Dear Jeanne and Leonard: We have good friends who have much more money than we do. They regularly write large checks to charities – everything from the local homeless shelter and the symphony to national organizations such as the American Red Cross and The Nature Conservancy. I don’t know how much they give each year, but I’m sure the total is a five-figure number. The thing is, if our friends gave my husband and me even $500, it would make a big difference in our lives. We could, say, fly our daughter home for her birthday as well as Christmas, or finally replace our 15-year-old dishwasher. My question is, shouldn’t charity begin at home?
– Mickie, California
Dear Mickie: Shouldn’t self-respect? Look, we know it can be difficult not to resent the wealth of rich friends, but come on. What you want money for doesn’t come close to qualifying you as a charity case. If you were being evicted from your home, that would be different. But your only problem is that you’re unable to afford everything you want. That doesn’t make you needy. It just makes you not rich.
So do yourself a favor, and your friendship with the Got Rocks a favor as well. Stop keeping track of their money; stop keeping track of how much of it they’re giving to charity; and stop feeling put out that they’re not giving any of it to you.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: Should we be bringing gifts for the three small children of the couple who’ve invited us for Christmas dinner? And if so, should we also be bringing gifts for the other five kids who’ll be attending, or just for the children of our hosts? My husband and I are newlyweds, we’re new to this situation and we’re concerned about the expense.
– Whitney and Charles, Toronto
Dear Whitney and Charles: You’re off the hook. That’s because if you take presents to a holiday party for one child, you need to take them for all of the children. And no reasonable host would expect you to buy gifts for the entire flock of juvenile attendees.
Of course, you should still bring a hostess gift. Plus, if you can find something inexpensive that all the children might enjoy – say, a bubble wand – by all means, bring it. “Not required” doesn’t mean “not welcome.”
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My brother hasn’t spoken to our 90-year-old mother in over five years. Does he still deserve to be remembered in her will? My brother’s always been mean to Mom, and he’s never lifted a finger for her. He’s even suing our father’s trust, from which Mom receives the income, trying to get some of the income for himself. My other siblings and I think Mom should disinherit our brother because he needs to learn that bad behavior has consequences. Are we right?
– Angela from Arkansas
Dear Angela: You’ve convinced us. The question is, Have you convinced your mother? Since you don’t say, we’re guessing the answer is “no.” If so, your mother wouldn’t be the first parent to fail to realize that there’s an important distinction between loving a child like your brother and rewarding his callous behavior.
Don’t, though, let that stop you and your siblings from continuing to tell your mother what you think. And be sure to talk to a lawyer about the steps that can be taken to prevent your brother from challenging your mother’s will. Given your brother’s track record, your mother – whether she decides to make him a beneficiary or not – should take extra care to ensure that he can’t get his hands on any more of her money than she wants him to have.
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.