How to Organise a Financial Intervention

How to Organise a Financial Intervention

When most individuals think of intervention, they often picture a gathering of friends and family urging a loved one to seek treatment for alcohol or drug dependency. If successful, the individual, moved by the display of love and concern, agrees to undergo the life-saving treatment.

The same principles underlying interventions for substance abuse can also be applied to individuals whose financial decision-making is spiralling out of control. Through a compassionate confrontation involving a select group of people, one can assist in reclaiming control over issues such as compulsive spending, gambling, speculative investments, susceptibility to scams, and neglecting essential financial planning for the future, such as retirement readiness. What is required is a measure of courage, careful planning, and an abundance of love.

Key points:

  • Interventions become necessary when a loved one’s ability to make sound financial choices has deteriorated, impacting both themselves and their loved ones.
  • The primary goal of an intervention is to cease enabling behaviours that exacerbate the problem and offer external support if the individual is receptive to it.
  • Ideally, a financial intervention should involve three to eight people who hold significance in the individual’s life.
  • Each participant should prepare a heartfelt letter outlining the significance of the relationship, the repercussions of the financial issues on themselves and others, and an earnest plea for the individual to embrace assistance.
  • In severe cases, seeking guidance from a financial planner or attorney may be beneficial to help the individual manage their finances effectively.

When should a financial intervention be conducted?

Interventions occur primarily for two reasons. Initially, when a loved one loses the capacity to make sound decisions and is heading towards financial self-destruction. Subsequently, when these behaviours start adversely affecting close friends and family members.

Is there a victim?

In situations where a family member or friend is either knowingly or unknowingly being financially exploited to fund the excessive spending of the perpetrator, financial interventions become important. An effective family-driven intervention to protect an elderly person was documented in the October 4, 2021, edition of The Gerontologist. It was successfully resolved by family members without involving authorities extensively and with minimal participation from the private sector.

Dr. Tina R. Kilaberia, a postdoctoral fellow at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis and co-author of the study, emphasises the importance, in cases of financial exploitation, of determining the victim’s preferred course of action, whether it will be reported to authorities, and addressing other privacy concerns.

In such cases, family interventions may be a viable option since agencies like Adult Protective Services might not respond to financial exploitation if it does not coincide with physical elder abuse. However, Dr. Kilaberia cautions that it’s uncommon for perpetrators to willingly acknowledge their need for help, agree to seek assistance, and actually follow through.

A financial intervention might be necessary to shield the victim from financial elder abuse, where someone takes advantage of an individual’s declining health to gain control over their assets.

Reasons for a financial intervention

The main reason for a financial intervention often revolves around compulsive and uncontrolled spending, two closely related yet distinct issues.

Compulsive spenders struggle to refrain from making purchases, often due to a pathological disorder. These individuals may accumulate unopened and unused purchases in garages and closets over several years. On the other hand, out-of-control spenders make purchases for stimulation, a belief that it fosters inclusion, or unrealistic expectations about their purchases’ outcomes. The consequence of such spending habits is often substantial consumer debt, making it financially impossible to meet daily expenses.

Another prevalent reason for financial interventions is engaging in high-risk behaviour. Individuals with this tendency may gamble excessive amounts, borrowing extensively to recover losses from risky ventures, be it with a bookie or a brokerage firm.

Also, falling victim to scams or financial fraud, even among those not often considered vulnerable, is another trigger for financial interventions. The elderly are particularly susceptible, but anyone can be deceived by scammers over the internet or phone. If there’s a pattern of succumbing to such scams, a financial intervention may be necessary to preserve remaining assets.

At times, severe financial issues may indicate an underlying problem, necessitating evaluation to avoid futile interventions that do not address the core issue. This is particularly relevant in cases where individuals facing financial challenges due to drug addiction have successfully concealed their problem but cannot hide the rapid depletion of their funds.

The objective of conducting a financial intervention

One common misunderstanding on financial interventions is the belief that they are meant to force a change in behaviour. When approached in this manner, individuals often feel judged, alienated, and misunderstood, leading them to shut down emotionally and resist any reasoning. Consequently, interventions of this nature frequently fail.

