Pay Dirt is Slate’s money advice column. Have a question? Send to Athena and Elizabeth here. (Anonymous!)
I am a 27 year old woman. I grew up with the knowledge that my parents and grandparents were comfortable and that I enjoyed a certain privilege as a result. I went to private schools, graduated from college debt-free, and had a hefty deposit on a starter apartment I shared with a roommate. But at the same time I had to make my own way in the world and student affairs etc. I also worked with the assumption that I would. Like my other peers, and when I graduated, I applied to the same job market as everyone else. My grandfather recently passed away and left me a small fortune. It’s enough for me to invest and never work again. I love my job so I don’t want to do this.
My fiancee thinks this is what we should do. He’s in a band and is a talented musician, but they haven’t hit the road yet. Even before this, he was only working 20 hours a week to concentrate on his music. Now he wants to quit his job. He also hesitates to give some of it to charity, although it is a family tradition that I want to continue. I’ve also noticed other changes, like him wanting to eat at fancier restaurants and taking on servers that he hasn’t done before. Considering we both did this type of work as students, I find his lack of empathy egregious. We are engaged and I love him, but I have concerns that his values have changed since we got this much money. I’m thinking of canceling the wedding, but I love him. Help!
—Did Money Change Him or Me?
Dear Money, Did It Change Him or Me?
I think your fiancée assumes that your windfall is money you shared, not money you shared. You heritage. There are a few things you need to figure out for yourself and with him. First, you need to decide whether you are happy to be in a role where you are providing financial support to his or her career, and if so, how long you want to do this. I live in an area of Brooklyn that I call “Dad Band Land” because there seems to be a disproportionate number of people in their 30s and 40s who are professional full-time musicians in well-known bands. Even among “makers” this is a difficult way to make a living. And based on numbers alone, most talented musicians never make it that far. That’s why you need to have a serious conversation with your fiancé about what happens if the group isn’t successful and what his plans are for that possibility. If your response is the cliché “failure is not an option,” consider that a red flag. He needs a plan for what happens if his music career lasts a long time or doesn’t work out at all, and that plan shouldn’t depend on your willingness to use your inheritance to fund his ambitions.
Second, before you get married, you need to agree on your values and how your spending reflects them. If you’re noticing that your fiancée lacks empathy because he now has financial support, I’m already a little worried about his values. This is a warning sign. And it makes it even more glaring that he has done nothing to earn the money he now believes he is entitled to. His disdain for charity spending may also stem from his lack of concern for others. If money affects him like this now, what happens if the band comes out and he becomes famous? Fame and money don’t corrupt everyone, but they certainly rarely make people more empathetic and less self-centered.
One way to get around some of this is to see a financial planner together and get a realistic idea of what you need to save and invest after you get married. Your fiancé’s ambitions are not the only factor here, and it may take a professional to explain this point to him. He doesn’t have the right to ask you to quit a job you love or to tell you that you can’t give him that much money. your to charities. Your first priority should be to ensure that your inheritance offers the financial security your grandfather likely intended when he left you the money. If you have money left over after some planning, you may want to consider whether you would like to be your fiancé’s artistic donor.
Regardless, before you walk down the aisle you need to get aligned on how you think about saving and spending, and examine whether any disconnects on that front are related to how you view your future differently. If you feel like you’re going in completely different directions, you should probably reconsider whether you’re right for each other in the long run. For a marriage to work, it needs love but also compatibility.
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I moved across the country for my dream job. I love it here, but the high cost of living here is driving me crazy. My family can’t seem to understand this. They think I’m left with thousands of dollars because I make three times what they make on average. They can’t fathom that I can’t “just” pay for my parents to get a new roof or to help my brother buy a car. On my last visit, I took eight of us to a nice restaurant and my aunt invited her family to join us and expected me to pay for all 18 of them. And on the last Sunday before the Rapture, they were throwing back drinks like sinners. This was a huge and ugly incident because I refused to pay and they had to take out their own wallets. My sister-in-law said that I was cheap and that I embarrassed her. She also recently sent me kids’ Christmas wish lists, and they all consisted of expensive items like gaming systems and dirt bikes. I’m so sick of this that I don’t know how to react other than avoiding the holidays all together.
