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Preparing for the real world
I’m getting married this summer and about to become a stepfather, but my fiancé’s daughter from a previous marriage seems very irresponsible. She’s 20 and lives at home, has trouble holding a job, and she doesn’t really want to work. When she doesn’t have money to make her car payment, she seems to expect her mom to pay it for her. My fiancé and I both agree that she’s been too lenient with her in the past, but she doesn’t want to suddenly pull the rug out from under her. How do you think we should approach this situation?
Marriage counselors say you have a good chance of having a successful marriage if you’re in agreement on four things—religion, money, children, and in-laws. So, first things first. I’d strongly suggest you and your fiancé go through pre-marital counseling to make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to handling this and other issues.
If you and her mom really want to show her you love her, you’ll make sure she starts learning some character and discipline. And it’s very important that both of you are on the same page and in agreement every step of the way. You might also want to read a book together by Dr. Henry Cloud called “Boundaries.” This is a great book, and it will give you both several ideas for creating a reasonable timeline aimed at teaching her more responsibility.
I would advise letting her mom present any changes to her initially. Neither of you wants to create a scenario where you’re viewed as the bad guy. Let her mom start the process by explaining that she made a few mistakes in terms of teaching her more about personal responsibility and self-reliance when she was younger. Then, she can begin to lay out the first few rules and expectations.
In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with requiring her to get a job within 30 days if she doesn’t already have one. If she needs to go job hunting, make sure she’s out of bed and on the road no later than 8:00 a.m. every morning. During this first phase, looking for work every day should be her job. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to start teaching her about budgeting, saving, and everything else that goes into handling money responsibly during this time, too.
Next, phase two might consist of requiring her to help around the house doing chores on her days off, or whenever mom needs a hand. Then, after a month or two of this, phase three might consist of her paying a small amount in rent.
Do you see what I’m doing? By stepping up the expectations gradually you’re building a foundation so she’ll have the tools and knowledge to where, in the sixth or seventh month, she’s moving out and taking care of her own responsibilities.
Like an adult!
Be intentional with your time
As a business owner, how do you find a life balance between work and home? I have my own small business, and sometimes I feel like I’m putting in too much time at the shop and not spending enough time with my husband and kids.
The idea of everything being in balance, on an everyday basis, is a myth. It’s simply not possible to perfectly juggle every aspect of our lives every single day.
The key, I think, is to strive for an overall balance over time. You know first-hand the long hours and how work can interfere with other things if you’re not careful. The answer lies in really being into whatever you’re doing.
When you’re not at your shop or taking care of work-related matters, actively participate in conversations with your spouse and kids—and listen. Spend time with them! Turn off your cell phone when you go on dates with your husband and when you take your kids on outings.
When you’re with your family you should really be with them. Then, when you have to work, chances are they won’t be so upset, and you’ll feel better about things, too!
Don’t go too far
Our son is 17, and he is in school. He has a good part-time job, and my wife and I started teaching him basic money management at a young age. He understands the importance of saving, giving, and spending, plus he is setting aside money for technical school after he graduates from high school. Do you think it would be an appropriate real-world exercise if we started charging him a very small amount in rent each month to prepare him for life when he leaves home?
I appreciate the fact that you’re looking for teachable moments, but I really think charging a teenager rent while he’s living at home is going too far. Now, if he was 28 or 29, that’d be a different story. But as parents, it’s still your responsibility to provide a home for your 17-year-old child.
It sounds like you’ve done a fantastic job already of helping your son grow into a responsible young man. He knows how to work, and he has grasped the basic concepts of managing money. I meet people three times his age on a regular basis who still haven’t done that. With this kind of start, I’ve got a feeling your kid will be fine.
I also think, with this kind of start, he has a great chance of becoming wealthy some day!