Author Topic: Mustachian dilemmas: what do we do about the lazy non-mustachian relatives?  (Read 5300 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Dear Mustachians,
My apologies for the long post! Thank you in advance for your responses and thoughts on this issue.

My husband and I live frugal lives and while we probably wonít retire super early (due to low academic incomes and years in graduate school), we will, I think, retire well and a bit earlier than most Americans.  The problem that we are facing is my husbandís twin brother: His work record has always been extremely spotty (with many periods out of work for several months in a row) and in the very low-income range. He stopped working altogether when my mother-in-law (who is in her 90s) decided a couple of years ago to give $1000 a month as an early inheritance to each of her children.  He is in his early 50s with no savings, no property, no IRAs, and probably a lot of debts (and heís basically using all his inheritance money now; his social security retirement pension will probably be really low). He is very secretive about money but we are guessing that his credit card debt is probably huge considering that he is renting a $700 apartment in Austin and that his lifestyle is not frugal (he eats out, buys clothes and shoes regularly, goes to the movie theater and buys sport tickets fairly often). We have tried on a few occasions to talk him into going back to work, but to no avail (he gets defensive or silent).
I just donít see how he will be able to have enough to survive financially during his old age and I think he might really end up living under a bridge. I am worried that one day he will come to us and asks us for money (or that we will feel too sorry for him not to help). I personally donít want to give any of the money I worked really hard to earn and save for my childrenís future and my own. I might me selfish but I donít want to help a lazy (healthy and educated) person who basically watches TV all day and buys himself new clothes while my husband and I work long hours, hardly ever eat out, and wear old faded clothes, etc.

I would like to know how other fellow Mustachians deal with this sort of situation.
 Are Mustachians obligated to help non-Mustachian relatives? Or do we watch them live and die under the bridge without ever sending a check? If the non-mustachian relative becomes really destitute and we feel too sorry to watch without helping, how much do we help? $200 a month would not be enough, but really how much should you help an undeserving person? On the other hand, can a brother morally not help his brother? What do we do as a couple if one spouse wants to help and not the other? Or if they disagree over how much they should help? 

I would appreciate any of your thoughts or suggestions. Thank you in advance.


  • Stubble
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Tricky ... a few thoughts based on our marital discussions about a middle-aged mentally challenged relative who from time to time almost winds up on the street...

I feel that government/social aid organizations are better equipped to deal with helping people. They have experience in helping with true needs (trying to avoid abuse of the money), and can do it dispassionately.

We have taken the approach of trying to help (as little as possible) only in crisis.

We set aside a small amount in the budget under the category "Transfer" -- anything where we give money to someone else.  Using a program like YNAB it is easy to see all categories at once and it helps to decide the amount relative to other spending/saving, and you and your spouse do this together.  You can watch the amount build up over the months and have a sense of what you can contribute if needed based on the current balance. The relative of course must never know about this allocated money. When pressed always make an excuse for why you are tight on cash.

Other people have responsibility for their own lives, and the way they live, or the bridge they live under is part of that.  It is really a great respect to the person to realize that you can't tell them how to live or try to get them to live differently.

Frankies Girl

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Have you discussed with your husband about how you feel (that you don't want to support a lazy relative)?

If you're both on the same page regarding what help - if any - is going to be offered in the event of a family member needing assistance from you, then you just go forward based off of that mutual decision. If you haven't discussed and have a basic idea of what both of you are comfortable with, then you need to do so.

If your BIL ends up having to live under a bridge because he spent all of his money... I'm pretty sure that he'd choose to get a damn job before that happens, as long as there is no easier way to avoid it.

I don't believe that helping out (money) is obligatory. If you want to help out, great, but you aren't being forced to. There are plenty of programs and jobs out there even at minimum wage, and in the event that your BIL runs through whatever money he gets from his mother and can't pay his bills, then he has two choices - get a job or hit up relatives to support him - and that one should be an easy "no."

The decision might be different regarding emergency situations, but when there is a clear choice for them to work their own way out, then it shouldn't be an issue.


  • Bristles
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Keep in mind that at this time there is no problem.  Your BIL hasn't asked you for anything. 


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Yes, he hasn't asked for anything but he's such a financial mess that I am worried about what will happen once his mother dies (she is in her 90s) or when he's in his 60s with a completely empty CV or he's too old to work. I think the big financial disaster and moral dilemma will be coming for sure at some point and I am already brainstorming to basically see how we should deal with it. 
But I agree with previous posts that he is an adult and that he is the one who should decide what he wants to do with his life and how he wants to prepare for his old days. I just wish he went back to work!!!


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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I'm in a similar position. My aunt is in her 70s now. She spent all of her life sponging off my grandparents, and after they had died lived off their money for a while. I have not been as frugal as I could have been, but I've also never felt entitled to own designer clothes or antique furniture. My aunt seems to feel she needs these things and also rents a very expensive apartment in an upscale part of town. She can't afford any of it. She is living on the basic government pension. She has credit card debt and now is limiting the amount of food she buys to save money. She is still buying clothes that she can't even wear because they're "good deals". I was worried about how much support I will feel obligated to provide for her. However I looked online and it seems that this kind of behavior is symptomatic of Alzheimers. Ironically this means that she will be able to get help. She has a daughter who is as bad with money, deeply in debt and won't speak to her. She is the last of her generation so no brothers or sisters to mooch off. Your brother in law may have mental health problems of some kind (I'm sure my aunt has always had problems) and it will become more evident with time. I would keep a healthy distance and decide what it is reasonable to pay for. I paid for my aunt's prescriptions after she had a surgery. It is easier for me because although I have a good job I am a single parent so I can always pay the poor card. She isn't clever enough to figure out that I am not poor. Even though the problems are obvious you can't force an adult to get help that they don't want, unless they start to lose their ability to care for themselves. I bet your brother in law is very good at looking out for his own interests, although it isn't how you and your husband take care of your family.

