My estate is worth millions of dollars. How do I stop my daughters’ husbands from getting their hands on it?

My wife and I live in California, as do three of our four grown daughters. We are revisiting our family trust for the first time in many years, as we’re getting older and have gradually built an estate worth a couple of million dollars. We want to make sure that, in case our daughters get divorced, our hard-earned savings go to them and not their ex-husbands. 

We consulted with two estate attorneys and got different answers. The first said there’s nothing we can do to legally enforce that the inheritance stays separate; the most we could do is put in some wording along the lines of “It is our wish that the money stays separate.” The second attorney said that we can make our children sign a prenup as a condition of their inheritance. 

Furthermore, we have one daughter who has already been married for five years and has three children; another daughter who just got engaged; and two other children, who are single. Our married daughter does not have a prenuptial agreement. How do we protect our gift to her? A retroactive prenup? How should we proceed?

Father of Four Girls

Related: They’re threatening to go to a lawyer’: My in-laws gave us $300,000 and are on the deed to our home. Now they insist we give our niece $125,000.

“Don’t allow this money to become a cudgel with which to control your daughters’ lives.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Father,

Money should bring freedom and opportunity, not control and coercion. 

Your intentions tread a fine line between expectations and legality. There is only so much you can do to prevent your daughters from sharing their inheritance with their spouses, assuming they all marry and some of those marriages end in divorce. It is a credit to you that you have amassed a couple of million dollars, but don’t allow this money to become a cudgel with which to pull the purse strings in your daughters’ lives. 

One solution to your problem: You could set up a bloodline trust, a revocable trust that sets out how you should leave your assets to your direct beneficiaries — in this case, your daughters — and which becomes irrevocable upon your death. It can only be used for your daughters and their children, and because it becomes irrevocable upon your death, it cannot be accessed by creditors, should you have any. There are downsides. For example, such a trust could, unless otherwise specified, exclude stepchildren and adopted children.

First, the good news: Inheritance in California is considered separate property. Whether you leave your children real estate or brokerage or savings accounts, that money will remain nonmarital property unless your daughters use it to upgrade their family home or in some other way commingle those assets with their community property. So that pre-empts the need for your married daughter to ask her spouse to sign a postnuptial agreement.

On that subject, however, it’s not wise to use this inheritance to tell your daughters what they should do within their marriages. There should be a clear boundary between your relationship with your adult children and their relationships with their respective partners and spouses. It’s not a good idea to interfere in the latter. Doing so may cause discord in their relationships and also cause unnecessary hurt and tension in your own relationships with your daughters.

“California is one of a few states that strictly adheres to community-property laws, which declare that assets acquired during a marriage [are] community, also known as marital, property,” according to Myers Family Law in Roseville, Calif. “However, even California draws a line when it comes to personal inheritances, including inheritances that were received while married. Inheritances are treated as separate property, belonging to the individual who received the inheritance.”

Legal gymnastics

Requesting in your last will and testament that your daughters receive their share of your estate on the condition that they don’t share any of it with their husbands presents a lot of impractical and legal gymnastics. What they do with their inheritance is their business, unless you put those assets in a trust with strict instructions on how those assets should be used — for your grandchildren’s education, for example — or use the trust to provide an annual income.

There are so many variables beyond your control. What if you die before your wife, and she has different ideas about how your joint estate should be settled? What if your daughter’s husband is asked to sign a prenup, and replies, “No way — who does your father think he is?” The best course of action is to make your daughters aware of how to manage separate assets that are inherited, and how they could be accidentally commingled.

Think about the quality time you have left with your family. You don’t want Thanksgiving dinners to turn into a battle royale or, worse, a situation where your daughters and their partners gradually pull away and reevaluate their relationships with you. You have worked hard for your money, and you are attempting to protect your family fortune. But there are times in life when you can do too much, and hold your family too tight, even if that is not your intention. 

Ask yourself some soul-searching questions before you proceed. Do you really want to force your children to sign a prenup in order to receive their inheritance? Prenups can be challenged and changed at a later date. What is more important: the couple of million dollars you will leave behind, or the relationships you have with your daughters while you are still here? Don’t put a price on your daughters’ love for you — or on their love for their spouses.

Sorry for being preachy, but even Shakespeare wrote a play about estate planning. It was called “King Lear.”

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

‘I grew up pretty poor’: I got an annual bonus. After I pay off my credit cards, I’ll have $10,000. What should I do with it?

‘I received an insurance-claim check for $22,000’: Why on earth does it take five days for my check to clear?

‘I want to protect my family’: My wealthy father, 49, is marrying his third wife. How do I broach the subject of my inheritance?

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#estate #worth #millions #dollars #stop #daughters #husbands #hands

Former hedge fund star says this is what will trigger the next bear market.

Much of Wall Street expects easing inflation, but an overshoot could dash hopes of a May rate cut, curtailing the S&P 500’s
SPX
waltz with 5,000, warn some.

Read: Arm’s frenzied stock rally continues as AI chase trumps valuation.

What might take this market down eventually? Our call of the day from former hedge-fund manager Russell Clark points to Japan, an island nation whose central bank is one of the last holdouts of loose monetary policy.

Note, Clark bailed on his perma bear RC Global Fund back in 2021 after wrongly betting against stocks for much of a decade. But he’s got a whole theory on why Japan matters so much.

In his substack post, Clark argues that the real bear-market trigger will come when the Bank of Japan ends quantitative easing. For starters, he argues we’re in a “pro-labor world” where a few things should be playing out: higher wages and lower jobless levels and interest rates higher than expected. Lining up with his expectations, real assets started to surge in late 2023 when the Fed started to go dovish, and the yield curve began to steepen.

From that point, not everything has been matching up so easily. He thought higher short-term rates would siphon off money from speculative assets, but then money flowed into cryptos like Tether and the Nasdaq recovered completely from a 2022 rout.

“I have been toying with the idea that semiconductors are a the new oil – and hence have become a strategic asset. This explains the surge in the Nasdaq and the Nikkei to a degree, but does not really explain tether or bitcoin very well,” he said.

So back to Japan and his not so popular explanation for why financial/speculative assets continue to trade so well.

“The Fed had high interest rates all through the 1990s, and dot-com bubble developed anyway. But during that time, the Bank of Japan only finally raised interest rates in 1999 and then the bubble burst,” he said.

He notes that when Japan began to tighten rates in late 2006, “everything started to unwind,” adding that the BOJ’s brief attempts [to] raise rates in 1996 could be blamed for the Asian Financial Crisis.

In Clark’s view, markets seem to have moved more with the Japan’s bank balance sheet than the Fed’s. The BOJ “invented” quantitative easing in the early 2000s, and the subprime crisis started not long after it removed that liquidity from the market in 2006, he notes.

