When money is at the root of marriage and family squabbles

MarY HUNT

Disagreements over money can tear marriages and families apart. In fact, sources say that unresolved money conflicts remains the number one for divorce. But it doesn’t have to be that way. More often than not, the solution can be found in this one-word directive: Communicate!

Dear Mary: My husband always insists on balancing our joint checkbook, and I recently found out why. The last statement came in while he was away on business, so I decided to deal with it. I was astonished to see a check to his parents for $250. I went through a couple of prior statements and found the same thing. I figured out he’s been doing this ever since his parents retired last year. Besides being shocked, I was hurt. I wouldn’t have outright refused to help my in-laws, but we’re not exactly rolling in dough. We have three kids and a hefty mortgage. How should I broach the subject with him? And shouldn’t I be acknowledged for my contribution to our little retirement fund? After all, I work, too! — Christina

Dear Christina: Skimming money is a real problem for any partnership, especially a marriage. But money problems in a marriage are rarely just about the money. There’s usually an underlying issue. If he had asked me, I would have told him that as noble as his intentions might be, his commitment to you and your marriage trumps his relationship with his parents. It’s wrong to do this behind your back.

But since you wrote, I’m going to ask, why did he feel he had to sneak around to do this? There may have been a time when he told you everything. But now he knows you’d hit the roof if he were to bring it up. I suggest that you go to him as his loving wife and partner, not as a raging foe. Simply tell him how hurt you are that he couldn’t talk to you about this. Assure him that you are willing to talk. Let him know that if you are going to enjoy financial harmony in your marriage, everything has to be on the table, both his spending and yours. Talk it out. I’m sure you can negotiate a compromise you can both live with.

And I can’t help but point out that a man who cares this much for his aging parents has to be a pretty good guy.

Dear Mary: My sister and her husband have really been struggling to make ends meet. To help them out, my parents are converting their home into a two-family residence. Mom and Dad are moving into the upstairs apartment and letting Debbie, Steven and their two kids take over the main part of the house. I’m glad Mom and Dad can help them out, but my brother and I are confused about what this means as far as our inheritance goes. It was always assumed the house would be split three ways. Will this situation change anything? Debbie assures us there’s nothing to worry about. Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on this situation. — Pam

Dear Pam: If you are concerned that by moving in with your folks Debbie and Steven might somehow claim ownership of the house, relax. Your parents would have to sign a specific legal document for that to happen. Their will or living trust determines what happens to their assets upon their death.

Let’s say that one day the three of you inherit this property, as you assume. If sis and hubby are still living there, sis then wears two hats: She is a co-tenant with Steven and a co-owner with you and your brother. That’s when the sparks could fly. Do you three owners sell the property? Raise the rent? Kick out the occupants? Family money squabbles can get ugly.

I suggest you bring up the subject with your folks now. Encourage them to have an attorney review their will or living trust and create a simple occupancy agreement for Debbie and Steven that reflects their long-term wishes for their estate and family.

By the way, improving the property will undoubtedly increase its market value. That sounds like a good deal for everyone.

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Dear Mary: The wool dryer balls sound interesting, but what if a person is allergic to wool? I am allergic to it and avoid it at all costs. Do the dryer balls transfer allergens to the clothes while drying? I would love to have my sheets and towels come out without being all balled up. Thanks for any help you can provide. — Joyce

Dear Joyce: You may be allergic to the natural lanolin found in sheeps’ wool, but that would be very rare. Only about 6 percent of those who are tested for lanolin allergy turn up positive. It’s more than likely you, like many people, are sensitive to the short, bristly fibers of wool, and that they irritate your sensitive skin and make it feel itchy.

Either way, lanolin is washed away during the manufacturing process of wool dryer balls. Even if trace amounts remain and you do have a lanolin allergy (you’d know you do because you’d also be allergic to all skin care and makeup products that contain lanolin), it will not transfer to your clothes. As for those short, bristly fibers in sheeps’ wool, the only way the dryer balls could cause an irritation is if you were to rub them on your skin.

Neither lanolin nor short, bristly fibers are an issue when using wool dryer balls in the dryer. Use them well, and enjoy the results!

Dear Mary: I purchased the wool dryer balls you recommended, as I really like the general idea — that there are no chemicals. However, a friend recently stopped by when my dryer was running, and the balls were bumping around noisily. She told me that they can ruin the sensors in my dryer. A repairman told her this. Now I am unsure about using them! I know you have lots of good information at your fingertips. What do you think? — Nell

Dear Nell: I have researched this extensively and haven’t found anything to support your friend’s information. Personally, I don’t believe it. However, if you continue to be concerned, ask this friend for credible documentation that offers reasonable evidence for this claim.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving. com and author of 18 books, including her latest, “Can I Pay My Credit Card Bill With a Credit Card?” You can email her at mary@everydaycheapskate. com.