Dear Annie: My older sister, “Johanna,” was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer two years ago. Since then, she seems to have one new “lifelong dream” after another that she expects my brother and me to finance.
My brother has worked hard his entire life and saved his money. He tried helping Johanna with her first dream (a house) with a loan. Her husband initially told Johanna that my brother refused to help, and Johanna told him to “die a miserable death.” She lightened up when she found out the truth. When the bank didn’t approve the deal, she did repay most of the money. I’ve tried to help her, too, but I could not afford to keep giving her money.
Johanna’s latest dream is a hobby farm. She asked my brother to give her $18,000 as an outright gift. He told her no. Johanna stopped speaking to both of us, even though I have no control over what my brother does.
Here’s the real problem. Her husband recently asked both of us for money and, as always, made sure to mention that she might die any moment. They have both used her possible death to guilt us into giving her money. Annie, I love my sister, but it doesn’t seem right that they use this as a weapon against us. It also bothers me that Johanna stops speaking to us if we deny her.
None of us is wealthy. If I had the cash, I’d give it to her. But I also understand my brother’s point of view. Another sibling took him for a lot of money many years ago, running up thousands of dollars in credit card debt. There is a good possibility that nothing will come of this hobby farm, and we’d all be out a lot of money, and for what? We aren’t young anymore. What do you advise?
— Torn Sister
Dear Torn: It’s obvious that you want to be a good sister to Johanna. When someone is having health problems, you should be supportive emotionally, offer to cook meals or help with errands. But there is no obligation to buy them a hobby farm or any other expensive slice of wish fulfillment. Johanna is using her illness to manipulate you, counting on your guilt to get what she wants. Too bad she cannot appreciate what you are already giving her: your love and caring.
Dear Annie: My family is planning a surprise party for my mom’s big birthday. One sibling lives far away, but he has frequent-flier miles and can fly free. Plus, he has friends in the area with whom to stay. The others all live nearby. However, it will cost me more than $2,000 to attend (airfare, hotel and car rental). I also am not eligible for vacation and will be docked pay for the days I miss.
I want very much to attend, but my siblings have rented a venue for the party and are hiring caterers, arranging valet parking, etc. I am afraid I will not be able to afford it all. Any suggestions?
— Not Rich Kid Sis
Dear Not Rich: Please don’t wait until your siblings send you a bill. Any costs that are expected to be shared should be discussed in advance and agreed to by all parties. Call your siblings and explain your dilemma. Ask what they expect from you, and tell them what you can afford. Work it out now so there are no hard feelings down the road.
Dear Annie: “Disgusted” said that a charitable organization had sent him various free items, including a check for $2.50.
Anyone who receives an unsolicited check in the mail should read the endorsement area carefully. By signing and cashing the “free” check, you may be entering into an agreement to buy or invest in something in which you have no interest, and it will cost much more than you think.
— Ed in Florida
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