Dear Jeanne and Leonard: How much should I tell my girlfriend of six months about my financial situation? I’m in my early 40s and have never been married. I drive a 6-year-old Honda, I buy my clothes at Target, and I usually eat at home. I also take my girlfriend, who’s divorced and in her late 30s, out to a nice restaurant at least once a week. But she says she would like to be “wined and dined” more often. She also says it bothers her that I spend so little money, seeing that I have a good job. The truth is, I’m worth over a million dollars and do make an excellent salary, but I live modestly because I enjoy it. Should I tell my girlfriend about the money?
– John, Los Angeles
Dear John: We’re surprised you two lasted six weeks, much less six months.
But to answer your question: If you and your girlfriend are serious about each other – if you’re contemplating some sort of future together – then you need to be honest with each other about the scale of your financial resources. Don’t get us wrong: This doesn’t mean you need to swap balance sheets. But behaving as though you have a lot less money than you do with the person who’s becoming an increasingly important part of your life is the wrong way to build a relationship.
If, however, this is a not-so-serious girlfriend, tell her about your million bucks only if you want her to crank up the pressure to be wined and dined.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My mother and father lent my husband and me, interest-free, the money for the down payment on our new house. There was no formal agreement, but my folks made it clear that they expected us to repay them one day. Well, they recently retired, and because they’ve had some serious financial reversals, they’ve told us that they’d like their money back as soon as possible. The only way we can see to do this is to wait until our old house – which we still own and rent out – increases in value enough that we could sell it and repay them in full. But holding on to the place much longer seems crazy, because we’re losing money on it. What should we do?
– Troubled, Sacramento, Calif.
Dear Troubled: Man up. Seriously, you have our sympathy, but the truth is, your financial problems are beside the point. Having borrowed money, interest-free, from your now-cash-strapped mother and father, your No. 1 obligation is to repay them as much as you can as soon as you can.
How you choose to do this doesn’t matter. You can sell your old house now, then borrow the rest of the money you need to repay them. Or you can borrow the entire amount you owe them. But it’s time you recognized that the Bank of Mom and Dad isn’t the only lender in town.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My older sister is terminally ill and expected to die shortly. My brother-in-law has just announced that he’s going to be asking us, her family, to pay for her funeral and for what it will cost him to take a month off from work to grieve. I love my sister, but I think that my brother-in-law should be taking care of these expenses himself. It’s not like he can’t afford to. He’s just a freeloader, and always has been. How should I handle this?
Dear C.W.: We always thought the thieves who burglarize the homes of funeral attendees were in a league of their own. But perhaps they’re not.
What you should do is nothing until your sister dies; you don’t want to disturb her with this. Then, when your brother-in-law asks for a contribution, say, “You’re kidding, right?” If that doesn’t put an end to it, ask him for a contribution to your time-off-to-grieve fund.
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.