“For really old investors, loose Japanese monetary policy also explained the bubble economy of the 1980s. BOJ Balance Sheet and S&P 500 have decent correlation in my book,” he said, offering the below chart:


Capital Flows and Asset Markets, Russell Clark.

Clark says that also helps explains why higher bond yields haven’t really hurt assets. “As JGB 10 yields have risen, the BOJ has committed to unlimited purchases to keep it below 1%,” he notes.

The two big takeaways here? “BOJ is the only central bank that matters…and that we need to get bearish the U.S. when the BOJ raises interest rates. Given the moves in bond markets and food inflation, this is a matter of time,” said Clark who says in light of his plans for a new fund, “a bear market would be extremely useful for me.” He’s watching the BOJ closely.

The markets

Pre-data, stock futures
ES00,
-0.41%

NQ00,
-0.80%

are down, while Treasury yields
BX:TMUBMUSD10Y

BX:TMUBMUSD02Y
hold steady. Oil
CL.1,
+0.79%

and gold
GC00,
+0.46%

are both higher. The Nikkei 225 index
JP:NIK
tapped 38,000 for the first time since 1990.

Key asset performance

Last

5d

1m

YTD

1y

S&P 500

5,021.84

1.60%

4.98%

5.28%

21.38%

Nasdaq Composite

15,942.55

2.21%

6.48%

6.20%

34.06%

10 year Treasury

4.181

7.83

11.45

30.03

42.81

Gold

2,038.10

-0.17%

-0.75%

-1.63%

9.33%

Oil

77.14

5.96%

6.02%

8.15%

-2.55%

Data: MarketWatch. Treasury yields change expressed in basis points

The buzz

Due at 8:30 a.m., January headline consumer prices are expected to dip to 2.9% for January, down from 3.4% in December and the lowest since March 2021. Monthly inflation is seen at 0.3%.

Biogen
BIIB,
+1.56%

stock is down on disappointing results and a slow launch for its Alzheimer’s treatment. A miss is also hitting Krispy Kreme
DNUT,
+1.99%
,
Coca-Cola
KO,
+0.24%

is up on a revenue rise, with Hasbro
HAS,
+1.38%
,
Molson Coors
TAP,
+3.12%

and Marriott
MAR,
+0.74%

still to come, followed by Airbnb
ABNB,
+4.20%
,
Akamai
AKAM,
-0.13%

and MGM Resorts
MGM,
+0.60%

after the close. Hasbro stock is plunging on an earnings miss.

JetBlue
JBLU,
+2.19%

is surging after billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn disclosed a near 10% stake and said his firm is discussing possible board representation.

Tripadvisor stock
TRIP,
+3.04%

is up 10% after the travel-services platform said it was considering a possible sale.

In a first, Russia put Estonia’s prime minister on a “wanted” list. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate approved aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Best of the web

Why chocolate lovers will pay more this Valentine’s Day than they have in years

A startup wants to harvest lithium from America’s biggest saltwater lake.

Online gambling transactions hit nearly 15,000 per second during the Super Bowl.

The chart

Deutsche Bank has taken a deep dive into the might of the Magnificent Seven, and why they will continue to matter for investors. One reason? Nearly 40% of the world still doesn’t have internet access as the bank’s chart shows:

Top tickers

These were the top-searched tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m.

Ticker

Security name

TSLA,
-2.81%
Tesla

NVDA,
+0.16%
Nvidia

ARM,
+29.30%
Arm Holdings

PLTR,
+2.75%
Palantir Technologies

NIO,
+2.53%
Nio

AMC,
+4.11%
AMC Entertainment

AAPL,
-0.90%
Apple

AMZN,
-1.21%
Amazon.com

MARA,
+14.19%
Marathon Digital

TSM,
-1.99%
NIO

Random reads

Everyone wants this freak “It bag.”

Dumped over a text? Get your free dumplings.

Messi the dog steals Oscars’ limelight.

Love and millions of flowers stop in Miami.

Need to Know starts early and is updated until the opening bell, but sign up here to get it delivered once to your email box. The emailed version will be sent out at about 7:30 a.m. Eastern.

Check out On Watch by MarketWatch, a weekly podcast about the financial news we’re all watching – and how that’s affecting the economy and your wallet.

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#hedge #fund #star #trigger #bear #market

My brothers are co-owners on $1.9 million of our mother’s bank and brokerage accounts. She now has Alzheimer’s. How can I rectify this?

I have three adult siblings living in different states, and we are disputing the circumstances surrounding the joint accounts shared with our 85-year-old mother, who has early stage Alzheimer’s. Our mom has a net worth of around $2 million, which is spread across several different bank and brokerage accounts. Late in life, she added a different sibling as a co-owner on each of her accounts to help manage her money.  

My brother “Joe” is listed as the sole co-owner on the bulk of our mother’s brokerage accounts, totaling $1.3 million, while my brother “Andy” is the sole co-owner of a $600,000 bank account and I am the sole co-owner of a $100,000 brokerage account. I think our mom simply forgot to add my sister, “Sue,” as a co-owner on any account. Her intention has always been for the four of us to equally inherit her assets.

I suggested to my three siblings that we should change all the accounts to sole ownership under our mother’s name with four equal beneficiaries. I thought this could avoid many possible complications with gift taxes and distribution at the time of our mother’s death, since as it stands, each co-owner would have to divide the money from their co-ownership account and send it to the other siblings.

Sue is named as power of attorney and could manage our mother’s individual accounts as needed. However, Joe is adamant that the current setup of co-ownership of accounts is the best way to help our mother, especially to protect her against financial fraud in case she needs to move to a nursing home. He insists there will be no gift taxes with the eventual distribution and that this setup is straightforward and easy to co-manage.

This situation is causing a lot of stress and distrust among my siblings, which I hate. I suggested we change things in order to make our mother’s financial situation as simple as possible, especially at the time of death, and not because I don’t trust Joe. Right now, no one is touching our mother’s accounts, and I am paying most of her expenses, as she lives with me.

Please advise.

Frustrated Sibling

Also read: My wife and I sold our home to her son at a $100,000 discount. He’s now selling at a $250,000 profit. Do I ask for a cut?

“Sue, as power of attorney, should be able to withdraw money from your mother’s other accounts and/or set up a bank account with those funds in your mom’s name,” the Moneyist writes.


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Frustrated,

Your brothers have every reason to act like white truffle butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

Between them, they have sewn up your mother’s largest bank accounts, and you are very likely dependent on the kindness of these brothers to either add you to the accounts as co-owners or distribute the funds between all four siblings after your mother passes away. 

I would not hold my breath for Joe or Andy to do either of these things. They can just as easily resist with politeness and smiles as with anger and resentment. I’m sorry to say that the most damaging actions — for you and your sister— have already been taken. 

