Q. We’ve been following your plan, and it’s been a real blessing to us. Last week, my mother-in-law told my husband that they haven’t paid their property taxes yet – $3,000 was due in January. I love my in-laws, but they’re big spenders. They’ve got plenty of money and love to take lots of trips. We make good money, too, and could help them out, but we’re afraid this may be just the tip of the iceberg. What’s your advice on handling this?
A. This is a really touchy situation. First of all, you shouldn’t do anything. Your husband needs to handle this, because he’s their son. Even if you make kind, polite suggestions, they’ll assume you’re the one withholding from them. You don’t want to be labeled as the evil daughter-in-law.
I understand your position and agree that you don’t want to enable their bad habits. Giving a drunk a drink is never a good idea. But this is family we’re talking about. You should try to find a way to help them if you can. If that help includes money, make certain you know exactly where it goes. When you give someone $3,000 (the amount needed for the taxes) you earn the right to have a say in what’s happening.
Maybe your husband could go have coffee with them and just talk about things. He could explain how you guys are getting out of debt, and living on a budget to get control of your money. He could tell them how it’s been a fabulous thing for your marriage and your finances, and that he’d love to show them how you’re doing it.
I’ve got a feeling that mom and dad didn’t raise their son to have dessert first and then eat his vegetables, but that’s exactly what they are doing. They need to pay their property taxes before they go running off on a bunch of fancy trips. From what you said, they’ve got the money to take care of what needs to be done and have some fun, but if they don’t correct their course, they’re liable to have their financial dignity stripped from them.
As long as your husband explains things gently, lays out the boundaries in a loving and diplomatic way, yet remains firmly determined not to make things worse by enabling them, I think everything will be alright.
Q. We’re going to be renting a house while we save up to build our dream home. How can we make sure the house is safe from foreclosure?
A. A smart owner of rental property asks questions and does some research to find out if you’re what he wants as a tenant. You can do the same thing. Ask up front about the situation and about their financial stability. Let him know you’d like some assurance for you and your family that he’s not a foreclosure risk.
You also want to be sure your lease allows you to stay in the house if there’s a foreclosure. Check with a lawyer to see if this will help in your state.
If the house is worth lots of money, or it’s already paid for, chances are you’ll be fine. If he’s unwilling to talk about this, or he tells you he got into real estate after seeing how profitable it could be during a late-night infomercial, you’ll probably be a foreclosure victim.
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