Great Financial Advice From The In-Flight Safety Handbook

You Don’t Have To Go Book A Flight To Learn This

I know what you’re thinking. “How in the world can an in-flight safety handbook help me financially?” I want to focus today on one specific part of those instructions. Skip ahead to the part about securing your oxygen mask in case of changes in the cabin pressure. Now I know you’re really confused, but bare with me. After hearing many stories of financial struggle, and dealing with the raw emotions that come with it, I want to discuss something that seems to be a pretty common issue among struggling families. I have received more than a dozen comments about this issue just over the past six months, so I finally decided to write about it.

Do you tend to worry more about those around you? No, I’m not talking about your husband, your wife, or young children. I’m talking about other family and even friends. One of the most common reasons I hear for people not being able to save an emergency fund, or keep one once they have it, is that they are constantly helping others. Every time they turn around, they see someone in need and feel obligated to help. Their compassion and guilt will not allow them to look the other way. They feel there is no choice.

So if we have figured out that the reason we cannot help ourselves, is because we are too busy helping others, then at least we recognize the problem. You have two choices—you either keep helping or stop helping. Here is where the rest of the oxygen-mask instructions come in handy.

“Remember to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others with theirs.”

Why do they tell you to do that? It’s not because they don’t care about the person you may have to help. It’s because you have a better chance at helping them once you are sucking back some oxygen. You are no good to anyone, if you pass out. Secure your own mask, and then be compassionate! You will be in a better position to do so.

Secure Your Own Mask First!

So how can you apply this to your financial situation? That’s easy! Save an emergency fund for yourself before you start passing out money like you don’t need it. Secure your own future first because before you know it, that oxygen mask won’t be enough, and retirement will be right around the corner.

Wait just a second though. Once you have that Emergency Fund in place it doesn’t mean you’re home free. Your oxygen mask is not yet properly secured. There is more work to be done. Your emergency fund is to be used when YOU have an emergency. If you have extra money in your budget to help out that month, and it doesn’t require the use of your security fund, then by all means help out. Using your emergency fund to help out, is like putting your oxygen mask on someone else. Where does that leave you? Think about it.

You want to help, and Lord knows I want you to help, but you have to do it right—so you can be the most effective.

What about Compassion?

Am I asking you to let your elderly parents starve to death? Absolutely not! What I am asking you to do is consider other alternatives. Is there another way to help that doesn’t include playing financial Russian roulette? Sure there is, you just have to find it. You certainly won’t find it if you don’t look for it.

I volunteer with my church’s Mercy team, and when someone needs a financial push in the right direction, I’m right there. That’s not all they do though. They help people with rent/mortgage, groceries, electric bills, other utilities, and more. I also happen to know that there are so many other churches and organizations that are ready to step in and help out in tough financial situations. If your elderly parents fail to pay the rent, call around. Someone, somewhere will help you!

Dealing With Leeches

There is another component to this topic. Leeches should be the easiest to deal with, just for the simple fact that they live off of the sweat of others, which sometimes makes it easier to pull the plug. They most often are kids, which makes it tough for the parents because they feel even more guilty. Leeches play off of that guilt, and will suck it dry until it’s time to find their next unsuspecting host. I’ve seen it so many times—heck, it’s in my family. I’ve sure been irresponsibly immature with money before. I was always broke too.

Typical story: child/adult is bad at managing his money. When he does have money, he is too busy buying things to make him happy instead of acting responsibly. Perhaps said kid, still lives with mommy, and mommy continues to wipe his mouth every time he makes a mess. The parent in that situation is enabling bad behavior and even encouraging it. What that kid needs is a job, and some financial management classes, not someone to coddle him in the name of “helping” him.

One of the best books you can find on setting boundaries in your relationships, was written by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend and it is called, you guessed it—BOUNDARIES! This book will show you how to help in the right way, at the right time, and as you see fit. You must set boundaries!

P.S. Boundaries are not having your 40 year old son, who still lives at home, running to “mommy” every time he gets a cell phone bill!


