Five years ago, my 17-year-old daughter couldn’t secure a loan to study art and live on campus at our in-state public university. She needed me to co-sign her loans, which I did reluctantly. (I told her they were her responsibility, though.) She graduated with a degree in fine art and $100,000 in debt. She now works at a fast-casual restaurant for $18 an hour. During this time, I divorced my husband of 25 years and received a small cash settlement. I want to buy a home, but my credit score is so badly affected by my daughter’s debt that I can’t get a mortgage. A broker suggested that my daughter submit an application to release me from her loans. But she flatly refused! She thinks it may prevent her from getting a car loan. Do you agree she is showing poor character?
I sympathize with you (and with anyone trying to finance higher education), but I won’t bash your daughter. You were an adult and she was a child when you co-signed large loans she was unlikely to be able to repay with income from a fine arts degree. You may have thought you were being supportive, but you (and her father) missed a big opportunity to help her make more sensible plans for her education.
What’s more, the release you now want her to sign is worth little as a practical matter. What prudent lender is going to release you — the party with money — and look solely to a low-wage worker for repayment of $100,000? You are entitled to your feelings about your daughter’s automotive dreams, but you co-signed those loans.
If I were you, I would hire a good financial adviser. I don’t know why you didn’t include this debt in your divorce settlement with your ex-husband (it was incurred during your marriage). But you need a comprehensive financial plan now. And stop dragging your daughter!
Slighted by a Ring Requirement
My boyfriend and I are in our mid-20s. We’ve been dating for five years and live together. He comes from a large family with more than 25 first cousins. They’re great, but they established a “no plus one” policy for weddings unless invitees are married or engaged. I missed one wedding already, and another is looming. I feel slighted! I know I have no right to attend, but this policy seems hurtful to those who have opted out of marriage. My boyfriend insists it’s not his place to intervene. He goes without me and says an invitation you have to beg for is not worth having. Should I bite my tongue?
The cruelty of guest lists is that some people have to be left off. Weddings are expensive, and venues have limited space. (And have you really “opted out of marriage” in your mid-20s, or have you simply not crossed that bridge yet?) I’m sorry you feel slighted. Bite your tongue for now, though — unless it’s to dress down your boyfriend for being a bit blasé about going to parties without you.
Absorbing a $400 Friendship Fee
For some time, I’ve treated a dear friend to a theater subscription for $400 a season. I started paying because she was under financial stress caring for an invalid parent and her husband was out of work. But her dad passed away, and her husband found a job. She should be able to pay for her own tickets if she made them a priority. Should I broach the subject? I don’t want her to feel bad, and I enjoy sharing the experience with her.
I understand wanting to be even-steven with your friend. It’s natural. I have a few pesky questions for you, though: Could your friend be in the hole still, financially, from paying for her father’s medical care or from her husband’s unemployment? And how meaningful is this $400 to you?
There’s nothing wrong, of course, with asking your friend if she’s ready to pony up for her subscription. But the worst outcome here, in my view, is if the $400 is relatively minor to you — but not to your friend — and you lose a valued theater buddy on principle. Think it over before you ask.
A Neighbor Eager to Watch Paint Dry
My husband and I own a second home at the beach. We rebuilt ours, but most of the houses in the neighborhood are modest. We were happy when our neighbor hired painters last year. (The paint was peeling badly, and the shingles were droopy.) The odd thing: They painted the whole house except the side that faces us! When my husband asked our neighbor when she planned to finish the job, she said she ran out of money. Am I wrong to be annoyed? It can’t cost that much to paint one side of a house.
Here’s the thing about finite resources (such as money): When they’re gone, they’re gone. If your neighbor paid the painters an hourly rate, it’s possible she spent her budget. And if she’s out of cash, it doesn’t matter how little it costs to paint one side of a house. She doesn’t have it! So, if that unpainted side bothers you enough, offer to help her finish the job. Otherwise, learn to live with it, I’m afraid.