How do I get her to back off?
Introducing Pay Dirt, Slate’s new money advice column.
Dear Grandma’s Blackmail,You and I are about the same age, so I feel comfortable saying that our grandmas are from a different era. (If I didn’t know better, I would suspect your grandma is fromGame of Thrones, and she’s trying to ensure Cersei doesn’t steal the North from you.) But her age and upbringing don’t excuse her behavior or make it any less frustrating for you.
While I wouldn’t say a doctor’s note is ethically wrong, it does give off getting-out-of-middle-school-gym-class vibes, and no one wants to return to middle school. Plus, it’s almost always better to be honest and straightforward while establishing boundaries than to rely on lies, even small ones. The next time Grandma brings up children, calmly explain to her that you are not in a place to have them. Thank her for her past financial support and share that if she feels she can no longer continue, you understand entirely. Then tell her you will not be offering any more details on this matter nor discussing it any further, and change the subject. If she presses on, walk away, hang up, or whatever you need to do to be clear it’s no longer a topic for discussion. Rinse and repeat as needed.
AdvertisementFamily dynamics are tricky, though, and establishing boundaries can be emotionally fraught. If you think you need additional support, do not be afraid to reach out to your boyfriend, a trusted friend, or a professional. Good luck!Dear Pay Dirt, headtopics.com
My recently widowed father is spending a lot more money than I think he used to. I always thought he was frugal, but now it seems like he is doing a lot of retail therapy. New packages every day, etc. What’s the approach here? I’m not interested in inheritance, but I do want him to be able to take care of himself financially, and he is likely to be alive at least another 20 years. I also don’t actually know how much money he has. Are there financial structures I can encourage him toward starting? He has good health care but also moved into a big house that has a mortgage (but no stairs).
Advertisement—Retail CopingDear Retail Coping,I want to start by saying I am very sorry for your and your father’s loss. It’s definitely possible your dad is using retail therapy as a coping mechanism. Death can remind us that our time is short, so he may be spending on things he always wishes he had bought. He might also be taking up a new hobby that requires equipment to stay busy or redecorating the house—both things that help people move on.
AdvertisementI think you should plan to have two separate conversations with your father, but one may lead into another. First, ask him about his newfound spending habits. Something kind and open-ended like: “Seems like you’ve been keeping the delivery man busy. Where are the good sales?” Approaching this conversation with a nonjudgmental attitude should help him to speak freely and give you the information you need to figure out if he needs help.
AdvertisementThen ask him about his finances. Start with the house: “I know you moved into this house recently. Are you liking it? Is there anything I should know about it if you need my help one day?” Then follow up with his retirement accounts: “Are you good on retirement? Have you checked in with a financial planner lately? I know loss is hard, and your plans may have changed, so I wanted to check in with you on finances.” You can ask if he’d be willing to share account information or locations of other important documents with you in case of emergency. If you’re unsure whether he has a will and power of attorney, you can ask him about that as well and offer to arrange a meeting with an estate attorney if he doesn’t. headtopics.com
AdvertisementI would also prepare yourself if he chooses not to discuss things with you. He’s an adult, and he’s entitled to keep that information private if he chooses. If he decides mum’s the word, you can still talk to an estate lawyer or a financial planner to see if there is anything you can do without him in case he needs your assistance one day.
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