Dear Annie: In-debt daughter wants mom’s help
Tue., Aug. 16, 2016
Dear Annie: I apparently failed as a parent at teaching my daughter financial responsibility. I raised her as a single parent and worked hard to provide for us. After a few difficult years when she was young, I achieved a fair degree of financial success as a professional. I must have made her think money grows on trees (or comes out on demand from ATMs).
I was generous in helping her through college and graduate school and helping her buy her first house. Despite her master’s degree, she makes very little money and struggles financially. I recently inherited some money from my mother and told her I would help her straighten out her financial mess. I asked her to send me all her past-due bills and was shocked and disgusted.
She has defaulted on numerous credit cards (why do they keep giving her more?), has lines of credit against the house I helped her buy, owes years of unpaid taxes, has stiffed merchants (even her dentist) and has several judgments against her for unpaid debt.
She wants me to help her get a “fresh start.” I am afraid that if I were to help her wipe out her substantial debt, she would just start all over again and in a few years be back in the same hole. I will have wasted my mom’s inheritance. She is 38, and I have no legal duty to pay her debts. But if I were not to help, there would be a huge rift between us. What is your advice? – Distraught Mom
Dear Distraught: There’s an old saying that there are two gifts parents must give their children: roots so they know where home is and wings so they can take flight. Tell your daughter she can sleep on your couch if she loses her home. But let her pull herself out of debt so she can learn what she’s capable of. Keep expecting her to be a deadbeat and she’ll gladly keep playing the part.
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