We may never know the conversations that took place when your brothers were added as co-owners. But there is a very important difference between a “co-owner” and a “co-signer” on an account. The latter can withdraw money but does not own the money in the account.

If your mother was not of sound mind or her mental capacity was diminished when your brothers were added to these accounts, or if she had intended to add them as co-signers, there may be a case where you can contest your brothers’ ownership of these accounts.

The legal framework around such cases vary depending on the state, but it’s usually up to the estate of the original owner of the account to prove that there was elder abuse and/or undue influence taking place. As always, you should consult an attorney who specializes in elder law.

Limitations to power-of-attorney duties 

Sue, as power of attorney, should be able to withdraw money from your mother’s other accounts and/or set up a bank account with those funds in your mom’s name. She should preserve these funds for additional medical bills and long-term care as her condition progresses.

But the bottom line is that without the cooperation of your two brothers after your mother dies, failing any legal case to reverse matters, you will remain with the sole ownership of the $100,000 brokerage account, and the four of you will inherit whatever else is left in the estate. 

It’s virtually impossible to say without more information, but Sue, as power of attorney, is unlikely to have the ability to change the ownership of these accounts unless that is specified in the terms of her POA contract. That would also depend on the laws of your state.

“The power of attorney permits the agent to access their parent’s bank accounts, make deposits and write checks,” Jupiter, Fla.-based Welch Law says in this POA overview. “However, it doesn’t create any ownership interest in the bank accounts. It allows access and signing authority.”

The law firm continues: “If the person’s parent wants to add them to the account, they become a joint owner of the account. When this happens, the person has the same authority as the parent, accessing the account and making deposits and withdrawals.”

But those with power of attorney cannot self-deal when it comes to their parent’s finances. “As a POA, they are a fiduciary, which means they have a legally enforceable responsibility to put their parent’s benefits above their own,” Welch Law adds.

You should not have to pay for your mother’s care out of your own bank account. Your sister, as power of attorney, should be managing that. Talk to your siblings about your mother’s Alzheimer’s and how the four of you plan to manage her care in the months and years ahead.

Will your brothers fulfill their promise and make you and your sister whole? Only time will tell.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

‘I don’t like the idea of dying alone’: I’m 54, twice divorced and have $2.3 million. My girlfriend wants to get married. How do I protect myself?

‘If I say the sky is blue, she’ll tell me it’s green’: My daughter, 19, will inherit $800,000. How can she invest in her future?

‘They have no running water’: Our neighbors constantly hit us up for money. My husband gave them $400. Is it selfish to say no?



Source link

#brothers #coowners #million #mothers #bank #brokerage #accounts #Alzheimers #rectify

Stock-market rally faces Fed, tech earnings and jobs data in make-or-break week

Stock-market investors may take their cues from a series of important events in the week ahead, including the Federal Reserve’s monetary-policy meeting, a closely-watched December employment report and an onslaught of earnings from megacap technology names, which all promise insight into the state of the economy and interest-rate outlook. 

The benchmark S&P 500 index
SPX
Thursday closed at a record high for five straight trading days, the longest streak of its kind since November 2021. The index finished slightly lower on Friday, but clinched weekly gains of 1.1%, while the Nasdaq Composite
COMP
advanced 1% and the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA
gained 0.7% for the week, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

“What we’re seeing is the market participants are still playing catch-up from 2023, putting money on the sidelines to work,” said Robert Schein, chief investment officer at Blanke Schein Wealth Management.

“Wall Street is still back at it trying to eke out gains as quickly as possible, so it’s very short-term oriented until we get big market-moving events,” he said, adding that one of the events could well be “a disappointing Fed speech.”

Fed’s Powell has good reasons to push back on rate cuts

Expectations that the Fed would begin easing monetary policy as early as March after its fastest tightening cycle in four decades have helped fuel a rally in U.S. stock- and bond-markets. Investors now mostly expect five or six quarter-point rate cuts by December, bringing the fed-funds rate down to around 4-4.25% from the current range of 5.25-5.5%, according to the CME FedWatch Tool. 

See: Economic growth underlined by fourth-quarter GDP reinforces Fed’s cautious approach to rate cuts

While no interest-rate change is expected for the central bank’s first policy meeting this year, some market analysts think comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell during his news conference on Wednesday are likely to shift the market’s expectations and push back against forecasts of a March cut. 

Thierry Wizman, global FX and interest rates strategist at Macquarie, said a stock-market rally, “too-dovish” signals from the Fed’s December meeting, a still-resilient labor market and escalating Middle East conflicts may indicate that Powell has to keep the “[monetary] tightening bias” next week. 

The rally in the stock market could “conceivably backfire” by virtue of a loosening of financial conditions, while the labor market has not weakened to the extent that the Fed officials would have hoped, Wizman told MarketWatch in a phone interview on Friday.

Further complicating things, fears that inflation could spike again in light of the conflict in the Middle East and Red Sea could reinforce Fed’s cautious approach to rate cuts, he said. 

See: Oil traders aren’t panicking over Middle East shipping attacks. Here’s why.

Meanwhile, a shift to “neutral bias” doesn’t automatically mean that the Fed will cut the policy rate soon since the Fed still needs to go to “easing bias” before actually trimming rates, Wizman said. “I think the market gets too dovish and does not realize the Fed has very, very good reasons to push this [the first rate cut] out to June.” 

Markets are ‘laser-focused’ on January employment report

Labor-market data could also sway U.S. financial markets in the week ahead, serving as the “big swing factor” for the economy, said Patrick Ryan, head of multi-asset solutions at Madison Investments. 

Investors have been looking for clear signs of a slowing labor market that could prompt the central bank to start cutting rates as early as March. That bet may be tested as soon as Friday with the release of nonfarm payroll data for January.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal estimate that U.S. employers added 180,000 jobs in January, down from a surprisingly strong 216,000 in the final month of 2023. The unemployment rate is expected to tick up to 3.8% from 3.7% in the prior month, keeping it near a half century low. Wage gains are forecast to cool a bit to 0.3% in January after a solid 0.4% gain in December. 

“That’s going to have everyone laser-focused,” Ryan told MarketWatch via phone on Thursday. “Anything that shows you real weakness in the labor market is going to question if the equity market is willing to trade at 20 plus times (earnings) this year.” The S&P 500 is trading at 20.2 times earnings as of Friday afternoon, according to FactSet data. 

Six of ‘Magnificent 7’ may continue to drive S&P 500 earnings higher

This coming week is also packed with earnings from some of the big tech names that have fueled the stock-market rally since last year. 

