I am 59 years old. My wife is 33 years old. We have two year old twins. I pay my mother-in-law’s rent. It’s time for me to cut the rope


Dear Quentin,

My wife and I have been together for 11 years. We have 2-year-old twins and I have a 20-year-old son who is in college. I have my own business and do a good job. I am 59 years old and my wife is 33 years old.

She paid the rent of the apartment for 10 years to her mother. I also paid my mother-in-law $1,600 a month to help our twins for one year. In addition, my wife hired her for a year in a salon. None of the careers ended well due to her mother’s desire to undo her daughter’s authority.

My wife has two brothers. One has very little, the other has no children and works well – yet he never contributed to his mother’s expenses. My mother-in-law is also not looking for work, but she raises dogs that provide some income.

As I approach my 60th birthday, I’ve made it clear that I won’t sign any lease next year (January) and that I’ll be contributing up to $500 a month in rent, but the rest should come from mom and her brother.

While everyone agrees, no one has taken any action or made more efforts, and I am worried that the fall will come, amnesia will start, and I will be on another lease and stumble upon the lease again.

I have three kids and a wife in college too, and I need to cut the rope.

What do you suggest?

His 59-year-old son

Dear daughter-in-law,

You don’t have to manage your mother-in-law’s expectations or, for that matter, her direct deposits. You only need to manage your own.

Sometimes the best way to get the result you want is to take the path of least resistance and do nothing. Perhaps your mother-in-law and her children are busy making plans to sign a new lease and agree on how to pay the rent. Perhaps they rely on the principle of “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”, nicely waiting for direct deposit to continue.

As Jane Austen wrote in “Persuasion” (1817), “Let us never underestimate the power of a well-written letter.” Remind your mother-in-law of the last date of the lease, and tell her that you’ll keep her in the loop about the new arrangement in writing. Inform the landlord that the payments will end on the last date of the lease, and coordinate your mother-in-law on the letter.

It can be hard to put an end to your generosity, and then adjust that after several years. But it seems that you tried several ways to help your mother-in-law, and none of them worked, through no fault of your own. She worked at your wife’s salon, was reimbursed to help with your twin, and followed that up by covering her rent.

You are now showing off a new muscle. Once you draw a line in the sand and stick to it, it will be easier the next time you do it. And next.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial or ethical questions related to the coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell at Twitter.

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