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Is it morally wrong to get help from 
the government?

Published: Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Dear Dave,

I’m a single mom with three young children. I quit my nursing job a few years ago to be a stay-at-home mom, and one year later my husband filed for divorce. The state isn’t keeping him accountable for child support, but now I qualify for food stamps. Do you feel it’s morally wrong to be on government assistance?

– Rebecca

Dear Rebecca,

There’s nothing morally wrong with receiving food stamps, as long as you’re not lying about your income or situation in order to receive them. The biggest problem with food stamps, and other forms of government assistance, is many times a person becomes dependent on someone else to take care of them. I don’t want you and your kids to develop a victim mentality and become trapped in a cycle of substandard living.

You said you were a nurse before you came home to be with the kids, right? I’d suggest updating your nursing certification, if necessary, and going back to work in your field – maybe even as an emergency room nurse. I know the hours can be weird, but the pay is great. It would really get your income rolling again, plus you could afford to pay someone to look after the kids when necessary. You’ve been through a lot, Rebecca. Life has knocked you around lately, so it’s okay if you need to take food stamps for a little while. But I’d encourage you to start thinking from a long-term perspective as to what it’ll take to move forward and generate a good, livable income for you and your kids. Get into attack mode, take your nursing degree, intelligence and experience, and create a quality life for your family. I know you can do it.

– Dave

Dear Dave,

I made a huge mistake and allowed my sister to use my credit card. She said she’d pay back what she charged, but now she won’t pay the bill. The total was $5,500. Do you have any advice?

– Marie

Dear Marie,

I’m afraid I don’t have anything to give you that will make your sister grow some integrity and character. I used to tell my kids when they were younger not to bust the trust, because that kind of thing is very hard to put back together.

I’d be pretty upset about this too. Still, obsessing over it isn’t going to solve anything. And really, when it comes right down to it, you opened the door for this to happen. You really have no one to blame but yourself.

If it were me, I’d do whatever it took to pay this off quickly. Put in additional hours at your job or find some part-time work at night and on weekends for a few months. Somewhere along the line I’d also leave my sister a message saying I know she’s not going to pay this, but that everything is forgiven. I call something like this “paying your stupid tax,” and it’s something that all of us have had to pay at one time or another. Learn from the experience, Marie. Loaning money to family or friends can damage the relationship. Keep in mind, too, that she’s probably going to come back around wanting money at some point again. But I’m guessing you won’t make the same mistake twice, will you? The First National Bank of Marie is closed!

– Dave

• Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He’s written four New York Times best-selling books: “Financial Peace,” “More Than Enough,” “The Total Money Makeover” and “EntreLeadership.” The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 6 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

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