My daughter and her boyfriend are draining my pension

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This column is part of Advice weekSlate’s celebration of all things advice.

Sometimes you just need a different perspective. That is why our columnists have switched areas of expertise this week. In this issue, Doyin Richards, a health and nutrition columnist, addresses your personal financial questions.

Dear Pay Dirt,

My daughter has been dating the same man for three years and they now have a child who will be 2 in a few months. He has lived here all this time and has only had two jobs at the same company, where he was fired. He has not worked since October but tells me he is looking for a job. She goes to work a few days a week and they don’t pay rent. They pay for their own food and car insurance. My daughter doesn’t earn much. She is a restaurant hostess, but I am tired of supporting two grown adults and a baby next to myself. I forgot to mention that I am retired. How do I get out of here?

– Tired of everything

Dear tired of everything,

The best way out of this situation is with a good dose of tough love. I’m not saying you should immediately interrupt your daughter and her partner, but they should be notified right away.

You must give them three months’ notice in order to find permanent employment and a place to live (or start paying rent to you), or they will have to move. Yes, I know that’s harsh, but they’re grown adults, not kids, and you shouldn’t allow them to be hangers-on. The other alternative is they drain your pension while you deal with a lot of grudges, and I know you don’t want that.

You may feel guilty for being heavy handed, 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 a question? Send it here to Lillian, Athena and Elizabeth. (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 possessions. His adult children despise him and only stick around because he showers them with favors and gifts. Last week he gave his car to his son, a nuisance to my mother by letting her drive it around. Her love for him is clearly crumbling, but she doesn’t want to be alone. How can I persuade her to demand that he consider her real needs, rather than continue his futile quest to “buy” his children’s love?
-Can’t buy love

Dear Can’t Buy Love,

This is confusing to me. You said this man has no money or assets, but he showers his adult children with gifts? Where does the money come from? Credit cards? Loans? Honestly, it doesn’t really matter because the end result is the same: your mom is unhappy.

I totally understand why an older woman wouldn’t want to live alone, but does that mean she has to choose to live in bad company? If his adult children hate him, there must be a good reason for it – not to mention you can see how unhappy 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.

In terms of advocating for her needs, it’s pretty straightforward. She must tell the man what she desires, and if he is not in line, the relationship must end. Your role in this is to make sure you’re there to help her if she decides to end things with him. Can she live with you? Would you consider placing her in an assisted living community where she will be around other peers? These are the things you should think about. And you need to make it clear to her that she will have you around even without him, so that she will never really be alone.

Whatever happens, don’t allow your mother to live the remaining years of her life in a situation where she is clearly unhappy just because she fears the alternative.

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Dear Pay Dirt,

How do you set up an equally loose budgeting framework when it’s all overwhelming? Every time I’ve tried to start I just get stuck and too many things don’t fit well into the categories or fit into more than one I’m listing. Or I just freak out when I see how much money goes to what (which is technically a fine amount, I have no debt and I have a well paying job). I feel like I should be doing more, but I can’t do without driving myself crazy. How do you budget?

—Panic at the Bank App

Dear Panic,

The first thing to do is push back against that panic. Budgeting can be challenging, but this is not a life or death test. You will survive this with a few deep breaths and logical thinking.

The next step is to determine what your “most important 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 have. These are the areas of your life where you put a significant amount of your money and resources into, no matter what. Budgeting your most important issues first is essential because you know you have the required amount each month to tackle them.

From there, list all your expenses, activities, etc. and put them into specific categories that you can put 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 perfectly fitting into a specific category because like I said before, nothing really egregious will happen if you put your Netflix subscription in the recreation category instead of the cable/utilities category.

If you find yourself overspending in one area, or underfunded in another, it helps to rethink what’s really important. Maybe you decide to cut back or eliminate a few luxury items each month. All in all, budgeting can be a really helpful and enlightening experience if you take the fear out of the equation.

Dear Pay Dirt,

My son and his fiancee recently announced their elopement. It surprised everyone in the family as they had been planning the wedding for a while. They said they just wanted to get it done. The problem is that they still expect to get wedding gifts! They have set up a website where people can ‘donate’ for a down payment on a new home for them.

My daughters find it bland and tasteless. They just want to give a nominal amount and send a ticket. My parents had set aside several thousand dollars to cover the rehearsal dinner and other wedding expenses. They did this for all their grandchildren. They are extremely hurt by my son’s actions and tell me he is not getting the money.

I wish I could convince my son to take the site offline and ask his grandparents to host a nice dinner for him and his wife. It would go a long way in calming down the fuss. However, I don’t know how to approach the situation. It hurts 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 is going to say something to my son. Do I have to and what?

-No marriage

Dear no wedding,

I don’t know all the reasons behind your son and fiancé’s decision, but I also agree that asking for gifts under these circumstances is kind of tacky. Clearly, there are some significantly hurt feelings that your family needs to address quickly.

You should do everything you can to get the family in a room (or Zoom call) and talk this out like adults rather than playing the “phone game” where words can be misinterpreted. Perhaps there is something missing from this equation that you are not aware of that contributed to the elopement. If you determine at the meeting that your son’s reasons for doing this are weak and selfish (or if your son refuses the meeting altogether), then you and your parents have every right not to give them a penny. However, if you can talk this out, I think a lot of the hard feelings you’re experiencing right now will go away. Your son and his wife had every right to flee. All you can do is express your thoughts and ask if there is another way family members can celebrate them. I think your idea for an intimate family dinner can go a long way.

However, I wouldn’t expend too much mental energy mulling over the donation website. As tasteless as it may seem, they have a right to keep it up and promote it if they want to. The most important thing here is to get all your feelings out on the table because they may have no idea how hurt everyone is by their actions. Hopefully they show some remorse and everyone can move on accordingly.

—Doyin

More advice from Slate

My father left me when I was 10 because I didn’t treat his mistress the way he wanted. I wanted my mom and dad together, and she was clearly the reason I didn’t have that anymore. Mother had to go to court for child support. My father and his new wife immediately started having children and my father therefore did not feel guilty about what the state told him. I’m 22 now and I didn’t hear from him until this year – and his request was ridiculous.

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