Angry Sis-in- Law

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My sister-in- law is a leech. She’s never once even reached for a check
when we go out. She inherited all there was from my husband’s
grandfather. His parents support her regularly with big gifts to
subsidize her alimony from her ex. We get nothing because we both
work, and because my husband is a man and supposed to support his
family. She called yesterday asking if he would co-sign the loan papers
for my nephew’s private school tuition. He’s “too sensitive” to go to
public school. She got laid off from her job as a teacher. She’s “too
used to summers off” to take a regular M-5, 9-5 job, even though any
idiot can tell that teachers are an endangered species. My husband is a
softie. I just want to say no. How do you rule?

Angry Sis-in- Law

Dear Angry:

There’s no point being angry. You married into a dysfunctional family,
and my guess is that unequal treatment around money is the tip of the
iceberg. There’s not much you can do about your parents-in- law.
Unless you divorce your husband you have lots more inequity to look
forward to. So this is a great opportunity to work on your marriage
and decide what limits you’re going to set for your sister-in- law. She
may be entitled and setting unreasonable expectations in her children
She may legitimately need more than she has. But you do not have to
subsidize you’re her family any more than you and your husband
agree to.

Have a family meeting. Agree on an annual budget for the sister-in-
law and her children. It can be $100, $1,000, $10,000, whatever you
want and can afford without bitterness in your own home. Then
communicate that to her, preferably through your husband. Explain
that though you both work you have a mortgage, retirement etc of
your own. Say you wish her well, do not begrudge the inheritance she
got that your husband did not (even if that’s a fib) but that you cannot
take on legal responsibility for her family’s lifestyle choices. Say you
have a budget for gifts and emergencies but not for school or other
major expenses. Suggest she consult a financial adviser, but that
cannot be your role. She’ll be angry. She’ll ask again. But eventually
she’ll get the message if you do not equivocate too much.