How to Deal With Freeloading Friends and Family

Mellody Hobson lends advice for dealing with clinging family and friends.

ByABC News via GMA logo
October 5, 2009, 2:58 PM

Oct. 6, 2009 — -- When Penny Campbell got divorced and started having financial trouble, she asked her older sister Lisa Griffith if she could move into Griffith and her husband's Texas home temporarily in order to get back on her feet.

That was six years ago.

Though Campbell has been trying desperately to become financially independent again and has moved out several times, she's always had to move back in. Now, she's something of a permanent fixture in the Griffith family, paying a small amount of rent while she finishes school.

Regardless of her intentions to the contrary, Campbell has become a financial freeloader, according to "Good Morning America" financial contributor Mellody Hobson.

How do you say no to family or friends that seem to need your help? It's a sticky situation, but Hobson stopped by "GMA" to show how you can first spot the freeloaders and then how to deal with them effectively, without abandoning them.

When Campbell struggled through divorce and devastating financial setbacks, she fell back on her sister for support.

"I'm lucky I have family to turn to, through the good times and the bad," she said.

But soon things got so bad financially that she had to leave her three children and father in Montana and relocate to Texas where Griffith lived so she could move in with the couple and their 17-year-old son and save money.

"I don't want her to fail at all," Griffith said. "She's very smart. She works really hard. I didn't want her to worry about those finances, but live here for financial reasons."

Despite working a full-time job in law enforcement and working part-time at a local department store, Campbell has not made any progress financially in the six years since she moved in.

"I haven't been able to save any money. It's one of those things where I look at my paycheck and I'm like, 'Where did my money go?' I know I get paid this amount a month, and by the end of that paycheck, it's already gone," Campbell said.

But Campbell's not the only one getting frustrated; Griffith is also feeling the growing strain.

"I feel like she does take advantage of us sometimes," Griffith said. "Being a family member, she feels that she can be late on rent and not communicate that she's going to do that... She just becomes so defensive. I approached her, she didn't approach me."

Campbell asked her sister if she could stay in the home until she finishes school, about another nine months.

"I didn't want to do it, but I thought what's another year almost, nine months, whatever," Griffith said. "And so I said that's fine. If that's what you got to do, that's fine."