You cannot be there for everyone—all of the time—no matter how hard you try. Sometimes you just have to take a step back, and find another way to help those in need. Sometimes people need to be allowed to help themselves, you know….LIKE YOU for instance! πŸ˜€

You are not blessing others by destroying yourself! If you don’t have the money then you just can’t do it, and I would personally qualify not having your own emergency fund as not having the money. You need that first, then you need some extra money to help save those around you. It’s equally important to know when you’re hurting someone rather than helping them.

Work harder at getting yourself in a position to offer assistance. As they say, “SAVE YOURSELF!” Now you can save the world. Until then, learn how to say NO.

Give it a try. I bet you will make great progress, and you’ll feel a lot better about your situation after you do.

Good luck!

Since this is such a common thing, I was hoping to hear your thoughts and comments on this issue. Have you been there? How did you deal with it? What’s your story?

About Brad Chaffee

43 Responses to “Great Financial Advice From The In-Flight Safety Handbook”

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  1. Craig Ford says:

    I was actually just thinking about this the other day. I think the concept is rock solid. Sometime the best way to help someone else is to get our own things in order. However, like all things, I’m sure there are going to be good reasons to break the rule and help someone even when we are not in the best position to help.
    Thanks for the great post.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      You’re absolutely right Craig. There will always be exceptions to the rule, and sacrificial giving is sometimes in order. There are still so many alternatives to giving up your own security and financial wellness in order to help someone else. If you give help, only to then need help yourself, you are just transferring the need not meeting it. There are so many churches out there that are ready to step in at a moments notice, so thank God for that. πŸ˜‰

      Thanks for stopping by Craig! πŸ™‚

  2. Simple in France says:

    Great analogy! And so timely too. I know so many people dealing with this and it’s HARD. In fact, I foresee needing to deal intelligently with a similar situation in the future. I agree: giving away everything you have to the financially unwise will not save them because they will simply spend everything you have to in order to avoid learning a lesson!

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Some lessons are made to be learned the hard way. Sometimes it is better when someone is forced to deal with their problem rather than sit back and let others take the fall for them. I hope you are able to deal with your possible upcoming situation with success. Thanks for stopping by today! πŸ™‚

  3. Donna Korzun says:

    We had the problem of a dependent youngest son. I was always wanting to “be there for him” i.e. give him money. Recently, my husband helped me see the “enabling” light and we set new boundaries. Much to my surprise, and not my husband’s, our son has really stepped up to the plate. He called me recently and announced he was starting an emergency fund!!! If only I had seen the “light” sooner. However, I am happy that he is thriving with this new found adulthood. Love your article, hope others see themselves and make better decisions.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      It’s funny, or not so funny, how our desire to help someone else blinds us to what’s really going on. It’s nice to help out our loved ones for sure but it’s when we can’t see the line between helping and hurting that it becomes a problem. I am so happy for your son and glad your husband pressed the issue. I can tell you are too. What a great story!

  4. Adam says:

    Awesome post Brad!

    I know it’s difficult for my wife and me to watch our parents struggle financially. You just want to help so much but I like to think that we would be much better help if we get our own life straightened out first. If a financial emergency would pop up in our own lives, we would be in deep trouble.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Thank you Adam, I am glad you liked it. I am just glad I was inspired to right about it finally. It has been heavy on my mind as I am helping a few others deal with this specific problem. It’s hard to look in their eyes and see such pain and frustration. Thanks for stopping by Adam! πŸ™‚

  5. I love it! Great analogy. I was just talking with a couple the other day and they were focused on their daughter’s college. I was like you don’t always have to pay all the money up front. You can let her take loans and help then if you want. Think about it you’d have the money for an extra 4 and 1/2 years to decide and if you wanted to you could just dump it into the loans before repaying even began. I was talking with them about securing their dreams first, though I didn’t use the analogy. I might steal this one since imitation is the greatest for of flattery.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Haha thank you very much, and steal away, although I am sure I have not been the only one who thought of this analogy! πŸ˜€ It is a problem people struggle with. Maybe a second part to this post would be one on managing guilt properly. People often feel guilty for securing their own situation when there are so many people in the world struggling. To me that just means it is even more important to secure your own future before moving on to try and save someone else’s.

      I know for me, we have been in a much better position to help out since becoming stable ourselves. It makes a world of difference!

  6. Nice analogy, and a pleasure to read! I agree with Craig’s comment that it is a good overall principal and may be broken from time to time. It’s kind of like the blind leading the blind….someone has to be in a better position to help or else both risk being in trouble.

