Money Manners

Be honest with in-laws about finances

King Features Syndicate

DEAR JEANNE AND LEONARD: I own a piece of investment real estate, a house, that I recently rented to my mother-in-law. She’s living on a fixed income, so I’m charging her only half of what the place normally rents for. I made her promise, though, not to tell anyone about the sweetheart deal I’ve given her. That’s because my wife is one of eight children, and I don’t want the others thinking I’m made of money and coming to me with their hands out any more than they already do.

But my mother-in-law told everyone about our arrangement. Now what do I do? So you know, I’m not made of money. The fact is, the reduced rent my mother-in-law is paying doesn’t cover the mortgage on the house, so my wife and I have to make up the difference, and it’s a stretch for us. — Jose G.

DEAR JOSE: Some people just can’t keep a secret. But that’s a character flaw, not an excuse.

All you can do now is go into damage-control mode. First, prepare a stock answer for your brothers- and sisters-in-law should they, as you fear, begin to ratchet up the requests for money. Unless these folks have no sense of shame, you should be able to hold them at bay with words to the effect of: “Sorry, I can’t do it. I’m already helping out your mother, and that’s as much as I can handle.”

And second? Never again rely on your mother-in-law to keep her lips zipped. That ancient wag knew what he was talking about when he observed: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Assure friends you want their company, not money

DEAR JEANNE AND LEONARD: I’m an artist, and, happily, some local galleries are beginning to show my work. Whenever I have a new show, I invite my friends to the opening. To my disappointment, though, lots of them haven’t come or have come only once.

Something one friend said has me wondering if they’re staying away because they fear that if they attend, they’ll be obligated to buy something. It’s true I’d be delighted if they did. But even if they don’t, I’d still love to have them come so the gallery owners could see that there’s interest in my work. Should I say something? — T.K.

DEAR T.K.: It can’t hurt. A piece of art is a lot more expensive than, say, the box of Girl Scout cookies that friends often feel compelled to buy from other friends. Consequently, your friends certainly wouldn’t be the first folks to decide that they’d rather decline an invitation — or two or three — than risk hurting a friend’s feelings by going to a gallery specifically to see his or her work, then not buying anything.

For while it may be easy to exit with an empty cart, nobody likes to walk away empty-handed when a pal is selling something. So, yes, next time you invite them to a show, by all means assure them that your interest is in their presence, not their purchases.

Joint ownership often gets ugly

DEAR JEANNE AND LEONARD: When my husband died last year, I inherited his fourth of a piece of property that he owned with his siblings. I, in turn, gave the land to our son.

Now my husband’s siblings have decided to sell the property. This will involve significant legal fees, and they’re insisting that those fees be paid exclusively out of my son’s share of the proceeds.

Of course, we’ll fight them on this, as I’m sure you two would advise us to do. My question is more philosophic: What is it about death that brings out the worst in people? — P.V.

DEAR P.V.: Death doesn’t bring out the worst in people. Joint ownership does.

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| King Features Syndicate