My mom’s husband died. Her financial savings are dwindling, but she pays my sister’s payments. Ought to I intervene?


Dear Moneyist,

My stepfather passed away recently. He and my mother each had Social Security, and he had two pensions that were paid in full during his lifetime. This gives my mother around 50% of her original income. She has approximately $ 150,000 in savings and investments.

Eventually, my mom will inherit my grandmother’s house where she currently lives and pays my grandmother a monthly rent of $ 2,500. However, I’m not sure when this will happen (possibly in about five years or more, depending on my grandmother’s health).

My mother’s only income is her housing costs, so she has to rely on her savings to pay her bills of around $ 1,500 to $ 2,000 per month. It’s high mainly because it pays my 23-year-old sister’s bills, which range from $ 500 to $ 600 a month.

The money is:My sister became my late father’s power of attorney, took out a reverse mortgage on his house, and drained his equity. What can I do?

I was able to cut her bills by canceling things she didn’t use and negotiating discounts on her cell phone and television. I told my mother that my sister should pay her own bills as she lives rent free in my mother’s house and only spends her money on whatever she wants.

I thought we were on the same page, but my mom seems reluctant to have this discussion and continues to pay her way. I worry that my mother will go through her savings before she receives her inheritance and then she will be in a dire situation because of my sister’s indulgence.

Should I push for my sister to be a big girl and learn the concept of responsibility or should I shut up?

Angry sister

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Dear angry one,

I wish you, your sister and your mother, that you wish your grandmother a long and healthy life. And of course I wish your mother the same. I understand it must be difficult to see your mom give your sister hundreds of dollars each month, especially since she has a limited amount of savings. But this is their choice, as long as it is reasonable and not under undue influence.

You need an outside voice, preferably a financial advisor, to outline your mother’s financial position and goals when faced with a life without her husband. It would make a lovely New Years gift, and you could put it on to calm your mind and your mother’s mind. The counselor would then form an opinion about your sister’s role in your mother’s life and finances. Her mother wouldn’t suspect the counselor of being anything other than objective.

It is unlikely that after hearing your opinion, your sister will suddenly start paying her way. She will accept money from your mother as long as your mother gives it to her. It is difficult to reverse such an arrangement. When someone is used to receiving special or preferential treatment, they often believe that it is their fault. The more pressure you put on both of them, the more defensive they are likely to become.

You need a third party to step in and have no horse in this race.

The money is:My wife and I have 3 children. I also have 3 children from a previous marriage. How should we share our house among these 6 children?

Hello, MarketWatchers. Check out the private Facebook FB Moneyist where we look for answers to life’s toughest money problems. The readers write to me with all kinds of dilemmas.

Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch’s Moneyist columnist. You can email The Moneyist at with any financial or ethical questions. By emailing your questions, you consent to them being published anonymously on MarketWatch.

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