    The next time I’m on a plane I’ll probably think of this article while the flight attendants are giving the pre-flight safety instructions. πŸ™‚

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Nicely said Lakita! Craig definitely made a great point! Like with anything, especially something requiring a decision to be made, discretion should be used. πŸ™‚

      I am honored to know that my article will be forever embedded in your brain—even if only when you are flying. LOL That is awesome!

  7. Excellent advice, Brad! On the marriage front, I actually do apply this analogy to immediate family and children as well. I’m a firm believer that your marriage must come before your children. If your marriage is not healthy, your entire family suffers, so you have to make sure there’s a steady flow of oxygen there before anything else. πŸ™‚

  8. Awesome analogy Brad, and a very awesome concept to understand. My first instinct is to think the opposite would be true. After some study though it’s clear that you’re absolutely right! Rabbi Daniel Lapin talks about a Jewish ceremony that illustrates this (described here). I think the airline safety card is much more memorable!

    I also love the way Dave Ramsey summs it up: Broke people can’t help poor people.

  9. I have a similar opinion with saving towards my son’s college education. If I ensure that my retirement is taken care of first, I’ll be in a better position to help him out when the time comes!

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Nice work Tom, and your son will have a much easier time when it’s time to go. He’ll be able to focus on school and homework instead of working and paying off his credit card debt. πŸ™‚

  10. David Damron says:

    I must say I am quite impressed in relating the two. I am going to start sending random images from life your way and see if you can relate them to finances. Let the fun begin…

    LifeExcursion & The Minimalist Path

    P.S. This comment wasted 15 seconds of your time….I am sorry.

  11. Great post Brad – I always say, “you can get loans for college, but you can’t get loans for retirement!”

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      LOL and you know what I always say: No debt is good debt, including student loans! I admit that my extremism on the matter isn’t popular at this time. (currently attending college student loan free)

      …but I do get your point though. πŸ˜€

  12. Home run Brad. There are so many of us out there writing on our blogs, and we are all so incredibly boring sometimes! But this one was engaging and very entertaining. You had me at “In-flight Safety Book”. Great hook. Keep up the good work!

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Wow, thank you Steve! As a blogger yourself you know how it goes. You just never know if people are gonna like it or hate it. I am glad you liked it. πŸ˜€

  13. Abigail says:

    I only wish my in-laws could face up to this truth! They have zero retirement, zero savings, owe money to the IRS (which they’re paying off in installments), and still house their 28-year-old son! He’s a chronic abuser of drugs and has been diagnosed as Bipolar — though honestly I wonder how much of his behavior IS drug-related, as almost all the symptoms of bipolar match those of addiction.

    Point being, he brings people over all the time to eat. He has women more or less move in as he dates them, and he never gives them any money, although he at least gives them his food stamps. He’s never paid rent, he’s cost them untold amounts of money in the past by calling collect from jail several times a day… I could go on but you get the picture. They’re drowning but they’re throwing him the life saver.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      I have an Uncle that has lived at home his entire life, and my grandma just doesn’t get it. I just wonder what he is going to do when my grandmother passes away. He has never had to care for himself by way of paying his own rent, bills etc. She is definitely doing him more harm than good but she just won’t listen to reason.

      I would seriously recommend that book Boundaries to your in-laws. Often times these are very sensitive conditions where the parent “helping” out is so blind to what’s actually going on. I like to compare it to a friend trying to tell her best friend that her boyfriend is a schmuck. Then the friend gets mad, sticks with him, only to end up coming to the same conclusion, and sometimes the friendship is beyond repair. That’s how it is when you try and tell parents that they are harming their kids. It’s unfortunate.

  14. This is soo good Brad!!

    I have had this come up with a student in fpu. She is renting out a home to a “Friend” and they are behind in payments. Her reason for not being firm in putting them out is because its her friend. YET she can’t afford the taxes and she bounces checks.

    I have struggled trying to explain how her family comes first but she just doesn’t get it.

    Im all about helping others but I won’t beable to do much if i can breath!

    this is the best! again way to go!

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Hey ya’ll, this is my buddy from WAY BACK, my accountability buddy from FPU actually. Go visit her blog, Divine & Debt Free, to see what she is up to. She’s very passionate too!

