This column is part of Advice Week, Slate’s celebration of all things advice.
Sometimes all you need is a different perspective. So, this week, our columnists have exchanged fields of experience. In this edition, Care and Nutrition columnist Doyin Richards takes care of your personal finance questions.
Dear Pay Dirt,
My daughter has been dating the same guy for three years and now they have a son who will be 2 in a couple of months. He has lived here all this time and only had a job twice at the same company, of which the they fired He hasn’t worked since October but he tells me he’s looking for a job. She goes to work a couple of days a week and they don’t pay rent. They pay for their own food and car insurance. My daughter doesn’t make much money. She is a restaurant hostess, but I am tired of supporting two grown adults and a baby by my side. I forgot to mention that I have a pension. How do I get out of this?
— Tired of everything
Dear tired of everything,
The best way to get out of this situation is with a heavy dose of tough love. I’m not saying you should cut off your daughter and her partner right away, but you need to let them know right away.
You’d have to give them three months’ notice to find a steady job and a place to live (or start paying you rent) or they’d have to leave. Yes, I know it’s harsh, but they are grown adults, not children, and you shouldn’t allow them to be freeloaders. The other alternative is that they drain your pension while you deal with a boatload of resentment, and I know you don’t want that.
You might feel guilty for being harsh, but I promise you’ll be doing them a favor in the long run. Don’t give up on this decision, no matter how bad you feel. Three months is a generous amount of time to get the ball rolling.
Pay Dirt is Slate’s money advice column. Do you have any questions? Send it to Lillian, Athena and Elizabeth here. (It’s anonymous!)
Dear Pay Dirt,
My 80-year-old mother met a man five years ago, who promptly moved in with her. He has no money and few assets. His adult children despise him and only stay because he showers them with favors and gifts. Last week, he gave his car to his son, charging my mother to drive him. Her love for him is clearly eroding, but she doesn’t want to be alone. How could I convince her to ask him to consider her real needs, instead of continuing her futile quest to “buy” her children’s love?
— I can’t buy love
Darling, I can’t buy love,
This is confusing to me. You said this guy has no money or assets, but gives away to his grown children? Where does the money come from? Credit cards? Loans? Honestly, it doesn’t matter because the end result is the same: your mom is not happy.
I completely understand why an older woman doesn’t want to live alone, but does that mean she should choose to live in bad company? If her grown children hate her, there must be a good reason for it, not to mention notice that you can tell how happy she is with the situation. The common denominator in this equation is him, and I wonder if he has character flaws that can’t be fixed.
When it comes to standing up for your needs, it’s pretty simple. She must tell the man what she wants, and if he does not conform, the relationship must end. Your role in this is to make sure you are there to help her if she decides to break up with him. Can he live with you? Can you imagine placing her in an assisted living community where she is around other peers? These are the things you need to think about. And you should make it clear to her that even without him around, she’ll have you, so she’ll never be alone.
No matter what, however, don’t allow your mother to live the remaining years of her life in a situation where she is clearly unhappy just because she is afraid of the alternative.
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Dear Pay Dirt,
How do you set up even a loose framework for budgeting when everything is overwhelming? Every time I’ve tried to start, I get bored and there are too many things that don’t fit neatly into categories or fit into more than one that I give up. Or I just panic seeing how much money is going to what (which is technically a good amount of money, I have no debt and I have a well paying job). I feel like I should do more, but I can’t help but freak out. How do you make a budget?
—Panic in the banking application
The first thing to do is push back against this panic. Budgeting can be a challenge, but this is not a test of life or death. You will survive this with some deep breaths and logical thinking.
The next step is to determine what your “main things” are. It could be rent/mortgage, health care, vacations, etc. I have no idea what yours are, but I know you have them, because we all do. These are the parts of your life that you will invest a large portion of your money and resources in, no matter what. Budgeting for your main things is essential so you know you’ll have the necessary amount of funds each month to cover them.
From there, list all of your expenses, activities, etc., and put them into specific categories that you could list on a spreadsheet or in a notebook next to your nightstand. I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t worry about something not fitting neatly into a specific category, because like I said before, nothing truly egregious will happen if you put your Netflix subscription into the category recreation rather than the cable/utilities category. .
If you notice that you are spending too much money in one area, or you have little money for another area, it will help you to reconsider what is really important. You may decide to cut back on a few luxuries each month or eliminate them entirely. All in all, budgeting can be a really rewarding and enlightening experience if you take fear out of the equation.
Money Advice from Athena and Elizabeth, delivered weekly.
Dear Pay Dirt,
My son and his fiancee recently announced their eloping. It took everyone in the family by surprise because they had been planning the wedding for a long time. They said they just wanted to be done and over with. The problem is that they are still expected to be given wedding gifts! They created a website for people to “donate” towards a down payment on a new home for them.
My daughters think it’s tacky and tasteless. They just want to give a nominal amount and send them a card. My parents had several thousand dollars set aside to cover the rehearsal dinner and other wedding costs. They did it for all their grandchildren. They are very hurt by my son’s actions and tell me he is not getting the money.
I wish I could convince my son to tear the place down and ask his grandparents to throw him and his wife a nice dinner. It would go a long way to quieting the commotion. But I don’t know how to approach the situation. I’m sad that I didn’t get to see my son get married, but I’m happy for him and his wife. If they had a virtual wedding, the pandemic made it familiar enough for most of our family. Someone will say something to my son. Me and what?
– No wedding
I don’t know all the reasons for the decision made by your son and fiancé, but I also agree that it is rather tacky to ask for gifts under these circumstances. Clearly, there are some very hurt feelings that your family needs to address quickly.
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You need to do everything in your power to get the family in a room (or a Zoom call) and do it like adults instead of playing the “phone game” where words can be misinterpreted. Maybe there is something missing from this equation that you are not aware of that contributed to the escape. If you determine at the meeting that your child’s reasons for doing so are weak and selfish (or if your child refuses the meeting altogether), then you and your parents have every right not to give them a dime. However, if you can talk about it, I think a lot of the hard feelings you’re experiencing right now will go away. Your son and his wife were within their rights to run away. All you can do is express how you feel and ask if there is a different way for family members to celebrate; I think your idea for an intimate family dinner could be very useful.
However, I wouldn’t spend too much mental energy worrying about the giveaway website. As insipid as it sounds, they have the right to keep it and promote it if they want. The most important thing here is to put all your feelings on the table, because they may not have an idea of how hurt everyone is by their actions. Hopefully, they’ll show some contrition and everyone can move on accordingly.
More tips from Slate
My father abandoned me when I was 10 years old, because I didn’t treat his mistress the way he wanted me to. I wanted my mom and dad together, and she was obviously the reason I didn’t have that anymore. The mother had to go to court for child support. My father and his new wife immediately started having children and my father didn’t think he owed what the state told him about it. I’m 22 now and didn’t hear from him until this year, and his request was ridiculous.
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