Should we boycott our relatives’ extravagant lifestyle?
You Can Lead a Horse to Water, but You Can’t Take Away its Credit Cards
Dear Margo: My husband and I are well on our way to financial freedom through following a popular program. We want all of our loved ones to experience this, although we would never offer financial advice unless asked.
A close relative frequently mentions the stress he and his wife have over money. They know about the plan we’re on and talk about how they’d like to do it “one day.” But if they pay off a big purchase or get some extra income, they make another “no interest for two years” type of purchase. Once, they received a large sum of money and made some unnecessary upgrades to their home instead of giving themselves breathing room. Anyway, that is their choice.
My question to you is this: Even though they are in debt up to their eyeballs, they are always entertaining and invite us often. I love spending time with them, but feel guilty telling them how great their new this or that is when I think they’re being completely irresponsible — especially since they want to start a family but admit they don’t know how they will handle the extra expense. Should I boycott their extravagant lifestyle to avoid contributing to their “we are the Joneses” mindset? —Conflicted
Dear Con: Look, this close relative and his wife know they are in over their heads. They know you have found your way to an affordable lifestyle. They know what that way is, and they say perhaps they’ll try it “one day.” These people would need a therapist to get on top of their spending habits. (Or perhaps the repo man.) I would not give up going to their soirees, because the parties will take place anyway, but in order not to feel two-faced, stop remarking on how great their new this or that is.
As for them starting a family, this is not your problem. In fact, none of it is your problem. People wake up when they need to — or are forced to. —Margo, sensibly
The Office Chatterbox and Others’ Distress
Dear Margo: My co-worker talks all the time. There is a running commentary about nonsense. I just want to pull my hair out (except that I am bald). This goes on all day about every little thing in her life. I try to ignore her and still be polite, but that does not prevent me from hearing her tell the same story to everyone else.
She also treats people like children, such as explaining in minute detail how to cook a turkey … including removing the plastic outer wrapper. We are all intelligent people, even if we don’t know how to cook a turkey. And she laughs like a hyena at her own jokes, even when they’re not funny. We are not allowed to listen to iPods in the office, as our work requires interacting. How do I tell her to please shut up without jeopardizing my job? She is buddy-buddy with our supervisor. —Bleeding Ears
Dear Bleed: There is too much wrong here to correct. If you tell her you need to concentrate, you will still hear her nattering on to other people. There really is no way to get people to stop talking if the office environment doesn’t preclude it. Then there’s the matter of her laugh. Good luck changing anyone’s laugh. She simply has no judgment. (I will say, in her defense, about instructing people to remove the wrapper, I once cooked a chicken with the bag of neck, gizzard, liver, etc. intact inside the bird.)
Because you say she and the supervisor are friends, you might, as gently as possible, tell this person that the woman’s chattering habits are interfering with people’s work. I don’t know what kind of “interacting” you are referring to, but perhaps earplugs? The only other thing that might work is this: If other people agree with you, write a letter to the supervisor, signed by everyone. If she is not supportive of your complaint, you are sort of stuck. —Margo, hopefully
Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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