DEAR AMY: My partner and I have a baby boy and live together. We are nearly 40. We sold our homes during the housing crash of ’08 and got burned. After our son was born, we bought a home together. We’ve become extremely frugal in order to save more for our retirements and the baby’s college tuition. We are diligently saving and cut corners. We both work very hard. His sweet, loving, gay brother (age 33) lives nearby. The brother’s job is physical and depends on him being in good physical shape. He’s strong, but his health is deteriorating due to overeating and joint problems. He’s a very hard worker, though, and has a good heart. Recently, he lost his only car to an accident. He has zero savings and many maxed-out credit cards. He told me his household expenses are $1,500 a month, just for food and living expenses. I was floored! We’re a family of three and our living-related bills are less than $1,000 a month. I would like to have an intervention with him about his finances or ask my boyfriend to talk with him privately about cutting his expenses so he can eventually buy a house. We want to see him become stable and learn to care about his future self more than his present self. He’s also very overweight and unattractive, and he has unattainable standards for a partner. He won’t be able to marry into wealth. I’m worried that he will end up homeless, and I feel that we have a responsibility to warn him of the consequences of living beyond his means. Should we say it once and then back off? If he asks for money, should we lie and say everything we have is tied up in stocks? Or should we just “hope” he figures it out? We love him and want the very best for him.
DEAR WORRIED: Given your own experience in the housing market, the last thing you should do is suggest that your debt-ridden and high-spending family member try to buy a house.
According to you, this man has a lot of problems, up to and including his weight and appearance, his joints and his work and personal habits.
If he asks for money, that is your invitation to share your views on his money and spending issues, in order to try to help him. By all means, you should try to warn him about the consequences of his financial choices. And then — you should let him feel the consequences of these choices. If you don’t want to loan money to him, then you must say “no.” Don’t lie about it. His spending and debt make him a very poor prospect for paying back any loan.
His weight, relationship prospects and employment — these things are his business. Back off and stop judging him.
DEAR AMY: With all of the social and political turmoil in the world: the shootings, police problems and political discord, what is appropriate to discuss at work? I feel very strongly about these issues but feel uncomfortable discussing them at work, because I don’t feel it is the correct setting and can disrupt others’ work. I have a co-worker who has no problem discussing these issues very heatedly in the middle of the office, which is made up of cubicles. I dread it when he comes up to me, because I know he will try to engage me in an intense discussion, yet, I don’t want to come off as unfeeling and uncaring, as I am very upset and affected by these events. Please advise how to deal with this situation.
DEAR WEARY: You can say to your colleague, “I’m upset about all of this, but I don’t want to talk about it at work.” If he persists despite your request, you should go to a manager.
Good managers don’t want employees to have problems with each other; equally important, they don’t want for one employee to disregard a direct, reasonable and respectful request from a co-worker.
DEAR AMY: The letter from “Upset Mom” made me see red. This woman had the nerve to judge the value and quality of birthday gifts her twin sons received. I was once a parent who struggled to afford small things like birthday gifts. I hope others didn’t judge me the way this woman judges this other mom.
DEAR FURIOUS: I’ve received a large volume of responses to this question. All agree that “Upset Mom” should find something else to be upset about.