In truth, a financial intervention signifies a collective acknowledgment by concerned parties that their efforts to halt destructive behaviour have been ineffective. Despite expressing individual concerns, confronting the person, and even issuing threats, they have been unable to prompt a change in behaviour. Thus, recognising their own limitations, they unite to cease enabling the problematic behaviour. Moreover, their aim is to offer access to external support if the individual is open to it.

These realisations, collective decisions, and the offer of assistance are all conveyed in deep affection and appreciation for the individual. The desire for change is expressed not in anger or repulsion but in sorrow and a sense of loss. For someone grappling with worsening financial habits, having their loved ones gather to express their concern and affection can be transformative.

It is with love and acceptance, rather than shame and rejection, that interventions achieve their ultimate goal: to facilitate access to external support. Given that family and friends may lack the expertise or objectivity required, the involvement of a therapist, debt counsellor, or financial planner becomes imperative.

A financial intervention is unlikely to be effective if the individual perceives it as an attack, shaming, or humiliation. Stressing that your intention is solely to offer assistance is necessary.

Guidelines for executing a financial intervention

Determining whether someone requires financial intervention prompts the initial question of whether to enlist a professional interventionist. This approach offers the advantage of streamlining and organising the process while providing valuable resources. However, the downside lies in the associated cost.

Generally, the severity of the issue dictates the need for professional assistance. A 24-year-old with $10,000 in credit card debt likely doesn’t necessitate a professional interventionist, whereas a 50-year-old with $200,000 in compulsive gambling losses likely does. For those losing their ability to make sound financial decisions, a financial power of attorney can protect their assets.

Assembling the intervention team

A financial intervention team should consist of three to eight people significant to the person grappling with negative financial behaviour. These individuals wield the most influence in breaking through the individual’s denial and resistance to outside aid. Those disliked by the person in need should be excluded to avoid provoking defensiveness or anger.

The intervention subject will naturally react with surprise, fear, and possibly anger. Thus, designating a spokesperson from the group to lead the conversation is necessary.

Emphasising love and support

The chosen group should convene at a private location, with one member bringing the person in need under a pretence. The spokesperson then clarifies the purpose of the gathering, emphasising support and problem-solving rather than criticism. Each member will briefly express their concerns, ensuring the subject knows they have an opportunity to respond.

Presenting impact letters

Following the introduction, each group member reads an “impact letter” addressing the person and the issue. These letters, limited to two pages, should highlight the individual’s significance to the reader, the impact of the problem, and a heartfelt plea for acceptance of help.

Declining to enable while extending assistance

Once all letters are read, the spokesperson outlines the group’s commitment to cease enabling poor financial decisions. This may involve refraining from lending money, accepting extravagant gifts, or participating in discussions promoting risky investments. Simultaneously, the group offers outside assistance and asks the subject if they’re willing to accept it, with the first appointment already scheduled shortly after the intervention.


What should you do if an individual declines assistance following a financial intervention?

Following the refusal of aid, the intervention group should collectively agree not to support the individual’s behaviours going forward. This may entail refraining from actions such as lending money, accepting costly gifts, or engaging in discussions regarding stock investments or sports betting.

What are common examples of financial problems?

Common financial difficulties may include careless borrowing, excessive spending, or investment in high-risk ventures. Also, participation in multi-level marketing schemes, gambling activities, or falling victim to scams can lead to financial strain. If you or someone you know exhibits recurrent behaviours indicative of these issues, seeking advice from a financial expert could prove beneficial.

Which errors should be avoided in managing personal finances?

The main blunders in personal finance often revolve around excessive borrowing, particularly through credit cards. Given the steep interest rates associated with credit cards, even a modest debt can swiftly escalate over time. Rather than adhering to minimum payments, it’s important to curtail spending within your means and promptly settle debts whenever possible.


Occasionally, individuals targeted for intervention may initially resist assistance but eventually agree to accept help. However, effective financial interventions often begin with the individual rejecting the offer, only for them to reconsider and seek aid weeks, months, or even years later.

This scenario unfolds when loved ones remain steadfast in their refusal to enable destructive behaviour post-intervention. Through their unwavering stance, people are compelled to confront the consequences of their actions. It is during this critical moment, if the offer of help persists, that they frequently accept it.

DISCLAIMER:  This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace official financial advice. 2 Ezi has no relationships with any financial advisor mentioned. Consult an ASIC-accredited financial advisor of your choosing.

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