‘My daughter has been chiding me for frivolously spending her inheritance. Now she won’t speak to me’

Dear Moneyist,

My husband and I have five children: two are mine from a previous marriage and three are his. We raised all the children together and they refer to each other as siblings. I consider them all my children. They are all now in their 50s.

My husband passed away three years ago. I am relatively healthy for my age, financially secure, and have full mental capacity. Lately, one of my daughters (let’s call her Jill) has been chiding me for frivolously spending her inheritance and her siblings’ inheritance. I think none of this is any of her business and, sadly, told her so to her face. Now she won’t speak to me.

Our most heated discussion to date stemmed from her asking me how her sister, Brenda, could afford to send her children to science camp this summer. I explained I was paying for camp because I thought it was a good opportunity for my grandchildren and will be a nice break for my daughter and son-in-law. Brenda is a full-time mom, working part time from home. They both made decisions based on their personalities and lifestyles.

Also see: I discovered through Ancestry.com that my biological father is someone else — can I claim an inheritance as his heir?

Our previous confrontation regarded our physically disabled son who is no longer able to work at his chosen career. He works less hours now and at a lower pay. Jill wants me to stop enabling him to work from home. She thinks he should be looking for a better paying job.

I do not have many expenses other than my occasional travel with friends. I have Medicare, supplemented through Tricare for Life, and paid up long-term care insurance. My financial adviser assures me that if I live within my current budget (which includes these “frivolous” items) I’ll still have over $1 million in savings at age 100.

What can I do to build bridges with my daughter, Jill, and also make her understand that I take care of my own financial affairs?


Dear Marjorie,

Brava! You appear to have done a pretty good job already.

Usually, tense moments such as the one you described with your daughter don’t occur in a vacuum. If your daughter was not upset about how you choose to spend your money, she would likely be concerned about something else. In other words, her belief that she may be left behind in some way or overlooked is probably rooted in deeper resentments that even she may not even be aware of.

Also see:We’re in a happier place now!’ My husband wrote a secret will when our marriage was rocky — should I now write one too?

Invite her to lunch. Tell her that you know she is coming from a good place and her intentions were good, even if you feel like some of those intentions were based on her own self-interest. Sometimes, it’s nice to write a card, put a stamp on it, go to the post office, and mail it in person, because it shows that you care enough to put time and thought into such a gesture. Keep it short.

You could also call a family meeting to inform your children of your plans for your retirement and say how you appreciate everyone wants to make sure you are both solvent and have long-term care plans in place. You are under no obligation to tell your children how much they might inherit upon your passing. Of course, you can’t spend someone’s inheritance. It’s your money, no one else’s.

During my 40-odd years on this planet, I have discovered that I don’t always need to point out when I feel others have done me wrong, as tempting as that can be. And it is! I try to say what I need to do for me and how a comment or behavior might make me feel, and acknowledge there is not ill-intent. “I know you’re trying to help, but these are decisions I prefer to make. I appreciate you care.”

Recommended: ‘What did he do with all the money?’ My dying husband cashed his $700K life insurance and emptied his bank accounts

None of us chooses our words wisely all the time, but we can acknowledge when we might have done a better job. Your daughter’s behavior is hers to own, and you can only show her where your boundaries are if/when she attempts to cross that line again. Pull out a tried and tested stock phrase from your financial boundary tool box, change the subject, and leave it at that.

Please let me know how you get on. Have a great year ahead.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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Valuable lessons I have learned about growing old, from my favorite books

Writers have striven to survey the landscape of old age since Shakespeare wrote King Lear. But the Bard’s iconic image of the dying and raging patriarch is hardly a contemporary portrait. Today, when writers, like all of us, are living and working into extra innings, a new literature is emerging to describe how life post-50 is a different beast than it was in our grandparents’ day.

Novels, memoirs and essays are charting a far more nuanced life-stage — full of intense emotion, surely, but also surprising second acts, unexpected love affairs, unforeseen adventures and more chances to become our most authentic selves.

Read on for five nuggets of wisdom about getting older from my favorite books:

1. Turn a ‘Senior moment’ into a Google moment. With her 2006 classic, “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” written when she was 65, Nora Ephron became the patron saint of the dare-to-bare genre, giving a generation of women permission to embrace their sagging skin.

