Financial enabling

It is possible to “enable” people in your life, including when it comes to money and finances. There are many ways to do this, including whether the receiver is a substance abuser, gambler, abuser, or has some other challenge. There countless ways to enable people, including financially. Enabling” means doing things for someone that they can do for themselves. As an example, when it comes to enabling a substance abuser, enabling means doing something for someone that they normally could and would do for themselves if they were sober.

Yes, it is also possible to enable someone financially. Financial enablers are people that give money to someone else, and that receiver is the recipient. The money given to the recipient is provided without conditions, so the receiver does not have to take responsibility for their past or current actions and the receiver does not need to become independent. Enabling someone is in some ways helping those (or bailing them out) who made bad financial decisions, and the recipient doesn’t suffer the consequences of their bad decisions.

I have heard stories about this, read up on it, and witnessed it first-hand too. We also get emails on this topic here at needhelppayingbills. Enabling someone financially may, in some cases, be just as serious as enabling say a substance abuser or people with other addictions, whether gambling, smoking, promiscuity, work, etc.

There are studies and surveys done of therapists (including a survey from Gallup) who deal with financial enabling, and the results of those studies indicate that financial enabling is the number one or two most common monetary disorder.

What is enabling financially?

Anyone that continues to give money or possessions to another person, whether a child, friend, partner, etc. without that recipient learning and more importantly making lifestyle changes, then you are financially enabling that person. You are causing that recipient to become dependent.

There is a difference between enabling and being generous. They are two different things. It is also possible to enable anyone in your life; a friend enabling another, a sibling enabling another, a parent enabling their adult child, a spouse enabling their partner, people dating, etc. Maybe you ask for some examples of enabling someone financially. Well here are just a few examples.

One I am familiar with is a parent loaning their adult children a chunk of money, even though the child lives well beyond their means and are all about materialism. Loaning money to a child who flaunts their lifestyle, shows off new cars and trips, have good paying jobs, etc. is the definition of enabling. Giving someone money, when they have not addressed their lifestyle of excessive spending on “wants”, is in effect financially enabling that child…and the matter is even worse when they refuse to pay back the loan to the parent.

Another example of financially enabling someone may be a couple friends going out and one always “claiming hardship”, and one asking the other to pay the bill.

You are giving money, “gifts”, or material items to someone even though it hurts you financially, such as prevents you from saving for a home, retirement, etc.

Another example is someone paying all the bills in a relationship and the partner spends, does not contribute financially, or maybe does not work. This will be one partner enabling the other.

Those are just a few examples of financial enablement. Another common one is a parent giving money to their child who lives beyond their means, and the child not getting rid of their expensive car(s), designer clothes, and if the child does not stop living their “high” end lifestyle. So a parent enabling their kid.

What can you do instead of financially enabling someone?

There are other things to do instead of enabling a person. They include, but are not limited to the following.

One is “teach” them to ”fish”. Give long term help them by going over a budget with them. Assist them in finding more or better higher paying job(s). Assist them b giving advice on their debts. And if you can’t do this yourself, refer them to someone like a credit counselor.

If you loan them money and decide to enable them financially, then set conditions. Loan the money in installments but base it on the receiver changing their lifestyle and spending habits, attending counseling, or whatever you feel is right.

Before giving money and enabling someone, pay yourself first. Always take care of your own financial goals before helping a friend, family member or someone else. As if you can’t afford to loan or give someone money, then you shouldn’t.

If you give money, tell the person this is all you will ever give or loan them, and stick to it. You can say I will help you this one time, and give you XXX dollars, but you need to get your financial house in order. The key here is to stick to your word, and no matter how many times the person may come back in the future to ask for more money, do not give it.

Financially enablement is maybe the most common form of money disorder. Some experts say it is even becoming more common with the transition of generation X to their kids. Be aware of what it is and learn what you can do to not fall into this money trap.


  1. Sunshyne

    My daughter turned 16 a little while ago. It was a big day, and of course at that time I informed her that she would no longer receive an allowance each week for us her parents as that is a form of enablement. She howled and protested but I stood firm, telling her that I have no problem paying for the roof over her hear and room and board, clothing, food, family vacation and school activities. But any hobbies she had, going dates, cell phone, car, etc. was her financial responsibility.

    After a month or two she quickly found a job at a local retailer and puts in the time. I’ve watched her grow up. Cutting off the spigot off financial enabling my kid was one of the best parenting decisions I ever made.

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