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Asking Relatives for Financial Advice

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Q: Six months ago I made what I thought was a "safe" investment. It has now cost me a nice chunk of money.

Before making the decision to invest I sought counsel from my close friend and cousin, who is a financial adviser. His response to this investment choice felt very casual. He didn't really offer me a full analysis.

After the money loss he now claims he "warned" me of the unwise decision beforehand. It certainly didn't feel like a warning to me! If he truly felt it was an unwise choice, why did he withhold his real opinion? Do you think his choice to be causal and nonchalant was actually a passive-aggressive act?

A: The moment one asks a family member for financial advice, they are placed in a difficult position.

I'm sure your cousin's goal was to be helpful without interfering. If he did indeed choose to express himself in a non-committed manner, you could have perceived it as casual.

However, think about the situation from his perspective. He certainly doesn't want to steer you in the wrong direction. If the situation was reversed, would you want to feel responsible for his investments?

Your cousin is a financial adviser so that further complicates the scenario. He's aware that his advice may directly lead to your taking action in one way or another. That is a lot of pressure to put on a relative.

You say he didn't warn you properly. What does that mean? Perhaps, he did not present a power-point presentation on the dangers of this investment. However, could he have sent signals your way you weren't necessarily interested in hearing or heeding?

As a psychotherapist, I have friends and family who often seek my counsel on how they should handle relationship issues or work stressors. I may offer a perspective or brief comment, but rarely will I provide a clinical recommendation or comprehensive assessment. It just doesn't feel appropriate or helpful as I may unknowingly be harboring a bias I haven't fully thought through. Additionally, our relationship isn't professional, but built on personal/familial connection.

The bottom line is, asking family members for financial advice is a complicated matter because they can't be objective.

Additionally, it's also not your cousin's responsibility to give a full list of the pros and cons of an investment. You are not his client. If you ask him to advise you on anything else, make it a referral.

Better luck in the future!

Love the questions. Love the comments. Please keep sending them to ASK NOAH at

Have a profitable and peaceful week,


This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Noah Kass is a psychotherapist specializing in addiction, relationship issues and work stressors. He has been Clinical Director at The Dunes: East Hampton and Realization Center in Union Square. Mr. Kass was a frequent guest on MSNBC's "The Dylan Ratigan Show," featured in a segment called "Kass' Couch" and regularly blogs for The Huffington Post.

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