Q. My father has been living with my fiance and me for almost two years. The idea was that he would find his own place as soon as he could. We never asked him for anything except to tinker around and fix things at our place.
My fiance is starting a business and money has become tight. I don’t make much myself. My father works full time and makes the same money as I do.
Now, it’s a year and a half later, and my dad has half-finished projects around our property. He lent a “friend” more than $15,000 and never got it back, and now is in a worse financial position than before. We have been asking him to help out by paying a small rent to help with bills, but he doesn’t.
He says he has so much debt it will take him years to pay it off and that if he wasn’t living with us, he would be sleeping in his truck. He currently has a car payment and a phone bill, besides whatever he pays toward the mountain of debt he’s accumulated.
My dad was always a good provider and it makes me queasy to even ask him to contribute, but I wonder where his mistakes leave us. What would be the best thing to do?
A. Your father is a good provider. He provided a friend with $15,000, for instance, instead of paying for his housing.
It is possible that your father didn’t loan this friend money, but was repaying a debt — regardless, it is obvious that his finances are a mess. (If he is leaving projects half-finished, he could have other problems as well.)
He should see a credit counselor immediately to try to get on track. Your local social services office or Office on Aging may offer no-fee financial counseling. Your father might be advised to declare bankruptcy in order to give himself something of a fresh start. He needs to adhere to a strict budget.
Being more transparent about all of this would be good for everyone. It might be best for him to at least temporarily turn his paycheck over to you (or another responsible party) so you can pay yourself the rent he owes, negotiate his debts down and do triage with his other bills, and give him an allowance. However, any fix will be temporary unless he makes some real changes.
Q. I started driving this summer. My parents returned from a trip, furious to find a scratch on my car.
I am an extremely cautious driver, and I would have notified my parents immediately if I had hit another vehicle. Additionally, both my parents still drive this car, so it just as easily could’ve been their fault.
My parents are expecting me to make a huge confession. I have nothing to confess. I feel stuck because I don’t want to confess to something I didn’t do.
How do I solve this?
A. Don’t confess to something you didn’t do, but you should definitely “confess” to something — this will enable everyone to move on to the next phase of the parent freakout: lecturing, followed by consequences of some kind, followed by “forgiveness” and moving on.
You can truthfully say, “I do not know what happened here, but I know it happened while I had the car, and I know the car is my responsibility when I’m driving it.”
The fact is: Stuff happens.
Please know this: Your folks may seem overly worried about this hunk of metal, but what they are really worried about is what that hunk of metal contains: you.Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.