Five of the so-called Magnificent 7 technology companies will provide earnings starting from next Tuesday when Alphabet Inc.
GOOG,
+0.10%

and Microsoft Corp.
MSFT,
-0.23%

take center stage, followed by results from Apple Inc.
AAPL,
-0.90%
,
Amazon.com
AMZN,
+0.87%

and Meta Platforms
META,
+0.24%

on Thursday. 

Of the remaining two members of the “Magnificent 7,” Tesla Inc.
TSLA,
+0.34%

has reported earlier this week with its results “massively disappointing” Wall Street, while Nvidia Corp.’s
NVDA,
-0.95%

results will be coming out at the end of February.

See: Here’s why Nvidia, Microsoft and other ‘Magnificent Seven’ stocks are back on top in 2024

A number of the companies in the “Magnificent 7” have seen their stock prices hit record-high levels in recent weeks, which could help to drive the value of the S&P 500 higher, said John Butters, senior earnings analyst at FactSet Research. He also said these stocks are projected to drive earnings higher for the benchmark index in the fourth quarter of 2023.

In One Chart: Tech leads stock market’s January rally by wide margin. Watch out for February.

In aggregate, Nvidia, Alphabet, Amazon.com, Apple, Meta Platforms, and Microsoft are expected to report year-over-year earnings growth of 53.7% for the fourth quarter of last year, while excluding these six companies, the blended earnings decline for the remaining 494 companies in the S&P 500 would be 10.5%, Butters wrote in a Friday client note.

“Overall, the blended earnings decline for the entire S&P 500 for Q4 2023 is 1.4%,” he said. 

Check out! On Watch by MarketWatch, a weekly podcast about the financial news we’re all watching — and how that’s affecting the economy and your wallet. MarketWatch’s Jeremy Owens trains his eye on what’s driving markets and offers insights that will help you make more informed money decisions. Subscribe on Spotify and Apple.  

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#Stockmarket #rally #faces #Fed #tech #earnings #jobs #data #makeorbreak #week

My Tinder match asked if I ‘rent or own’ my apartment. Is it gauche to ask financial questions before a first date?

I met a guy on Tinder
MTCH,
+0.75%

and had an introductory telephone conversation, which I always think is a good idea before making the effort to meet in person. During our 15-minute telephone conversation, he told me about his divorce, his job and his hobbies. He described himself as easygoing and outdoorsy, and someone who likes to socialize and play sports. 

He talked a lot about his children, for five minutes or longer. He said he owned a small house. He asked what I did for a living, when my last relationship was, what neighborhood I lived in and — this stuck in my craw — whether I rented or owned my apartment and if it was a studio, one- or two-bedroom apartment. I felt uncomfortable, but I answered.

I live in New York City, and I happen to own my apartment, but I felt like he was sizing me up and trying to get a picture of my finances before he decided to meet me. He also asked how long I’ve been in my apartment, probably to assess how much equity I had in it. I replied, “a while,” as I already felt like he was getting too into my finances for a first conversation.

Once he was satisfied with my answers to these questions, he suggested we meet. I am busy this weekend, so he suggested driving into the city during the week. Based on his job and profession, I can reasonably estimate that I earn about twice his salary, though this does not mean anything to me, and I could care less. But given his money-related questions, I find that ironic.

I asked some friends. Some did a spit take, while others felt such questions were fair game. What do you think?

Irritated Even Before Our First Date

Related: I want my father to quitclaim his home so I can refinance it — and take out a $200,000 annuity for my sister and me. Is this wise?

“Based on his questions, it’s important to him that you have the same level of financial security that he does. If it were not an issue for him, he would not have asked.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Irritated,

He is not your real-estate agent or financial adviser, so I agree that it’s strange for a virtual stranger to quiz you on your living arrangements.

Based on his questions, it’s important to him that you have the same level of financial security that he does. If it were not an issue for him, he would not have asked. It’s as simple as that. Similarly, if he were wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, he may care less than someone who has climbed partly up the property ladder. But do I think it’s a bit much to ask in a first conversation? Yes.

Don’t give the Greek chorus too much importance. Whether or not other people are comfortable with such questions in a first call is immaterial; if you are not comfortable, you have your answer. You, after all, are the person who will have to date him, and expect him to show a semblance of emotional intelligence and sensitivity. It’s imperative to be able to read the room.

Let there be no mistake: If he is asking a question about your real-estate holdings or finances, he’s interested in them as a way of assessing (or judging) your suitability as a partner. Maybe he romanticizes his relationship prospects based on first impressions, and wonders whether he could combine assets and live in splendor. But words and questions have meaning.

Social acceptability vs. social mobility 

In America, it may be seen as more acceptable than in some European countries to ask what you do for a living, and even whether you rent or own in a big city like New York. The U.S. is a country of immigrants, and has more immigrants than any other population in the world, according to the Pew Research Center

The idea is to strive, work hard, and do better than the previous generation, although a majority of Americans reportedly doubt the attainability of generation-to-generation upward mobility, and millions of people are reassessing their relationship to work-life balance in the wake of the pandemic.

Wealth and looks play a role in whether someone swipes left or right, but the former appears to become more important when a connection is made with a partner who is deemed attractive. “When long-term interest is considered, the physical attractiveness of the model appeared to serve as an initial hurdle that had to be cleared prior to any other factors being considered by the participants,” according to this 2020 study.

People do swipe right based on economic factors. It would be foolhardy or idealistic to suggest that they don’t. If, however, a man poses in sunglasses with two thumbs up next to a Lamborghini, listing bitcoin
BTCUSD,
+1.57%

trading as one of his pastimes, chances are he doesn’t own that Lamborghini and, in my estimation, may have “Tinder Swindler”-level intentions.

And if a potential partner is both attractive and wealthy? That seems to be an appealing combination. Female online daters are 10 times more likely to click on profiles with men who have higher incomes, at least according to this study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, while male online daters are equally likely to click on women’s profiles, regardless of income. 

I don’t put too much stock in studies that say men are looking for attractive partners, while women are more interested in men who look wealthy. You could probably do an analysis of any online dating site and gather a sample that would give you conclusions that say pretty much anything you want them to say. It all depends on the individual: Someone who knows the exact size of their backyard and strives to keep up with the Joneses is more likely to ask whether you rent or own.

In other words, this fellow who grilled you over your own socioeconomic circumstances may still be a perfect match — for someone else.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

I want my son to inherit my $1.2 million house. Should I leave it to my second husband in my will? He promised to pass it on.

My adult sons live rent-free in my house, while I pay for 50% of utilities in my second husband’s condo

My brother lives in our parents’ home, which we’ll inherit 50/50. I want to keep it in the family for my children. How do I protect my interests?



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‘I can’t afford to keep paying for two households’: My adult sons live rent-free in my house, while I pay for 50% of utilities in my second husband’s condo

In 2007, my now ex-husband and I bought a home, where we lived as a family with our two boys for just a few years before we divorced in 2009. I refinanced the house in my name, and have paid the mortgage and utilities as a single parent ever since. 

