Dear Amy: I have a 33-year-old stepdaughter. She’s single, well-educated, has a very well-paying job and rents an apartment. She has goals to marry, buy a house, have children and have other life experiences.
But she has $60,000 in outstanding student loans.
I am very concerned that she is not more focused on rapidly paying down those loans, particularly while she spends money on travel, weekend getaways and other discretionary purchases.
I worry that carrying these loans in her 30s and maybe into her 40s will derail her from achieving her goals. I also worry that she might think that her father and I, and/or other relatives, will just give her the money to pay off the loans. We are not in the financial position to do so at anywhere near the level of $60,000.
As stepmother, I am not able to directly address these matters with her. Her father is in a hesitant/reluctant state of mind and doesn’t want to upset his daughter, who never asks for advice and is quick to deflect any offers of same.
In addition, he feels guilty that he isn’t able to just write her a check.
How can I help him to help her?
Dear Worried: One of the burdens of being a stepparent is that you spend much of your parenting time watching from the sidelines and judging the choices and parenting style of your spouse.
But you don’t carry the guilt your husband does. You will never worry about this daughter in the same way he does.
You aren’t afraid of this daughter’s wrath quite the same way he is.
My main advice is for you and your husband to let this 33-year-old woman live her life the way she chooses to. She sounds smart enough and functional enough to do the math and see where her choices lead her. I’m not sure why she is informing or involving you in her loan load or repayment schedule, but the message from your husband to his daughter should be, “I wish I could, but I cannot and will not help you to retire this debt.”
If she is taking fun and expensive vacations and then complaining to you about her debt, then you get to say, “Well, you’re making choices about the way you want to live. We want you to live your best life and to be happy. If the way you are living is good for you, then keep doing what you’re doing. If not, then you’re smart enough to figure out how to make different choices.”
You and your husband must be on the same page regarding your own shared finances. He should not bail out any family member without your assent.
Dear Amy: I recently attended a small dinner party.
The host announced that we should all feel at home in the house. He said that if anyone wanted another drink or glass of wine, they should feel free to get it themselves. If we needed something else, we should let him know.
How do you feel about this?
Dear Fan: I think that if a host puts together a dinner party and does all of the work and preparation involved to be hospitable (increasingly rare these days), he should serve everyone their first drink and pour their first glass of wine. After that, he should make these things easily accessible so that guests can help themselves.
I believe that most guests are happy to be invited into someone’s home; part of the job of being a gracious guest is to adjust to the host’s style. Guests needn’t be lumps, waiting to be served, but should be active and flexible — offering to help, and occasionally helping themselves.
Dear Amy: “Battle Scarred” described herself as a millennial worker at a tech startup in Silicon Valley. She, and some other workers, suffered through regular spontaneous “Nerf” wars, where (male) co-workers would break out their Nerf toys and wage battles. She said that she had been hit by projectiles while trying to work, and that a co-worker had suffered from a scratched cornea.
You (and the tech journalist you quoted in your answer) suggested that she should go to HR.
Amy, I work in HR. I hate to tell you, but HR is here to protect the company, not the workers. This is a sad fact. She should go to her manager, and consider going to a lawyer.
Dear Rep: Several respondents expressed the same unfortunate point of view.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.