There's a reason 'friendly' financial advice is free

Despite having the best intentions, giving advice doesn't always go the way you planned. Especially if it's telling your sister to how to invest her 401(k), only to find out your sage advice caused her to lose 25% of her retirement fund.

It's a fine line you must tread when deciding whether you should pipe up with financial advice or just keep you mouth shut and nod sympathetically.

Experts say there are a few instances when your course of action is clear: if a person is in danger from financially self destructing (gambling away their savings, spending compulsively, etc.) then you should speak up, no matter what.

However, relationship expert Susan Newman says general advice giving, about how much to save, where to bank or how to trim a budget, can lead you down a slippery slope. "Even good advice can injure or ruin a relationship because it might not be right for the recipient," Newman said. It also might not be wanted.

To sidestep a financial advice faux pas, experts suggest considering these nuggets:

Catch the clues.
A person who's always saying "What am I going to do?" might not be asking for advice. Their questions may be rhetorical and not intended (or expecting) advice. "My brother was always asking how he would make it through another month. When I suggested he cut out delivered pizzas and cable TV, he bit my head off," says Charlie Koza.

Credibility counts.
To been seen as an authority -- and as someone whose advice should be valued -- you've got to "walk the walk" and "talk the talk."

"I had a friend who was always "suggesting" ways for me to save money," says Amy Wolf. "It turns out she was thousands in debt and had to file bankruptcy. She just liked giving advice she had no intention of ever putting into practice herself."

Just breathe.
Before dispensing financial tips, ask yourself how you would react if someone approached you with the same advice. If you'd be genuinely open to the information, it might be OK to offer your advice.But, this doesn't necessarily mean you have to keep completely quiet, either. Newman says before dispensing advice, assess the situation.

"Consider how the person seeking your input has reacted to prior advice she's received," she said. If your family member or pal has been open to suggestions, give snippets of information instead of administering a lecture.

If he or she is tentative, qualify the advice by saying "I don't know if this will work, but it's what I'd do."

"And if she doesn't handle advice well, but keeps asking for it, don't be afraid to tell her you're just not comfortable giving advice," says Newman.

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer specializing in health, celebrity and consumer issues.
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