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My son is 23 years old and lives at home. My fiance recently has moved in with us. I must admit, that I have not been very good at teaching my son how to handle his money and my fiance has a very strong opinion on how he should handle his money. She tells me that she does not care how I deal with my son on money issues, but the truth is that she does and she is very quick to criticize my parenting on such issues. On the other side,my son, because he is not used to having rules set regarding his money, resists my attempts to get him to save more and spend less. So as you can see, I am constantly caught in the middle, between my fiance's critical opinions and my sons resistance. I am so stressed out about this. What should I do?


Jim Taylor, Ph.D. Replied: A few thoughts. As to your son, it is never too late—and long overdue—to teach fiscal responsibility. If he is living at home and, I assume, living off of your parental generosity (Is he working? Is he paying rent?, Does he have responsibilities around the house, e.g., chores?, Are you paying for his necessities?, Are you paying for his entertainment? Are you giving him a free ride?!?!?), you have the right and responsibility to establish reasonable expectations and consequences related to money. If he is unwilling to accept your strictures, then he is welcome to seek other living arrangements (more than a little tough love is needed here!). In other words, if he is unwilling to do so on his own, you need to force him to grow up! As for your fiance, you need to clarify the role that she will play in your son's life (she is not his mother). You should set some limits with her by explaining what is appropriate feedback and what is not. You should certainly listen to her if she has something constructive to say. At the same time, you should not allow her to just criticize your parenting. Backseat driving and armchair quarterbacking is easy, but doing the real work of parenting is hard (sounds like you need to do more of it). You should also ensure that your son doesn't feel like your fiance is running the show now. Presumably you want them to have a good relationship and giving the impression that your fiance is responsible for making his life harder will not help that cause. In sum, you need to stand up to both your son and your fiance and ensure that you are doing what is best for all three of you.
Posted On 2009-03-02 20:43:04
Dr. Tom Greenspon Replied: It sounds like there are two issues in the situation you describe. On the one hand, your adult son is living with you and apparently lacking the knowledge, or the sense of responsibly, to handle his money in a reasonable fashion. On the other hand, your fiancee is critical of your son's financial business and of your way of handling that.

Both of these issues will need attention; otherwise you will be stuck between a son you are powerless to change and a fiance who is critical and unhelpful.

I would suggest two conversations, each of which will need time, thoughtfulness, and probably more than one sitting. Your son is indeed an adult, and it is up to him to decide how to spend what money he has. I will assume he is earning an income and not living off of yours; I will also assume that he is cooperating in the running of the house, and that he understands that your fiancee is moving into your life but that you still care about him. Talk with him about the fact that you do not want a prolonged battle with him, that if he would like some financial advice, you are ready to help, but that otherwise it is his affair. Then, let him be in charge of his financial life.

Next, talk to your fiancee. Tell her that you respect her opinions, and that you agree with her in many ways, but that you feel criticized by her on the issue of your son's handling of his finances. Say that she might do things differently, but that you have decided to leave him on his own with that, unless he asks for your help (or hers), and that you hope this will not come between you. You might ask how she feels about all of this, and whether she will be OK with it. These conversations will take courage on your part, but they may be vital to the making of a closer relationship between three adult family members.
Posted On 2009-03-01 08:53:51
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