Tough Love; No Money
Dear Margo: My daughter is 18 years old and a high school senior. She’s been dating her boyfriend for less than a year. He is also 18 and insisting he’s ready to propose next month. He is, of course, not financially stable. While my daughter has traveled and lived in various places, this young man has lived in the same small town his whole life and is very sheltered. His family has a long history of marrying young and living in poverty. Neither my daughter nor the boyfriend is very mature, and they seem to have no grasp of how much things cost in the real world. My daughter has a full scholarship to college, and I think the boyfriend is afraid he will lose her once she starts college.
My husband has repeatedly told the boyfriend we are against an engagement or marriage at this time. Now we are unsure what to do. If she marries him, she will lose her health and dental insurance and all the financial security we have provided. How do we express our disapproval without pushing her away? We raised her to be an independent young woman, but she seems to have lost all her common sense when it comes to this relationship. As parents, is there anything we can do to discourage such a big commitment before college? –Very Worried Parent
Dear Ver: I think a nuts-and-bolts/dollars-and-sense talk is in order. I would reiterate everything you said in your letter to me — his family history, your guess as to his fears, the losses to her (financial protection and perhaps an education). Ask where’s the fire that makes her think she must move quickly, and also request that she delay a decision until she’s finished one year of college. If she insists on following this kid’s wishes, not yours, be firm about withdrawing the safety net you provide. She will learn, at some point, that there is wisdom in your advice. Whether it’s before or after making a mistake, I cannot say. It is a truism that often the best lessons we learn are those we learn for ourselves. And sometimes it’s the hard way. –Margo, unwaveringly
Get Out the Calculator
Dear Margo: I am divorced, and it was a very $uccessful divorce, if you get my drift. I have no money worries — though money is my problem. I am going with a great guy who is an academic. I’m sure you see the predicament. We are talking seriously about marriage, and finances are a tricky problem to be solved. I don’t want to feel that I am keeping him — which would make him uncomfortable, as well. There has to be a solution to this; I just don’t know what it is. –Planning Ahead
Dear Plan: You are not alone in the circumstance of being a woman with more money than the man. This has become a rather common reality these days, what with all the cracks in the glass ceiling, not to mention $uccessful divorces. Some businesswomen (Carly Fiorina comes to mind) arrange things so that the spouse is a househusband, relieving a working woman of domestic responsibilities and often childcare.
In your case, I suggest that your prospective husband contribute to household and living expenses pro rata. The proportionality will foster a sense of fairness and also of equality — in spirit, if not in dollars and cents. I know of couples where this has worked well. Then, too, if your settlement is as cushy as you say, it might be hard finding a financial equal. So … the fact that you found a great guy should trump the fact that his bank account is not the size of yours. –Margo, proportionally
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to email@example.com. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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