Dear Dave,

I have three stepchildren, the oldest of which is married and has a little baby. The only time we hear from him is when they want money. We don’t mind helping out once in a while, but his wife just seems lazy. She stays at home all the time, and doesn’t help bring in anything. What can we do to fix this?


Dear Cindy,

When your relationship with someone is based on you giving them money, then you don’t have a relationship. But there may be other reasons they aren’t calling very much.

If you say things about his wife being lazy when you do talk, it probably makes them both angry. If this is the case, they may only call when they’re desperate enough to put up with your comments about her. Plus, taking care of a baby is one of the hardest full-time jobs around. The value or importance of what someone does isn’t always reflected in a paycheck.

But I don’t think you should be giving them money all the time, either. You could try gently giving advice, instead. Maybe they need to be on a budget, or perhaps they should be spending less.

Regardless, I’m always against perpetuating relationships that are based on handing out money!




Dear Dave,

I’m 58, my kids are all out on their own, and I rent a great little apartment. It’s a perfect setup for me, because I travel quite a bit. However, I’ve had several people tell me I should really look into buying a house. I’ve saved about $450,000, I make $90,000 a year, and my rent is $1,100 a month. So, I guess I’m looking for validation. Is it okay for me to continue being a renter?


Dear Alan,

I think it depends a lot on the ratio of rent to wealth. By this, I mean if the rent isn’t much compared to the size of your income and nest egg, then I’d say keep the apartment. It’s not doing you any real financial damage, plus you still have the ability to invest in things other than a personal residence.

Now, if you’re not doing any other investing because your income is being eaten up by rent, then apartment living starts to become a bad idea pretty fast. But the only real downside, long term, is that market rents will go up eventually. If they rise faster than your income, then you could lose control of that part of your life. Or what if the current owners sell the building, and the new management jacks up the rent? Then, you’d need to look into buying something so you could regain control of all that.

Still, if I’m in your situation, with your lifestyle and having piles of cash saved up, I’d stay put. It sounds to me like you’ve got a pretty sweet situation, Alan. But if things get sassy instead of sweet, you’ll be forced to revisit this issue.


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