Paul der Krake

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It sounds like your BIL is just one health crisis from a good wake up call... just kidding, if it hasn't happened now that he's in his fifties, it will probably never happen.

The best you can do is try and come up with ways you can help in non-monetary ways when the inevitable happens.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Yes, a good wake-up call is what he needs. But so far, his parents have always been able to come to his rescue whenever he needed money. So he's always had an easy life.
I also agree with the previous post about mental illness. Several relatives tried to suggest he sees a therapist or psychologist to help him figure out what is going on. But he gets defensive whenever someone mentions it (his mother even offered to pay for the cost of therapy). I think that everything has always been given to him on a platter (he comes from a fairly affluent family) and somehow it has messed up his brain or at least his sense of reality!


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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I've always thought that if this happened to me, I'd rent a room in their name in an inexpensive apartment in an inexpensive town, and give them a weekly stipend on a grocery card. Maybe a bus pass. That way they can take care of their basic needs, if they choose to. Not much else you can do, really. :(


  • Stubble
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Hello and welcome to the forums.

I actually quite like Suze Orman's recommendations on this topic.  On one of her podcasts earlier this year, she addressed it specifically for a child who was worried about her mother's irresponsible spending.

Basically, it means one uncomfortable conversation setting the expectation now.  As this is your H's relative, it would be your H to have this conversation, in person.

"Bob, ther's an important topic we need to discuss today.  In the past, when we have discussed personal finances, it has been a bit uncomfortable, however there are two things I would like to share with you.

First, you are my brother, I love you, and I am willing to help you out now with any planning or budgeting to help you get on stable financial ground.  According to (pick your favorite credible source) men our age should have $xxx,xxx to fund our retirement until yyy.  Not aking you to share what your situation is, however if you want help planning to get in a great place financially, I am here to help.  If you are in a stronger place than I realize that is awesome.  However, I worry sbout you, bud.

Second, Bob, I will not be in a situation to help you out in the future, by giving you money or paying for things.  I completely realize you have not asked for help.  However, it is important that you know this."

You can work on the scripting to make it your own, but this has to be addressed.  Rinse and repeat as money topics come up.


  • Stubble
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Given that this BIL has the "silver platter" syndrome, I would even more strongly suggest addressing this poractively.

Those that have just been given things all their life (Millionaire Next Door) have their head on a swivel when their gravy train runs out....who is the next logical gravy train conductor?  Oh, yes, my bro has a pretty nice life, he'll help me out.

You can not force people to change, but what you can do is share with them how you are availalbe to support them.  And set expectations for what he might not do.

I, too, had a family member like this, and it only stopped when the gravy train went away and he got a large inheritance.  With the large inheritance, this family member realized there is no more gravy to be had.  The large inheratance was spent buying a reasonable condo in cash, which ended a life-long cycle of renting / mortgages.  Good luck.

Gray Matter

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You've gotten good advice here...decide and communicate in advance how you will handle it.  Perhaps even do some scenario planning, thinking through what you would do in several progressively-worse scenarios. 

In addition, I will echo what some have mentioned about mental illness.  I have a philosophy that people generally do the best they can at any given time.  I purposely adopted this philosophy because questioning or judging others' decisions (which I spent much of my life doing) didn't feel very good to me.  I would find myself resentful and angry at other people's choices, especially if they had the potential to impact me and I had no power to change them. 

This new philosophy feels much better, and honestly, it makes more sense to me as well.  It was perplexing to me why some people continued to make decisions that were not in their best interest, but now I just tell myself they are doing the best they can, and some people are just not as able to delay gratification, think through long-term results of their actions, understand their impact on other people, hold it together, admit they have issues, or get help.  (That doesn't mean something can't happen to change things, but it does mean there is probably nothing you can do to change things.) 

I hope the above doesn't sound sanctimonious. The thing I like best about this approach is that it doesn't have to change any of my decisions or turn me into my brother's keeper; it simply allows me to release some frustration/resentment and explore all options dispassionately.  There is a wide range of legitimate options here, from "sorry, I'm not going down with you, you're on your own" to "you'll always have a roof over your head and food in your belly" and all kinds of things in between.

Good luck with this--these are hard things and they can be made harder if you and your husband are not on the same page


  • Handlebar Stache
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Has your husband talked to his mother about this, particularly that the gifts may be hurting him in the long run?  Do you know what she plans to do with any remaining funds?  (If give to the twins, perhaps he can suggest a trust for his brother that limits the spending.)


  • Magnum Stache
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For those who live super-mustache an lives, do you think family members worry the same thing about you? 
I sort of hope some in my family would think this of me, but I am far too spendy in my ways still.

Pinkie Mustache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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We have a SIL who isn't in the same situation, but needs financial assistance sporadically.  Without getting into details, she does receive state support.  When we have given to her - and its been through my MIL - we do one of two things: we set an amount and then purchase the actual food/clothing that is needed OR we purchase a gift card that is good for the grocery store or similar.  We also only give when she isn't doing several of a choice list of really irresponsible things.  This way, we don't worry that the cash we're giving will be wasted.  There is an idea that the first charity starts at home/with family.  I don't know how I feel about that, but it's a philosophy you might want to ponder.