Dear Jeanne and Leonard: I don’t want any wedding gifts. I’m a 50-something woman marrying a 60-something guy, we both have nice homes, and we both have more than enough money to buy anything we need. So “Mark” and I are thinking of asking our wedding guests to skip the presents and instead to make donations in our names to a charity we really care about. What do you think?
– Karen, Northern California
Dear Karen: Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials. We commend you for not wanting gifts.
But don’t kid yourselves. A donation made in your name is still a gift, the fact that you receive nothing tangible notwithstanding. Plus directing that the donation go to a specific charity runs the risk of making some guests feel pressured to give money to an organization they don’t care for. You certainly don’t want to do that.
The biggest problem, though, is that instructing your wedding guests to give you anything is not good manners. We know: Other people do it. But they’re wrong. Plus, in your fortunate circumstances, telling your guests where to send their money is particularly presumptuous.
Look, you can always make a celebratory contribution to your favorite charity yourselves. But if you don’t want gifts, quietly let it be known. And don’t worry. Your guests will still find ways to express their good wishes toward you and your new husband.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: For 35 years, my grandparents and my great-aunt “Dorothy” have owned outright the 40-acre property that my grandparents live on. Since my grandparents are getting older, they want to take out a loan on the place and use the money to move into a senior residence.
The problem is Aunt Dorothy. She lives in another state, has never paid any property taxes and has never helped maintain the property in any way. But now she’s refusing to go along with either getting a loan or, if need be, selling the land. I know Aunt Dorothy is family. But would it be wrong take legal steps to force her to cooperate?
– Sean, Colorado
Dear Sean: It would not. Family loyalty does not require your grandparents to put up forever with a co-owner who is indifferent to their needs. Just don’t forget, however, that family loyalty also does not require Dorothy to take on debt she doesn’t want or to sell at a price she believes is unfair.
Nor does it require her to forget that – while she’s never paid any property taxes – your grandparents have never paid her any rent (we assume you’d have mentioned it if they had).
So by all means, do what it takes to break the stalemate with your great-aunt. But be prepared to negotiate, not dictate, the terms of the deal.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My spendthrift husband is insisting on taking out yet another loan to buy himself yet another five-digit toy, this time a boat. I’m about to tell “Max” that this loan is the final straw – that if he buys the boat, we’re through. I’m worried, though, that if Max calls my bluff, I’ll be on the hook for the boat loan once we’re separated. What should I do?
– A.F., Greater Toronto Area
Dear A.F.: You might not think you’re ready to talk to a divorce lawyer, but you are. Given your husband’s pattern of extravagant spending – and his lack of regard for your objections to it – now’s the time to find out what all the implications would be if the two of you split up.
Until you hear what the lawyer has to say, forget about issuing an ultimatum. You wouldn’t want Max to respond by rushing out and buying a whole bunch of expensive toys, hoping to stick you with the bill.
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.