Answers to your awkward money questions

We found a great article by Ismat Sarah Mangla from CNN Money that discusses how to handle “awkward” situations that deal with money.  Readers asked CNN what to do in their awkward situations, and CNN had their panel of experts answer with excellent advice.


Family member is a cheapskate

Question: What can you do about a family member who never pays his or her fair share when you eat out together or go on vacation? — L.P., Indio, Calif.

The expert take: Be reasonable but firm. You could start by saying, “We’re happy that you’re coming, but we need you to contribute financially like everybody else. Is there some reason you can’t?” Or say, “I’ve noticed that you haven’t paid for anything, and I don’t want this to bother me but I’m finding that it really does, and I need to talk to you about it.”

Then be quiet and don’t say anything — wait for a response. You disarm the person by letting him or her feel discomfort. And you’ve taken the high road by talking reasonably and without sarcasm. That makes your relative less likely to fire back. — Maggie Baker, psychologist and author of “Crazy About Money”

My spouse just complains

Question: How should I approach the subject of finances with a spouse who complains about having no input — but then, when given a financial task, complains about having to do it?
–T.N., Tacoma 

The expert take: Having input might mean that your spouse just wants more information, not necessarily hands-on work. He or she might feel vulnerable or ignorant. Maybe your partner doesn’t feel competent or doesn’t have enough time or interest to do a task.

Emotions can get heated around money, so try to approach the subject objectively. Ask your spouse, “What would you need to feel like you’re involved?” — Paula Levy, CPA and marriage and family therapist

Say in how cash gifts are spent

Question: Once, when I gave my children cash gifts, one tithed a portion to his church. I said I didn’t want my money spent that way. The next time around, I deposited that son’s gift into his kids’ 529 plans. He said I shouldn’t dictate how a gift should be spent. Who is right? — P.B., Tallahassee 

The expert take: A loan can have strings attached; a gift should not. Unless this parent wants to fund 529 plans for all the grandchildren, which would be a lovely gift, he or she shouldn’t set up different rules for the kids. That will cause resentment and ultimately be harmful for the family.

The only exception would be if the recipient were doing something self-destructive, like gambling or spending the money on something illegal. — Thomas Farley, a.k.a. “Mister Manners,” author of “Modern Manners”

Caring for aging parents

Question: How should siblings compensate a sister or brother who lives near an aging parent and handles grocery trips, doctor visits, and other tasks? — E.H., Bridgewater, N.J. 

The expert take: This can be a very intense, emotional subject. There’s a lot of resentment in some families. It may sound cold, but the best way to keep things calm is to draw up an agreement for the caregiver to get a certain amount, typically the standard hourly rate for professional caregivers in the region. Decide how siblings and/or the parents will split that cost.

In 90% of families, one person does most of the work. Beyond the hourly payment, faraway siblings can show their gratitude with small gifts or other thank-you gestures. — Francine Russo, author, “They’re Your Parents Too!”

Loaning money to friends

Question: How do I say no to a good friend asking me for a loan? I’m not sure it will be paid back, but I don’t want to ruin the friendship. — W.H., Wheaton, Ill. 

The expert take: Give a response that doesn’t make it personal: “I’m sorry, but I’ve always had this rule not to lend money to friends.” Applying a generic rule tells the person, “Hey, this has nothing to do with you.” You could also say, “I value our friendship so much that I really worry this could get in the way.”

The problem is that sometimes friends push back. Then, you have to be more direct. You need to remember your reasons are good ones. Keeping your convictions in mind will help you stay firm. — Andrea Bonior, clinical psychologist and author of “The Friendship Fix”

Saying no to co-workers

Question: How do I politely tell co-workers that no, I truly do not want to buy chocolate, wrapping paper, cookies, or whatever else their kids are selling to raise funds?– J.T., Atlanta 

The expert take: Simple. Just say (in a super-friendly voice): “I hope you’ll understand, but I’m on a serious budget and trying to be very disciplined about my expenditures.” But remember: This response will severely limit your chances to ask your co-workers to support your charitable endeavors — and your ability to swan around the office with $7 coffee drinks. — Philip Galanes, advice columnist for the New York Times and author of “Social Q’s”

Talking money with a partner

Question: How do I get my potential partner to disclose financial assets and talk about planning for the future? — N.R., San Antonio

The expert take: Say to your partner, “I really love you and I want to build this future together. So let’s have this conversation that might be a little uncomfortable. But I’m here to support you no matter what comes out.” Once you get past introducing the topic, most people get excited about discussing it, because it’s a great way to advance your relationship.

Both of you should talk about how your past has influenced the way you think about money — how your parents handled money, and the decisions you made earlier in your adult life. This really helps each of you figure out where the other person is coming from. — Lisa J.B. Peterson, certified financial planner in Boston who specializes in counseling young couples

Read the full article, including more advice from CNN money readers here.


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