In 2016, I met and started dating a man. We lived apart, only about 10 to 15 minutes from each other. In 2021, after I battled cancer, he proposed and I accepted. Since we only lived a few minutes apart, I stayed at my husband’s two-bedroom condo Thursday through Sunday, and spent Sunday through Thursday at my house, where I worked from home. I did this for years. 

My oldest son moved back in with me in 2021. He graduated high school in 2017 and I gave him a gap year living at my house to decide on his next move, after which he moved out and started his career. He lived on his own for a year, then lived with my parents for a year. He met a girl; they signed a lease and then the pandemic hit. After their lease was up, they broke up, and he decided to go back to college full time. I agreed that he could live in my home while he attended college. His tuition is covered by grants and a 529 fund his grandmother set up.

In 2022, my then boyfriend and I married. However, we still didn’t move in together full time, as I still had my house, and my youngest son had not yet graduated high school. I wanted to be home with him. 

Helping to support two households

My youngest son, 19, graduated high school in 2023. Later that summer, I moved out of my house to stay with my husband full time. I pay 50% of the expenses living with my husband and 100% of the expenses for my house, where the boys live. 

I kept both households going so my youngest could have a gap year of his own, and to cushion my oldest, whom I really didn’t think would go to college, while he attended to his studies. They are young and finding their way, and I wanted to give them the support I felt like they needed. But here we are in 2024, and I can’t afford to keep both households running without impacting my ability to save for retirement.

Here’s my dilemma: I don’t know how to get my boys out of my house so I can clean it up, stage it and list it for sale. We live in an area where the average two-bedroom apartment rents for $1,800 a month. My youngest works full time following his passion for BMWs and makes about $2,400 a month. My oldest, 25, works part time in retail and makes about $1,000 a month while he attends college. They both work within 3 miles of my home. They simply can’t afford to move out, and I can’t afford to keep paying for two households.

To complicate matters, I have about $100,000 in equity in the house, and I’d like to use it to pay off some small debts and buy a car, as well as put the rest in retirement.  But my mother, who has had a long and successful career in real estate, thinks I should wait it out and let my equity continue to build, giving the boys some cushion while they are still finding their way. 

Do I shop around and find them an apartment, help them set up utilities and help them with movers? Do we build a project plan with a deadline, or just keep looking for places in the hope that we eventually find one we like? Do I subsidize their monthly expenses and give them each $400 a month for utilities, if they cover their rent? 

I know this is probably easy for other people, but I am at a loss as to how and when to do this. We all feel stuck, scared and anxious. Any advice is appreciated.

Wife & Mother

Related: My cousin left his estate to 6 relatives, but only one cousin, worth $30 million, received the inheritance — due to an ‘unexpected surprise’

“On the subject of mothers, listen to your own. If you can rent out your home, pay the mortgage and wait for the value to increase, do that.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Wife & Mother,

The longer you support your two adult sons, the longer they will lean on you and need you as their personal ATM. You’ve brought them over the finish line, and then some. You raised them, educated them, and fed and clothed and housed them. Now you are paying for their electricity and other bills. It’s time for your sons to stand on their own two feet and, as my Irish mother would say, cut their cloth according to its measure.

On the subject of mothers, listen to your own. If you can rent out your home, pay the mortgage and wait for the value to increase, do that. Your mother works in real estate and knows what she’s talking about. Real estate, in an ideal world, is a long-term game. It’s time for your sons to downsize to a small apartment, and experience the joys of paying their own way and standing on their own two feet. You need to cut the cord.

Act with integrity and intention. The best way to make a big move — and this is probably as big a move emotionally as it is financially — is to prepare. Sit down with your sons and an independent financial adviser, and do a forensic accounting of their income and expenditure and where they spend their money. I can almost guarantee you that their subsidized lifestyle lends itself to spending money in areas where they could easily cut back.

There is an underlying feeling of guilt in your letter. Have you done enough? Yes. Should you do more? No, you have done plenty, and you’re now putting your sons before your own financial peace of mind and retirement. Does it make you a bad person, or an unfeeling one, if you decide to cut them off? Of course not. Quite the contrary: You can lead by example by showing them what it means to make tough decisions and stick to them.

When you have accounted for your sons’ income and expenditure, look at rentals in your neighborhood or adjoining neighborhoods, if need be. The aim is for them to start taking responsibility for themselves. They don’t need a two-bedroom apartment. They can live in a one-bedroom condo and take turns sleeping on the sofa bed. This is a rite of passage, and it teaches young people the value of money and what it means to take accountability for oneself.

The share of adult children in the U.S. living with their parents has steadily risen since the 1960s. In 2020, during the pandemic, one-third of children ages 18 to 34 lived with their parents as non-caregivers. Men and 18- to 24-year-olds, respectively, were more likely to live at home than women and 25- to 34-year-olds, according to a study distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Parents get support at home; kids get to experience a low-cost lifestyle.

But while the NBER found social benefits to living with adult children and that it does not necessarily delay, retirement, the benefits of providing your children with a head start by giving them somewhere to live start to decline when your ability to save for retirement is impeded, and you’re burning money supporting two households. This is also money you can put towards vacations and new cars, and building a future with your husband. You deserve to enjoy life and put yourself first for a change. Tell your sons, “You’re ready. I’m ready. I love you. Let’s do this.””

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

‘She’s obsessed’: My mom moved into my house and refuses to move out. She has paid for repairs and appliances. What should I do?

My parents want to pay off my $200,000 mortgage, and move into my rental. They say I’ll owe my sister $100,000. Is this fair?

‘I hate the 9-to-5 grind’: I want more time with my newborn son. Should I give up my job and dip into my six-figure trust fund?



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We can tackle climate change, jobs, growth and global trade. Here’s what’s stopping us

We must leave behind established modes of thinking and seek creative workable solutions.

Another tumultuous year has confirmed that the global economy is at a turning point. We face four big challenges: the climate transition; the good-jobs problem; an economic-development crisis, and the search for a newer, healthier form of globalization.

To address each, we must leave behind established modes of thinking and seek creative workable solutions, while recognizing that these efforts will be necessarily uncoordinated and experimental.

Climate change is the most daunting challenge, and the one that has been overlooked the longest — at great cost. If we are to avoid condemning humanity to a dystopian future, we must act fast to decarbonize the global economy. We have long known that we must wean ourselves from fossil fuels, develop green alternatives and shore up our defenses against the lasting environmental damage that past inaction has already caused. However, it has become clear that little of this is likely to be achieved through global cooperation or economists’ favored policies.

