A Problem Like Maria

We all have our crosses to bear, mine is an in-law problem named Maria.

My wife is a lovely, intelligent, emotionally balanced, funny, kind woman, her older sister is a train-wreck. Since their parents are both deceased, Maria has become my wife’s family problem and therefore my in-law problem.

Maria chose to divorce her husband because [insert no good reasons here].

She also blew through her entire inheritance from 2008 in about 3 years with nothing to show for it besides a lot of framed artwork involving cats. She traded in a perfectly good paid off PT Cruiser for a 1983 Jaguar. Of course, that broke down immediately and had to be shit canned less than a year after acquisition.

Maria forgot to pay all of her bills and would call my wife complaining of all the things THAT WERE HAPPENING TO HER. She stayed with us for about six months until it became obvious that either she was moving out or I was moving out. For example, Grendel would refuse to identify anything she wanted for herself from the grocery store. She would simply emerge from her crypt to consume everything in the dead of night. We had to let her move into the empty parents house.

She proceeded to not do anything all day every day while the house fell down around her and she sunk further into debt.

Maria does have income, she gets $1100 of your money every month because her various ailments, both perceived and actual, prevent her from working. Now before you swear under your breath, let me share with how I feel about SSI/Disability.

It is a SMALL price to pay for having these people removed from the workforce. Think about how much you do not like your job. Now imagine the very same workplace crawling with Marias. The trade off seems to simply be a another type of tax and  well worth the money as far as I am concerned.

I am not allowed to confront Maria about any of her life choices because I make her feel bad about herself. I would actually be OK with helping if I were allowed to also vent. (Guess this post counts as venting). Alas, that is not the path the Royal We have chosen. Enough ranting. I have a point here that involves the conscious financial steps we have taken to bring this train-wreck into the station and prevent future derailments.

Kind, Clear, and Firm.

I realized that part of what was lacking in Maria’s life was her Pater Familias.

Her Mom and Dad had always helped guide her decisions. She was somewhat adrift after their loss. So we learned not to give her money in lumps. She lacked the impulse control to budget. Much like with drug addicts and gamblers, do not give the in-law problem money to pay a bill, tell them to send you the bill to pay.

We paid off her backs debts and set up a clear highway to partial responsibility. I created a joint account and set up a direct deposit from her bank to this one so that she could contribute a share of expenses at the house where she was living. I covered the rest. She agreed to consult us on any ‘big’ money decisions to be made.

From the eventual sale of the inherited house she was occupying , we all agreed we would not release her half to her in the form of a big check. We decided instead to give her a personal annuity. Every month we would add to her SSI check a stable amount so she can budget in bite sized chunks. She gets stability and I get to use all the proceeds up front. Should she wish to make a large purchase, I will pay her and simply subtract the dollar amount from her amortized balance. Lessons learned;

  1. Kind, Clear, and Firm in your dealings, they want/need your resolve.
  2. Take care of the Problem, don’t pay the Person, pay the Obligation directly.
  3. A simple series of interconnected bank accounts and direct deposits works well.
  4. I suspect that Maria is a lifelong obligation, but nowadays it is more about preventative maintenance than damage control. What are you going to do? It’s FAMILY right?

We did eventually sell my in-laws house … and got to Spend all the Money. It was awesome!

We do have an update to this post and it is actually positive.

Do You have an In-law Problem?

Revanche over at A Gai Shan Life shared her relative problem in ‘My sibling, my nightmare‘, go check it out.

11 thoughts on “A Problem Like Maria

  1. Oh my…. I’m not sure what else I can say! Maria seems freakishly similar to my BF’s ex wife. Almost 3 years since she has been on her own and I still worry when we drop the kids off (thankfully teens now) if they will have food, electric, or get to school/lessons on time. I am uncertain how these issues add up and build to an adult life but having seen it first hand I know that it happens. You and your wife have taken quite the task in managing her finances (to some extent) and I commend you for it. You’r right – that’s family! 🙂

  2. That’s similar to the problem I have with my sibling. He hasn’t been a productive member of society in years and though I have refused to give him a penny in years, he still lives off my dad who I do support. I’m dreading the day that my dad passes because at that point, I’ll have to start dealing with the trainwreck that is my sibling in a more direct way. I’d hoped we would be able to push him to be more independent earlier but without dad’s cooperation, I’d have to give up my family and probably my job to tackle him directly. For now I have to choose to actually live my life because otherwise I’d sacrifice everything and more to him. And believe me, you have a point about having to work alongside someone like him, or Maria. It’s not a pretty sight.

    • I wrote that sentence, “Now imagine the very same workplace crawling with Marias”. It haunts me at night.

  3. I agree with your steps to help… helpful but not enabling. We have not encountered awkward situations with family as of yet, but I know that doesn’t mean we are exempt! Thank you for sharing your lessons learned!

  4. Horrid – I’m dealing with a sister-in-law issue too. Don’t know how you had so much patience. I’ve decided to go my father, and my grandfather’s way.

    They both used this sentence: “Where along the line did you get the idea that I was responsible for your happiness?”

    I was a bleeding heart until my 50s and now I’m with them (apple – tree). Screw em. They drag everyone down who goes near them – they’re toxic and manipulative. Life is short and they’re ruining some of your precious time.

    That is all.

    • Large swathes of my life seem to be spent being dutiful to people who do not deserve it. Just wait and see if I ever decide to tackle my Mother issues….

  5. I’m late to the party here – she sounds like a nightmare.
    My ex’s family is very dysfunctional. The best thing I think I ever did for my kids was to get them the hell away. The boys only see them a couple of times a year –

Let's get things nice and sparkling clear