Real-life MMD: Should I confront my indebted sister?

Former_MSE_Debs Former MSE Posts: 890 Forumite
edited 8 January 2013 at 5:22PM in MoneySaving polls
Money Moral Dilemma: Should I confront my indebted sister?

I recently read a letter from HMRC to my sister and discovered she's in a lot of debt. I've raised suspicions before, and she denied being in financial straits, though I remained worried. I know it's not really my business, but she lives with my widowed and retired mum, so is involving her and taking advantage of her generosity. Should I confront her about her debt, or wait until she faces up to it?

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  • surveyqueenuk
    surveyqueenuk Forumite Posts: 673 Forumite
    Firstly, what on earth were you doing reading your sister's letters? Sis may have already dealt/be dealing with this, so do proceed with caution as you risk being labelled a snoop. Certainly don't "confront" her about this!

    How exactly is your mother involved and how is your sister taking advantage of her?
  • mr-tom_2
    mr-tom_2 Forumite Posts: 131 Forumite
    Setting aside the questions the previous respondent raises, which I do understand, I'll answer a slightly different question: "if somebody you love is doing something that is bad for them (and maybe those around them), do you confront them?"

    I think the answer to that depends on the person. Some people when confronted would face up to things and change their ways. Others might simply be unaffected over the long term, and in other cases, it could actually be counterproductive.

    So back to your question, only you know the sort of person your sister is. If a confrontation is likely to produce results then great. (Although then note the previous poster's comments) However if a confrontation would make things worse, then leave well alone and be prepared to offer (tough) love and support when it all comes crashing down.
  • pennypinchUK
    pennypinchUK Forumite Posts: 383 Forumite
    She's your sister, right. And it sounds like you care about her, so your honour bound to do something. Her mentality is just the same as an addict (whether that's drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, etc.). An addict will typically only face their addiction when they see how it's adversely affecting them or their loved ones.

    The right thing to do is to approach your sister and tell her in plain and clear language that you know she is heavily in debt, and you want to help her. Tell her your concerns about how it's affecting her and your mum. Chances are, she won't like it and may get angry at you for mentioning it. But tell her you'll be watching out for her and are ready to support and help immediately she feels ready to confront the issues. Tell her the help you're willing to offer (e.g., arranging a visit to a debt counsellor, being by her side as a trusted and loyal, non-judgemental friend, maybe financial support if you can afford it and if you're clear she's started to adjust her finances, etc.)

    You may have rocky times ahead, but it'll be worse for her, you and your mother in the long run if you pretend nothing is wrong and dodge your responsibilities as a family member.
  • Fujiko
    Fujiko Forumite Posts: 150 Forumite
    My first reaction - mind your own business and don't read other people's letters! Your sister may well owe money to the bank but so do lots of people and this is something they can live with. If that is the way she chooses to manage her finances that is her choice. I'm not clear in what way your sister is taking advantage of your mother or why she is still living at home. For example, how old is she and does she have a job? More information needed I think.
  • florere
    florere Forumite Posts: 104 Forumite
    edited 9 January 2013 at 12:26PM
    You should not have read your sister's letter, is your sister really taking advantage of your mother, does your mother want her to live with her, is your sister using your mother's money to fund her lifestyle? If not, then it is none of your business
  • Cimscate
    Cimscate Forumite Posts: 145
    Part of the Furniture 100 Posts Combo Breaker
    I have 4 sisters and I would be outraged if any of them read my mail or interfered in my financial affiars. I know that if I want help I can ask for it. However, if you know for sure that your mother is being taken advantage of then that probably does give you the right to get involved.
  • SandraDJ
    SandraDJ Forumite Posts: 41 Forumite
    I don't think that you should have read your sister's letter.

    I also think that it would be wrong to 'confront' her. Is there a way that you can discuss her problems without being confrontational? Are you sure that she is taking advantage of your mother?
  • hannerrbabes
    hannerrbabes Forumite Posts: 193
    Part of the Furniture 100 Posts Combo Breaker
    You shouldn't be reading your sister's mail, whether or not it came to your house. That's illegal.
    You don't know if she's dealing with it or not as she obviously doesn't wish to talk about it.
    If you confront her she's going to get mad because you've been in her personal business. But I think its best to do so. If anything, you can help her by directing her to this website! There are plenty of tips to get rid of your debt quickly, here!
  • onesixfive
    onesixfive Forumite Posts: 470
    Part of the Furniture 100 Posts Combo Breaker
    edited 9 January 2013 at 3:35PM
    Have you considered that your mum may already know about this debt?
    Maybe mum knows all about it & her opening up her home for your sister to live with her is her way of helping ?
    Maybe they are sorting this matter already without involving you ?
    You shouldnt have read mail that didnt concern you - it may already be in hand.
    If its getting serious and likely to affect any other residents of the address, (ie: bailiffs knocking) dont you think your mum will have noticed ?
  • frugalisticchic
    frugalisticchic Forumite Posts: 15
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    Most definately. Having just lost someone to suicide due to debt, I certainly wish I'd known the extent of things and that things had been said/asked before it was too late though tact is essential in how you "confront" someone.
    Addicted to saving money :j (or just tight)
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