Instead, individual countries will forge ahead with their own green agendas, implementing policies that best account for their specific political constraints, as the United States, China and the European Union have been doing. The result will be a hodge-podge of emission caps, tax incentives, research and development support, and green industrial policies with little global coherence and occasional costs for other countries. Messy though it may be, an uncoordinated push for climate action may be the best we can realistically hope for.

Inequality, the erosion of the middle class, and labor-market polarization have caused significant damage to our social environment.

But our physical environment is not the only threat we face. Inequality, the erosion of the middle class, and labor-market polarization have caused equally significant damage to our social environment. The consequences are now widely evident. Economic, regional, and cultural gaps within countries are widening, and liberal democracy (and the values that support it) appears to be in decline, reflecting rising support for xenophobic, authoritarian populists and the growing backlash against scientific and technical expertise.

Social transfers and the welfare state can help, but what is most needed is an increase in the supply of good jobs for the less-educated workers who have lost access to them. We need more productive, well-remunerated employment opportunities that can provide dignity and social recognition for those without a college degree. Expanding the supply of such jobs will require not only more investment in education and more robust defense of workers’ rights, but also a new brand of industrial policies for services, where the bulk of future employment will be created.

The disappearance of manufacturing jobs over time reflects both greater automation and stronger global competition. Developing countries have not been immune to either factor. Many have experienced “premature de-industrialization”: their absorption of workers into formal, productive manufacturing firms is now very limited, which means they are precluded from pursuing the kind of export-oriented development strategy that has been so effective in East Asia and a few other countries. Together with the climate challenge, this crisis of growth strategies in low-income countries calls for an entirely new development model.

Governments will have to experiment, combining investment in the green transition with productivity enhancements in labor-absorbing services.

As in the advanced economies, services will be low- and middle-income countries’ main source of employment creation. But most services in these economies are dominated by very small, informal enterprises — often sole proprietorships — and there are essentially no ready-made models of service-led development to emulate. Governments will have to experiment, combining investment in the green transition with productivity enhancements in labor-absorbing services.

Finally, globalization itself must be reinvented. The post-1990 hyper-globalization model has been overtaken by the rise of U.S.-China geopolitical competition, and by the higher priority placed on domestic social, economic, public-health, and environmental concerns. No longer fit for purpose, globalization as we know it will have to be replaced by a new understanding that rebalances national needs and the requirements of a healthy global economy that facilitates international trade and long-term foreign investment.

Most likely, the new globalization model will be less intrusive, acknowledging the needs of all countries (not just major powers) that want greater policy flexibility to address domestic challenges and national-security imperatives. One possibility is that the U.S. or China will take an overly expansive view of its security needs, seeking global primacy (in the U.S. case) or regional domination (China). The result would be a “weaponization” of economic interdependence and significant economic decoupling, with trade and investment treated as a zero-sum game.

The biggest gift major powers can give to the world economy is to manage their own domestic economies well.

But there could also be a more favorable scenario in which both powers keep their geopolitical ambitions in check, recognizing that their competing economic goals are better served through accommodation and cooperation. This scenario might serve the global economy well, even if — or perhaps because — it falls short of hyper-globalization. As the Bretton Woods era showed, a significant expansion of global trade and investment is compatible with a thin model of globalization, wherein countries retain considerable policy autonomy with which to foster social cohesion and economic growth at home. The biggest gift major powers can give to the world economy is to manage their own domestic economies well.

All these challenges call for new ideas and frameworks. We do not need to throw conventional economics out the window. But to remain relevant, economists must learn to apply the tools of their trade to the objectives and constraints of the day. They will have to be open to experimentation, and sympathetic if governments engage in actions that do not conform to the playbooks of the past.

Dani Rodrik, professor of international political economy at Harvard Kennedy School, is president of the International Economic Association and the author of Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy (Princeton University Press, 2017).

This commentary was published with the permission of Project Syndicate — Confronting Our Four Biggest Economic Challenges

More: Biden administration’s antitrust victories are much-needed wins for consumers

Also read: ‘Dr. Doom’ Nouriel Roubini: ‘Worst-case scenarios appear to be the least likely.’ For now.

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Nvidia and AI changed landscape of the chip industry, as rivals play catch-up

This year’s artificial-intelligence boom turned the landscape of the semiconductor industry on its head, elevating Nvidia Corp. as the new king of U.S. chip companies — and putting more pressure on the newly crowned company for the year ahead.

Intel Corp.
INTC,
+2.12%
,
which had long been the No. 1 chip maker in the U.S., first lost its global crown as biggest chip manufacturer to TSMC
2330,

several years ago. Now, Wall Street analysts estimate that Nvidia’s
NVDA,
-0.94%

annual revenue for its current calendar year will outpace Intel’s for the first time, making it No. 1 in the U.S. Intel is projected to see 2023 revenue of $53.9 billion, while Nvidia’s projected revenue for calendar 2023 is $56.2 billion, according to FactSet.

Even more spectacular are the projections for Nvidia’s calendar 2024: Analysts forecast revenue of $89.2 billion, a surge of 59% from 2023, and about three times higher than 2022. In contrast, Intel’s 2024 revenue is forecast to grow 13.3% to $61.1 billion. (Nvidia’s fiscal year ends at the end of January. FactSet’s data includes pro-forma estimates for calendar years.)

“It has coalesced into primarily an Nvidia-controlled market,” said Karl Freund, principal analyst at Cambrian AI Research. “Because Nvidia is capturing market share that didn’t even exist two years ago, before ChatGPT and large language models….They doubled their share of the data-center market. In 40 years, I have never seen such a dynamic in the marketplace.”

Nvidia has become the king of a sector that is adjacent to the core-processor arena dominated by Intel. Nvidia’s graphics chips, used to accelerate AI applications, reignited the data-center market with a new dynamic for Wall Street to watch.

Intel has long dominated the overall server market with its Xeon central processor unit (CPU) family, which are the heart of computer servers, just as CPUs are also the brain chips of personal computers. Five years ago, Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
AMD,
+0.90%
,
Intel’s rival in PC chips, re-entered the lucrative server market after a multi-year absence, and AMD has since carved out a 23% share of the server market, according to Mercury Research, though Intel still dominates with a 76.7% share.

Graphics chips in the data center

Nowadays, however, the data-center story is all about graphics processing units (GPUs), and Nvidia’s have become favored for AI applications. GPU sales are growing at a far faster pace than the core server CPU chips.

Also read: Nvidia’s stock dubbed top pick for 2024 after monster 2023, ‘no need to overthink this.’

Nvidia was basically the entire data-center market in the third quarter, selling about $11.1 billion in chips, accompanying cards and other related hardware, according to Mercury Research, which has tracked the GPU market since 2019. The company had a stunning 99.7% share of GPU systems in the data center, excluding any devices for networking, according to Dean McCarron, Mercury’s president. The remaining 0.3% was split between Intel and AMD.

