Dear Annie: I'm very upset about my brother and my sister-in-law's friction over finances. My brother and I are very close. I'm single and spend a lot of time with them and their two kids.
They fight about money often. It's mostly centered on their mortgage. My brother thinks they should pay extra every month in an effort to pay off the house faster. He wants the peace of mind of ownership and not having debt. My sister-in-law thinks that's a mistake because they need the money now and get to enjoy the tax write-off the mortgage brings. She also thinks they could invest that money and have a better return from the stock market rather than tie up that money in the house. My brother argues he would rather pay off the house than pay for it over and over again with all of those interest payments. He doubts they'd have the discipline to invest that money, but paying extra on the mortgage is a forced savings.
I've rented all my life and don't know much about mortgages, but I've researched this a bit, and there are logical arguments on both fronts. Besides, I certainly don't want to take a side.
I worry that these arguments are going to affect the kids. While the kids are still pretty young, 7 and 9, the bickering is constant. They fight about every nickel that's spent.
When there's no money talk, they're great together. They love each other very much. They just have such opposing views on handling money. They're not rich, but they also don't want for anything. They generally have the same lifestyle expectations; neither is a "big spender" or wasting a lot of money.
While this is not my problem per se, I'm wondering how I can help. — Avoiding Financial Fights
Dear Avoiding Financial Fights: You're correct that fighting in front of children is never good. So getting on the same page in regards to finances would be great. The problem is neither one of them wrote to me; you did. And as close as you are to your brother, getting in the middle of his marriage and finances isn't a good idea. The next time they argue over money, you might suggest that they consult with a financial planner.
Dear Annie: I have a message for all of the grandparents who complain about their grandchildren not thanking them for gifts. You raised those grandkids' parents. Did you teach them to thank people who give them gifts? I didn't raise my stepchildren, and they were never taught to show that kind of appreciation. Consequently, they haven't taught their own children to say thank you.
My nieces were raised as I was: to write thank-you notes from the time they were old enough to print. I kept every thank-you, every birthday card, every note and drawing they ever gave to me up through their young adulthood. They're now both in their 40s, and last year, I sent them each a package with all of those treasures. They were so thrilled that a) I had kept everything and b) they had a chance to read their own sweet youthful notes.
One of my nieces has a little girl, and she's teaching her those two really important words: "Thank you." It's up to each generation to teach the next the art of appreciation and manners. — A Happy Auntie
Dear Happy Auntie: As my grandmother used to say, "More is caught than taught." You are 100% correct that teaching kids manners starts with their parents.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]