—Not Richie Rich
Dear Richie Not Rich,
I think you need to be frank with your family and tell them that you are not in a position to pay for this. I live in New York City and my family lives in rural Alabama where the cost of living is much lower, so I understand your situation. But it helps that my family has a concrete idea of what this means because they see how much it costs to rent an apartment here, and when they come to visit occasionally they see how much my family pays for daily basics. Transparency about costs probably won’t solve the problem, but it might alleviate it some.
In any case, you are not responsible for anything your family is trying to get you to pay for. Apparently, they are taking advantage of what they perceive as good luck rather than your hard-earned money, much of which goes out the door for housing. When it comes to your sister-in-law, I think you should talk to your sister about your situation and they should explain to your sister-in-law that you are not Santa Claus even though you plan to give their children Christmas gifts. Claus and you have a budget like everyone else.
You also need to set some boundaries with the rest of the family and say no when they ask. Tell them that they believe you have more disposable income than you actually do, but also tell them that you’re tired of the pressure of paying for things you can’t afford. Emphasize that you’re happy to try to help in ways that don’t involve spending money. If having a relationship with them depends on you somehow cashing the check, that’s not much of a relationship, and if they’re mad because you won’t do it, I don’t think there’s much you can do to fix their problems. inflated sense of entitlement. If you can, wait until they figure it out and stop asking for money. The alternative is to keep spending (literally and figuratively) at your own expense. It seems like your sister-in-law in particular wouldn’t be satisfied even if you bought all the dirt bikes and dinners for 18 people.
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I am a stay at home mom with a 3 year old and a baby. My sister-in-law and my sister have 8-year-old daughters “Emma and Emily” and they both work weekends. They rely on me for childcare, but I don’t get paid. In fact, no amount of money can keep me afloat. Emma and Emily are like oil and water and they fight like cats and dogs. I can’t turn my back even for a minute without them attacking each other. I ended up having to separate them to other rooms in the house, making it impossible for me to run errands or chores. Their mothers are worse. Each of them claims that the other girl is the problem and I need to do something. The problem is that I will only watch one girl at a time. They can tell which weekend it is. Now my family and mother-in-law are worried about this. My husband is in the military and is on the other side of the world so there isn’t much he can do. I moved home expecting family support, not a family fight. Help!
—End of the Rope
Dear End of the Rope,
This week’s Pay Dirt theme seems to be family members (or soon-to-be family members) who believe they don’t owe anything to them. In this case, your sister and sister-in-law will become very angry. It’s not your job to take care of their kids, and I don’t know how you do that with a 3-year-old and a baby while your husband is in the military.
You need to call a family meeting and let your sister-in-law and sister know that they need to find a permanent solution for weekend child care outside of you. Emily and Emma are lovely kids (I usually advise people not to lie, but it’s acceptable behavior) but you’re exhausted and this isn’t sustainable. Then you should give them a deadline to resolve this issue themselves, after which you will not be available to take care of your nieces and nephews. Then – and this is the hard part – you have to implement it. If you give them a deadline of six weeks from now, remind them weekly that you won’t be available after that point. Make plans to get out of the house on the weekend of the deadline and tell them so they know you’re serious. Then leave the house, so if they show up thinking they’re going to bully you, they’ll be met with a locked door and no one home. Warn relevant third parties that you will perform this action. If they complain, you can tell them you’re tired and that’s not the problem you need to solve. You didn’t sign up to parent four kids, even if it’s just on weekends. I doubt your sister and sister-in-law would be happy if you suddenly decided they were responsible for taking care of your 3-year-old and baby when they’re home, and I think it’s fair to bring up that shortcoming, too. If they object, they respond.
I’ll give you the same advice here that I gave to the person who wrote the letter above: Expect that your sister and mother-in-law will not like this decision and may even be angry about it. Let them get angry and mind your business. Wait. They will find a solution to the problem when you are not available to babysit. They won’t have any other choice. While they’re busy managing, you can run errands and maybe even take a well-deserved nap.
When I first met my husband, he made it clear that he never wanted children. I know what I did was wrong, but I wore him out: Seven years ago he became a very reluctant father, and three years later we had another child. It is now clear that we made a terrible mistake.