Put another way: “It’s Nvidia and everyone else,” said Stacy Rasgon, a Bernstein Research analyst.

Intel is fighting back now, seeking to reinvigorate growth in data centers and PCs, which have both been in decline after a huge boom in spending on information technology and PCs during the pandemic. This month, Intel unveiled new families of chips for both servers and PCs, designed to accelerate AI locally on the devices themselves, which could also take some of the AI compute load out of the data center.

“We are driving it into every aspect of the applications, but also every device, in the data center, the cloud, the edge of the PC as well,” Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said at the company’s New York event earlier this month.

While AI and high-performance chips are coming together to create the next generation of computing, Gelsinger said it’s also important to consider the power consumption of these technologies. “When we think about this, we also have to do it in a sustainable way. Are we going to dedicate a third, a half of all the Earth’s energy to these computing technologies? No, they must be sustainable.”

Meanwhile, AMD is directly going after both the hot GPU market and the PC market. It, too, had a big product launch this month, unveiling a new family of GPUs that were well-received on Wall Street, along with new processors for the data center and PCs. It forecast it will sell at least $2 billion in AI GPUs in their first year on the market, in a big challenge to Nvidia.

Also see: AMD’s new products represent first real threat to Nvidia’s AI dominance.

That forecast “is fine for AMD,” according to Rasgon, but it would amount to “a rounding error for Nvidia.”

“If Nvidia does $50 billion, it will be disappointing,” he added.

But AMD CEO Lisa Su might have taken a conservative approach with her forecast for the new MI300X chip family, according to Daniel Newman, principal analyst and founding partner at Futurum Research.

“That is probably a fraction of what she has seen out there,” he said. “She is starting to see a robust market for GPUs that are not Nvidia…We need competition, we need supply.” He noted that it is early days and the window is still open for new developments in building AI ecosystems.

Cambrian’s Freund noted that it took AMD about four to five years to gain 20% of the data-center CPU market, making Nvidia’s stunning growth in GPUs for the data center even more remarkable.

“AI, and in particularly data-center GPU-based AI, has resulted in the largest and most rapid changes in the history of the GPU market,” said McCarron of Mercury, in an email. “[AI] is clearly impacting conventional server CPUs as well, though the long-term impacts on CPUs still remain to be seen, given how new the recent increase in AI activity is.”

The ARMs race

Another development that will further shape the computing hardware landscape is the rise of a competitive architecture to x86, known as reduced instruction set computing (RISC). In the past, RISC has mostly made inroads in the computing landscape in mobile phones, tablets and embedded systems dedicated to a single task, through the chip designs of ARM Holdings Plc
ARM,
+0.81%

and Qualcomm Inc.
QCOM,
+1.12%
.

Nvidia tried to buy ARM for $40 billion last year, but the deal did not win regulatory approval. Instead, ARM went public earlier this year, and it has been promoting its architecture as a low-power-consuming option for AI applications. Nvidia has worked for years with ARM. Its ARM-based CPU called Grace, which is paired with its Hopper GPU in the “Grace-Hopper” AI accelerator, is used in high-performance servers and supercomputers. But these chips are still often paired with x86 CPUs from Intel or AMD in systems, noted Kevin Krewell, an analyst at Tirias Research.

“The ARM architecture has power-efficiency advantages over x86 due to a more modern instruction set, simpler CPU core designs and less legacy overhead,” Krewell said in an email. “The x86 processors can close the gap between ARM in power and core counts. That said, there’s no limit to running applications on the ARM architecture other than x86 legacy software.”

Until recently, ARM RISC-based systems have only had a fractional share of the server market. But now an open-source version of RISC, albeit about 10 years old, called RISC-V, is capturing the attention of both big internet and social-media companies, as well as startups. Power consumption has become a major issue in data centers, and AI accelerators use incredible amounts of energy, so companies are looking for alternatives to save on power usage.

Estimates for ARM’s share of the data center vary slightly, ranging from about 8%, according to Mercury Research, to about 10% according to IDC. ARM’s growing presence “is not necessarily trivial anymore,” Rasgon said.

“ARM CPUs are gaining share rapidly, but most of these are in-house CPUs (e.g. Amazon’s Graviton) rather than products sold on the open market,” McCarron said. Amazon’s
AMZN,
-0.18%

 Graviton processor family, first offered in 2018, is optimized to run cloud workloads at Amazon’s Web Services business. Alphabet Inc.
GOOG,
+0.66%

GOOGL,
+0.63%

also is developing its own custom ARM-based CPUs, codenamed Maple and Cypress, for use in its Google Cloud business according to a report earlier this year by the Information.

“Google has an ARM CPU, Microsoft has an ARM CPU, everyone has an ARM CPU,” said Freund. “In three years, I think everyone will also have a RISC-V CPU….It it is much more flexible than an ARM.”

In addition, some AI chip and system startups are designing around RISC-V, such as Tenstorrent Inc., a startup co-founded by well-regarded chip designer Jim Keller, who has also worked at AMD, Apple Inc.
AAPL,
+0.54%
,
Tesla Inc.
TSLA,
+2.04%

and Intel.

See: These chip startups hope to challenge Nvidia but it will take some time.

Opportunity for the AI PC

Like Intel, Qualcomm has also launched an entire product line around the personal computer, a brand-new endeavor for the company best known for its mobile processors. It cited the opportunity and need to bring AI processing to local devices, or the so-called edge.

In October, it said it is entering the PC business, dominated by Intel’s x86 architecture, with its own version of the ARM architecture called Snapdragon X Elite platform. It has designed its new processors specifically for the PC market, where it said its lower power consumption and far faster processing are going to be a huge hit with business users and consumers, especially those doing AI applications.

“We have had a legacy of coming in from a point where power is super important,” said Kedar Kondap, Qualcomm’s senior vice president and general manager of compute and gaming, in a recent interview. “We feel like we can leverage that legacy and bring it into PCs. PCs haven’t seen innovation for a while.”

Software could be an issue, but Qualcomm has also partnered with Microsoft for emulation software, and it trotted out many PC vendors, with plans for its PCs to be ready to tackle computing and AI challenges in the second half of 2024.

“When you run stuff on a device, it is secure, faster, cheaper, because every search today is faster. Where the future of AI is headed, it will be on the device,” Kondap said. Indeed, at its chip launch earlier in this month, Intel quoted Boston Consulting Group, which forecast that by 2028, AI-capable PCs will comprise 80% of the PC market..

All these different changes in products will bring new challenges to leaders like Nvidia and Intel in their respective arenas. Investors are also slightly nervous about Nvidia’s ability to keep up its current growth pace, but last quarter Nvidia talked about new and expanding markets, including countries and governments with complex regulatory requirements.