In her follow-up, four years later, “I Remember Nothing,” she freely listed all the people for whom memory didn’t serve (she couldn’t remember Ethel Merman, Jimmy Stewart or Alger Hiss, for example), as well as good old whatshername who once came running toward her in Las Vegas, arms outstretched. Well, that one turned out to be her sister Amy.

Technology wouldn’t work identifying Amy, but Ephron consoled herself knowing that when she forgot many things, she could whip out her phone.

“The Senior moment has become the Google moment,” she wrote, “and it has a much nicer, hipper, younger, more contemporary sound, doesn’t it?”

2. Embrace pleasure where you find it. The British literary editor Diana Athill spent 50 years steering luminaries from Simone de Beauvoir to Margaret Atwood. She didn’t start writing herself until she was past 40 and then began probing her own colorful life in a series of confessional memoirs.

Also read: The secret of aging—and how to slow it down

In her last two, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning “Somewhere Towards the End,” published in 2008 when she was 91, and seven years later, “Alive, Alive Oh!,” she enthusiastically aired her private linen.

Athill never married, but had a series of long (and short) affairs. The last liaison she writes about happened “on the frontier between late middle age and being old.” Her lover was a Caribbean man named Sam. Not having too much else in common, she admits, they did little else but have a pleasant supper and cavort in bed. His desire for her kept her interested for seven years and is likely to keep readers interested — and perhaps inspired — as well.

3. Now’s the time to be bold. When the doyenne of American food writers, M.F.K. Fisher, was 63 and already living with Parkinson’s disease and failing eyesight, she moved into a small, but perfectly fitting, house on a grand estate in Sonoma, Calif. She called it “Last House” and she lived there for another 21 years, remaining enviably productive and churning out books till the end. Among them was “Sister Age,” her own slyly witty stories about getting older that predate the other ones here by three decades.

Fisher copped to the indignities of getting older — the physical miseries and wobbling lack of balance — but confessed to an upside that gives me nothing but encouragement.

“I am much less involved with what are called the social amenities,” she wrote to a friend at 79. “If I want to excuse myself from almost any company I feel quite free to do so. And sometimes I feel impatient with the hedging and the hum-hawing that can so often go on about unimportant problems, and it is really a pleasure to simply cut them short…many people are affronted by it, no matter how discreetly and nicely it is done. Too bad.”

Years before the feminist meme, Fisher earned the right to be a “nasty woman,” and she wore it proudly.

4. A whole world awaits out the window. The last two of New Hampshire poet laureate Donald Hall’s 50 books were wry essay collections about old, old age: “Essays At 80” and “Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety,” published shortly before his death last year at 89.

“Out the Window,” the signature essay of the earlier collection, eloquently described Hall’s “chair life.” No longer driving or even walking unassisted, he spent hours in his blue chair staring outside at the seasons, plants, birds and ever-changing landscape.

Also on MarketWatch: Planning to sell your house to fund your retirement? Think again

“Generation after generation, my family’s old people sat at this window to watch the year,” he wrote about the worn, beloved farmhouse he inherited. But rather than bemoaning his fate and his “diminishments,” Hall showed how his meditation deepened his appreciation for life.

5. We carry our dead along the road with us. Celebrated New Yorker writer Roger Angell was famous for writing about sports as both game and metaphor. For 35 years, he also wrote the magazine’s holiday poem, “Greetings, Friends,” in which he saluted and rhymed the year’s boldface names.

In his award-winning essay, “This Old Man,” written at 93 and the centerpiece of his 2015 collection, “All in Pieces,” Angell reports back from the frontier of the oldest old. “Holy s**t — he’s still vertical!” he imagines people thinking when they see him.

For Angell now, the dead are almost beyond counting — his parents, his wife, one of his daughters and a parade of relatives, friends and fellow writers whose names he shares with almost the same verve he put into his end-of-year greetings. “Why do they sustain me so, cheer me up, remind me of life?” he wonders.

Although Angell can’t really explain the paradox, he takes deep comfort from his companions of memory. His beloved dead walk by his side just as surely as his friends who are still alive.

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