Dear Grandparenting: Son-in-law Albert is a man of 33 with a wife and two small kids. Albert must think money grows on trees. My daughter Nell quit her job and lost her nice paycheck after the birth of the twins, but that didn’t slow Albert down one bit. He bought a $7,000 lawn tractor on top of a $3,000 grill. Did I mention he leases a fancy BMW?
I got a jolt when Nell told me they are behind on the mortgage. That kind of news sets off my internal alarm. First the money goes, then the marriage goes and goodness knows what becomes of my daughter and my two grandchildren.
Nell says Albert started keeping her out of the loop on their finances, supposedly to “spare you the worry.” That of course had the opposite effect. My daughter asked her doctor to prescribe a sedative. Do you smell trouble like I smell trouble? Tracy Rawlings, Emmitsburg, Maryland
Dear Tracy: Grandparents contact us about a medley of money mishaps and living beyond ones’ means is often at the heart of the matter.
There’s ample reason for concern. Debt is a marriage destroyer that can separate grandparents and grandchildren and destabilize family relations top to bottom. Researchers say the quality of marriage decreases as debt rises for rich and poor alike. According to numerous studies, extra-marital affairs, debt, and substance abuse are the strongest predictors of divorce.
Worries about being saddled with debt are changing America’s family culture. More young adults are taking their good time to find the right partner, prioritizing financial security over and above marriage and children, or grandchildren as the case may be. It’s not the time to be in a marrying mood while carrying $100,000 in student debt, another reason matrimonial lawyers cite an uptick in pre-nuptial agreements.
Keeping your daughter out of the money loop is an ominous development that enables your son-in-law’s spending. It boils down to this: What prevents your daughter from asserting her right to be a full and equal partner in family financial decisions?
Grand remark of the week
There are two things I dislike about my granddaughter — when she won’t take her afternoon nap, and when she won’t let me take mine. — Gene Perret, humorist