      Why thank you very much Mikki! πŸ˜€ We go way back don’t we? LOL Can you believe it was almost two years ago? We have been rocking the debt free message for two years. That’s awesome!

      I appreciate your compliments too! For some reason I have been having these great ideas and as soon as I thought about this one I knew it had to go live immediately. It’s so common of an issue. I should have written about this a year ago. πŸ˜‰

  15. Your points are good ones. You can’t help others if you place yourself in a bad position. Many people just don’t understand who “number one” is a why it needs to be that way. The ones calling others “cheap” and “stingy” are often the same ones who are first to have their hands out.

    I refer to the leeches in life as “tar babies” because they can easily get stuck to you and they’re hard to shake off. The key is not getting involved with them to begin with. I have learned not to feed them, because like a dog, they’ll always come back.

    Life can be hard, and sometimes that means you need “tough love.”

    Clair Schwan

  16. Kaye says:

    Brilliant post. As soon as I saw the graphic I knew where you were going and LOVE IT! Great one!

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Thank you Kaye! I was meeting with someone helping them with this exact issue and when I used that analogy, I knew I had to turn it into a blog post. πŸ™‚ It’s really a great connection to make.

  17. Jasin says:

    Brilliant post.

  18. Lori Lowe says:

    The point of your post is good, and I agree with Dustin that it is also applicable to marriage. An interracial couple I interviewed said the book Boundaries changed their lives–as they realized setting boundaries around their immediate family was critical, and learned to not always serve the wishes of their families of origin, particularly when they conflicted with their spouse’s needs.
    Best to you, Brad.
    Lori Lowe

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Exactly Lori! Boundaries can make a family stronger in many ways. From what I have seen not having boundaries is what destroys relationships a piece at a time! Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts! πŸ™‚

  19. Ha, great minds think alike! I penned a very similar article back December and even used a similar pick!

    Thanks for sharing your spin on the topic!


  20. Arturo says:

    Hi Brad; as you may see in my name and English I am latinamerican and you probably don’t know that we believe too much in helping each other; we call it loyalty and like to be known as loyal people to our family, which at the end of the road harms more than help. In my country it is common to see young people living in their parent’s until they get married at 35, marrying and moving the husband/wife into parent’s place, not working while at university so that you can have good grades and broken parents living the last part of their lives at a son/daughter’s house, which is really sad. In Latinamerica Financial Literacy is “zero” and people think in money as something that is never enough, even though people have expensive cars, expensive clothes and expensive cell phones, while drawning in debt. It is a different culture but at the end of the day it is that people is like children, people wants everything and wants in now, because society values the person for what they “have” instead of for what they “are”; so if you do not have the last vogue and a new car (in debt of course, and debt here is expensive) then you are not being succesful and your neighbor is doing better than you. Getting to the point, parents and relatives have to help those “financial kids” to get out of their troubles just to lead them (uncounciously) to their next financial problem, because of course they never learn and never grow up, just go around to see their next toy and cycle begins.

    Thanks for this post and be sure I understand it perfectly since I am habitue to see everyday how people give their oxigen mask to their kids for helping, just to end up without any mask and just receiving the help of their kids at the end of their broken lives, borrowing their kids mask, the mask that should have been theirs if they have just secured their own mask first.

  21. I just love this post. I came from a culture where its just wrong to send your parents to elderly homes. Granted I am only 21, and they're just barely 50's. It really worries me because my brothers are irresponsible and they show no sign of caring for our parents. The other one is just 12 and shouldn't be thinking about these things. Then I realized, that my parents did not have me as their child in order to secure their golden years. If they did, that's just wrong. Its just a little difficult to take away an expectation, that's been wired to you since you were little.

    This idea should be posted more often on cyberspace so that other people will be enlightened as well. Great post!!

  22. John says:

    If you give someone a fish they eat for one day, if you teach them how to fish they eat for the rest of their life. The same thing goes with money, just giving people money is not the solution. Financial discpline is what many people need.

  23. Ron Power says:

    I love the term “secure your own mask first”, the point is that if you can not survive a financial problem, how can you expect to help anyone else. Planning is boring but you sleep better at night.

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