DEAR JEANNE AND LEONARD: I’m a CPA, and every year I prepare my siblings’ and their spouses’ tax returns. I don’t charge them for the work I do, even though some of their returns are complicated and the paperwork they provide me with often is a mess. While I’m OK with preparing returns for my two siblings who don’t earn much, I don’t see why I should be preparing them for the one who in recent years has been making tons of money. Shouldn’t she and her husband at least be offering to pay me? — Stephanie
DEAR STEPHANIE: Maybe after they’ve made their second million.
Just kidding. Of course they should offer to pay you. But it’s human nature for the beneficiary of an ongoing good deed to be slow to notice that the raison d’etre for it no longer exists.
So don’t wait for your well-heeled sibling and her spouse to figure things out. Find the right moment and tell them that, while you’d be happy to continue to prepare their returns, you’re no longer willing to do so for free. Perhaps you’ll want to offer them a reduced rate, either because they’re family or because you’d like their business. But whatever you choose to do, it’s time to retire your prosperous sister’s 100 percent discount.
Stop exchanging gifts with cheapskate
DEAR JEANNE AND LEONARD: A close friend wraps up her family’s castoffs and gives them as Christmas gifts. And it’s not because she’s poor; “Melanie” is just cheap. While my husband and I don’t care what she gives us, we hate to see the disappointed looks on our children’s faces when they open her gifts and see used junk. Should we say something to her next year? (By the way, except for being cheap, Melanie is a nice person. Also by the way, we give her family nice — and new — holiday presents.) — M.G.
DEAR M.G.: We hope Melanie doesn’t call this “recycling.”
Yes, you should say something to your friend. Say, “Melanie, why don’t we stop exchanging Christmas presents?” You won’t be the first folks — or the last — to propose a moratorium on gift-giving to your penny-pinching pal.
P.S. So you know, over 40 percent of Americans report having at least one friend who’s a cheapskate. They might not all be as cheap as Melanie, though.
Parents being unfair to responsible son
DEAR JEANNE AND LEONARD: My parents have been bankrolling my fiscally irresponsible brother for decades. For example, they gave — not lent — him the money for down payments on two homes. However, they have never given me any money, nor have I asked for any. Now I’ve learned that my parents have rewritten their wills so that my children get nothing, while my brother’s kids receive generous bequests. To me, this isn’t fair. I know it’s Mom’s and Dad’s money, but I can’t help feeling that they’re shorting me and my kids because I’m a responsible adult who takes care of his family. Am I wrong? — Unfavored Son
DEAR UNFAVORED: Parents know they’re not supposed to reward bad behavior and punish good. But it’s surprising how often they forget.
Presumably your mother and father are more concerned with evening out the outcomes in life for their two very different sons than in fostering a sense of self-reliance in your brother. Plus, as your parents grow old, they may well derive a sense of purpose from writing checks to the child who “needs” them, forgetting that their child who’s not a squeaky wheel — that is, you also has a claim on their generosity.
Now, were your brother, say, your parents’ principal caretaker or a person with special needs, that would be different. But as you describe the situation, your parents are indeed being unfair. Just because they have a right to decide what to do with their money doesn’t mean their decision can’t be wrong.
Email your questions about money and relationships to firstname.lastname@example.org.
| King Features Syndicate