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Money Manners: Grandma left holding the bag

Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My nephew has betrayed my mother. When “Zachary” first applied for a student loan, he was turned down. So at the college’s suggestion, Zachary asked my 75-year-old mother – his grandmother – to co-sign the loan. Once she did, he got the money. Long story short, Zachary dropped out of college and isn’t paying on the loan, so now the bank is coming after Mom. What should she do? She’s living on a fixed income and can’t afford to make the payments. Meanwhile, my nephew lives in another part of the country and doesn’t answer calls from her or the bank.

– S.P., California

Dear S.P.: Your mother made a terrible mistake. Not only did she misjudge Zachary’s character – grandmothers can be forgiven for that – but she co-signed for a loan she can’t afford to repay. Of course, she’s not the only party to blame. The college was completely out of line in suggesting to Zachary that he get his elderly grandmother to co-sign for him. And the bank had no business allowing a 75-year-old woman of modest means to encumber herself with a debt that doesn’t sound as if she can afford.

If making payments is truly beyond your mother’s means, a lawyer may be able to get her off the hook, or at least restructure her obligation. What you really need, though, is a knee-breaker from the mob to track down Zachary and make it clear to him that he has to honor his debts. But since this option probably is off the table, talk with his parents. While they may have no legal obligation for Zachary’s debts, they have a moral obligation to help find a solution when their son puts his grandmother in the hole.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: This year, we bought our usual tickets – not cheap – to see a local professional sports team. This would have been our 18th year as season-ticket holders. But a few months after we bought them, the ticket office said they were taking away our already-paid-for seats and using them for another, more expensive type of seating. Apparently this is not uncommon. In our case, though, our old seats were wheelchair-accessible and close to accessible restrooms.

While we have been offered other seats, they’re either nonaccessible or not close to handicap restrooms. I want to file a case under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but an attorney friend says nothing will come of it. What do you think?

– M., Missouri

Dear M.: Longtime season-ticket holders who are disabled being ousted from their seats and not offered other seats that accommodate their disabilities? We can’t tell you what your prospects are in the eyes of the law. But in the court of public opinion, your grievance sounds like a winner to us. Maybe it’s time to stop dealing with the team’s ticket office and start dealing with the front office.

If they won’t listen, the local media ought to. Good luck with your campaign.

Please email your questions about money and relationships to