Teen wrecked the car? Put him on a pay­ment plan to cover dam­ages.

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS - Michelle Singletary

When­ever I’m able, I like to an­swer read­ers’ ques­tions about their in­di­vid­ual sit­u­a­tions.

While I take some time off, here’s a tran­script of a re­cent online dis­cus­sion in which Jon­nelle Marte, who writes The Washington Post’s “Get There” per­sonal fi­nance blog, and I an­swered peo­ple’s ques­tions.

My teenager was in­volved in a mi­nor auto ac­ci­dent that dam­aged his car to the tune of $1,000. I feel that he should con­trib­ute to the re­pairs — and he agrees — but not sure how much. He has a part-time job and makes a few hun­dred dol­lars a month. How do you sug­gest han­dling the sit­u­a­tion?

Jon­nelle Marte: Good call on re­quir­ing him to pitch in for the pay­ments. Maybe he can pay the money to you over the course of the year — say, $50 or $100 a month un­til it is paid off. That will still give him some spend­ing money but also re­mind him that these things come at a cost.

My hus­band has ter­mi­nal can­cer. We have one child and a sig­nif­i­cant amount of an in­her­i­tance (low six fig­ures). Would you rec­om­mend spend­ing some of it now so we can cre­ate mem­o­ries as a fam­ily or keep sav­ing it, as our in­come will go down af­ter he passes away and I raise our kid alone?

Michelle Singletary: I’m so sorry about your sit­u­a­tion. With­out know­ing more about your ex­penses, I can’t tell you how much to splurge, but I would nonethe­less do some things to en­joy what life your hus­band has left. So if he wants to take a trip to the beach, go — if you can af­ford it. Doesn’t sound like you want to be reck­less, so en­joy the time you have left.

My par­ents give fi­nan­cial gifts to my two sis­ters. I make more than they do, which is my par­ents’ rea­son­ing for the un­equal treat­ment. The rea­son this both­ers me is that my sis­ters con­stantly have new clothes, bags, etc. I make a lot of money, but my wife and I save ev­ery bit we can. My wife doesn’t have new clothes. It is frus­trat­ing that my par­ents’ money is al­low­ing my sis­ters to live this lifestyle. It also both­ers me be­cause I worked hard (and planned well) to get where I am to­day. So why should my sis­ters be re­warded for get­ting medi­ocre jobs? I know I have to deal with this for many years to come, so how do I not let this af­fect my re­la­tion­ship with my par­ents and sis­ters?

Marte: It’s com­mon for money to be a source of ten­sion be­tween par­ents and chil­dren or among sib­lings. But I would try not to get caught up in the com­par­i­son. It sounds like you don’t need as much as­sis­tance, which is great. If you and your wife are for­go­ing some nice things now so that you can save more, that sounds like good news to me. You’ll have more money for travel, shop­ping and in­vest­ing later!

Singletary: Life isn’t fair. Say that three times. Se­ri­ously.

I to­tally get that you are frus­trated and mad. You do all the right things, and you don’t get ex­tra. They ap­pear to be spendthrifts and get more.

But step back and think about it. You save. You have a spouse who saves. You un­der­stand de­layed grat­i­fi­ca­tion. All things that will serve you well.

But also keep in mind that your path is your path. You talk about their “medi­ocre jobs.” What does that mean? Maybe they don’t want to work in a job that re­quires hours that eat into their per­sonal time. Or maybe in their eyes, their jobs are good. When you make more, you tend to work longer hours — hours that aren’t spent with fam­ily. Per­haps that’s not the choice they wanted to make.

Your re­ward for do­ing well is, well, do­ing well. Take your eyes off of what they are get­ting and do­ing and be grate­ful for what you have.

And one fi­nal thing: Isn’t this re­ally about en­ti­tle­ment? On your part? It is, af­ter all, your par­ents’ money to do with what they like. Maybe your sis­ters aren’t beg­ging for them to bail them out or give them money. Maybe you are right and your par­ents are look­ing at you think­ing, “He’s got this, so let’s help the other kids.”

No­body is en­ti­tled to your par­ents’ money. Not your sis­ters. Not you.

Write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or sin­gle­tarym@wash­post.com. Com­ments may be used in a fu­ture col­umn, with the writer’s name, un­less oth­er­wise re­quested. To read more, go to wapo.st/michellesin­gle­tary.

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