“It’s a fun market,” Freund said.

And investors should be prepared for more technology shifts in the year ahead, with more competition and new entrants poised to take some share — even if it starts out small — away from the leaders.

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I don’t want to leave my financially irresponsible daughter my house. Is that unreasonable?

I am at my wit’s end and hope someone can recommend ways to help my daughter’s unwillingness to manage her money. When I am gone her chances are slim to none. I am a senior citizen and I’ve had cancer four times in the last three years, so I don’t know how much longer I have. 

I already told her I’d leave her a few thousand dollars from my retirement funds, but I know she’ll blow through whatever I give her. I don’t want to leave her my house in my will. Am I being unreasonable? The loan balance is only $28,000 and mortgage payments are very low. One reason: She’ll be even less motivated to manage her finances wisely if she knows she will get it.  

I’ve talked to my therapist and he has no solutions. All my daughter’s friends are similarly ill-equipped, and there is no adult that she would heed. My therapist said: “Why should I care?” But I do. Plus, she won’t be able to pay the ongoing taxes, insurance and maintenance because of her free-wheeling spending.  

I told her not to spend her modest retirement balance from a previous job. She did and her reason was that she said it was small. I let her use my car, and pay maintenance and insurance.  I pay for her phone. She pays no rent and nor does she do many chores. Oftentimes, she is short of money, and I have to give her a loan. She keeps getting credit cards, pays them off, then repeats the cycle.

When I try to talk to her calmly, she argues. I tried to get her to set up a budget. She won’t do it.  Earlier she agreed to pay the entire phone bill as her contribution. She simply auto-paid using her credit card. The card went into arrears so I had to make good on that, and resume responsibility.

I try to set up small goals for her, but she’s not receptive. Yet she buys plenty of snacks, cosmetics and goes on vacations. I’ve offered to have us meet an adviser of her choice to tackle these issues, but again she’s not interested. I’ve even suggested I’m going to take a home-equity loan to spend on myself and she’d have to pay it back but again, no response.

I love her very much, but don’t know what to do. My wife sabotaged my efforts in her misguided kindness when our daughter was younger. She no longer does that, but it’s too late.

In short, she’s not willing to manage her money properly. She is in school now, but worked several years full time, and is now working part time. I promised her I’d put money toward her degree, but I’m going to pay it directly to the school.

I have calmly told her of the dire consequences of her actions, but it doesn’t get through to her.

The Father 

“You may not realize it, but your daughter, your wife and your good self are all playing a game.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Father,

Think twice before disinheriting your daughter. If she is your only child, don’t allow your frustrations to posthumously punish her.

First things first: Take care of yourself. You have had recurring battles with cancer, and that may have taken a toll on your health. Your fears and concerns about your own mortality may be contributing to this laser focus on your daughter’s wellbeing. It could be that you believe you have a shorter period of time to ensure your daughter balances her books, and gets back on the right track, but the truth is that she is operating on her own timetable.

That said, the situation you describe sounds extremely dysfunctional. You are both the enabler and the avenger — paying her phone bill and rent, and threatening to cut her out of your will. What’s more, you and your wife — intentionally or not — are playing good cop/bad cop. This is a “Kramer vs. Kramer” situation where your daughter is able to play her parents off against each other. One rewards, the other chastises. 

It seems like your daughter’s cycle of taking out credit cards is mirrored by the cycle of cat-and-mouse you play with her, even if you do it without realizing it. You are all caught inside a long-running saga that is, perhaps, inherited from your own parents. Your daughter will never be who you want her to be. She can only be who she is, make mistakes, learn from them (or not) and hopefully grow and mature over time. 

You may not realize it, but your daughter, your wife and your good self are all playing a game. Your daughter rebels, you threaten to disinherit her, and your wife plays peacemaker. You are tough with your daughter, your wife shows her kindness, and your daughter plays you both off against each other. Not all games are fun, but they do form a pattern that is so embedded in the family dynamic that it’s hard to see it from the inside.

The ‘games’ people play

Eric Berne wrote a landmark book in 1964 entitled “Games People Play.” He defined these games as follows: “A game is an ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome.” It could be “If It Weren’t For You” (perhaps a common one between unhappy spouses) or “Yes, but” (where one person cajoles another to take action, but the other person always has an excuse for inaction). 

Each game has a gimmick and a payoff. I’m not sure what game you’re playing, but it’s repetitive and everybody is getting some kind of reward, even if it is an unhappy one. That is something you will have to figure out. You get to be the leader who knows how the world works, your wife gets to be Switzerland (while surreptitiously fanning the flames) while your daughter gets to defy you and assert her independence, knowing it will provoke you to repeat the cycle.

My point is: You all need family therapy! Not just your daughter. Or you. Or your wife. You need to process this together. Whether or not you leave your daughter your house is, at this point, irrelevant. The threat that you will withhold a large part of your inheritance is the key part. Why would you do that? Would it really solve anything to make your daughter even more financially insecure? Is punishing her more practical and effective than rewarding her?

Elephant in the room

The other elephant in the room is what happens if you predecease your wife. You may wish for your daughter to be disinherited except for a few thousand dollars, but this game of good cop/bad cop and rebellious daughter may continue after you’re gone with your daughter convincing your wife to not act in accordance with your wishes. That may be the final denouement to this “game,” or perhaps a relative or lawyer would take your place.

Your daughter is, I suspect, being infantilized by the constant criticisms and interference in her finances. You don’t trust her enough to make her own decisions, so you interfere and get frustrated by all her bad habits and, as you see them, mistakes. But it also helps prevent her from standing on her own two feet and facing the music when things go wrong. Why? She knows you will step in to show (a) you care and (b) you told her so.

There are financial therapists who can help you analyze your emotional relationship to money and why you make the decisions we do. But it may be that you all have to make decisions that go against your instincts. Stop trying to change your daughter, and stop bailing her out. She may do her utmost to provoke you to lose your cool with her. No more loans. Let her go on vacation. Just don’t be around to pick up the bill.

You could set up a trust with stipulations: when your daughter receives certain amounts of money and how she is allowed to spend it. There is a balance between being too controlling and prescriptive enough to encourage her to make good choices. But ultimately that is out of your hands. As I said at the beginning of my response, I worry that your responses to her are exacerbated by your fears over your own health.

It would be a shame to waste these years sparring with your child when you could put all that aside, and enjoy each other for you are, instead.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

Is it OK for my new boyfriend to ask me to split the bill? ‘I don’t want him to get used to me paying for my own meals.’

My stepdaughter is executor to her late father’s will, and believes she’s now on the deed to my home. Is that possible?

I inherited $246,000 from my late mother and used $142,000 to pay off our mortgage. If we divorce, can I claim this money?

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