’t express concern that he would wind up supporting either his mother or his sisters. Even if he has such concerns, writing such a letter would be churlish, at best. If he’s asked for help, he can make his position known then.


  1. Sue Dalsing says

    I am with you Liz, my older sister and my husband’s older brother used to give us unsolicited advice about everything alllllll the time. Now after 32 years of marriage, we no longer speak to my sister and won’t need to, we are fine and will have a better retirement than her. The older brother is still my husband’s boss, and he will probably always be close to him, but we stopped having family holidays long ago. People need to mind their own business unless asked.

  2. Barbara CRAIG says

    I am not surprised that other readers found your advice to the brother to butt out of his sister’s financial problems off the mark. The red flag to ME was the mother – no dad was mentioned so is Mom widowed or divorced, working or not working? And shouldn’t HER primary responsibility be to herself and her retirement savings, not supporting two adult daughters? We’ve all seen this time and time again, parents who put their own financial security in jeopardy while continuing to support adult children who can’t get it together. Who is going to take care of Mom when she reaches retirement and realizes she has given too much away to the daughters? I am sure this is the son’s concern and rightly so. My experience(and yours!) has been that many, many people have no inkling of what it means to track expenses, budget or prepare any kind of financial future. This guy has stuck his neck out to help to no avail. He should tell his mother that he is not going to be responsible for her in old age if she continues to siphon off savings to give to the daughters.