Ask Marnie: Money

by Marnie Macauley April 26, 2018


Dollar bills in glass jar on wooden table. Saving money concept.

Money! If there’s one thing that can turn some relatively sane people into penurious swine, it’s shekels, scratch, gelt. We all know who they are. The uncle, zayde, bubbe who pinches our cheeks, then will roll over you with an 18-wheeler to pinch a penny. Should David Duke be reading this, it is not a Jewish ethnotype! It’s an equal opportunity mental health condition I call pathological cheapery. I could psychobabble you into a plethora of reasons: early poverty, equating money with success, an ego that resembles Swiss Cheese. But I won’t. (OK, I lied a little.) As we age, we either get “more” or “less” of whoever we are when we’re young. Let’s look.


DEAR MARNIE: I’m a 74-year-old widower who has kept company for the last nine months with a widow in the next condo. I’ve been lonely since my wife died two years ago and Rose makes me feel alive again. We both love golf, travel and are friends with other couples in the complex. I’m very comfortable financially, and we want to make it official. The problem is my daughter, Leah. She’s 40, married, but refuses to accept Rose. It’s true Rose can be outspoken, but the final straw was when I gave her a pearl and ruby ring I bought for my late wife. Leah didn’t talk to me for a week. Marnie, my wife had nice jewelry. Why should it go to waste? Now, Leah says if I marry this “gold-digger” (Rose isn’t, she has her own money), we won’t be welcome in her life.  Any advice for a Miserable Dad in California?

MARNIE SAYS: You mean aside from sending Miss Leah lemon peels? Her blackmail’s a stinker. But, in fairness, you erred. Not by daring to live and love, but by recognizing she has a point — without letting her stick it to you. Time to sweeten things up.

Getting It!  Your Personal Strategy:

What’s feuling your maidel’s madness? She lost Mom. Upsetting enough. Now, she’s quaking over losing you — and losing stuff — to Rose.  She saw giving away her mom’s ring as a betrayal (think Benedict Arnold).

Quit giving Rose your late wife’s things. Separation of the “spouses” is more sensitive than recycling, which hints of “replacing.”  Buy retail.  (OK, wholesale, but new.)

Offer Leah her pick of Mom’s treasures.  To all my gritty readers, no, he doesn’t “have to” and no, he doesn’t “owe it.” It’s just smart and fair. Leah feels more entitled to wear Mom’s things. (So much for her point).

Before you go under the chuppah, consult an attorney. I’m very pro “nupts” and wills for those who’ve have been around a few blocks on more than a skateboard. A fair protection policy not only covers you, but (may) calm down suspicious heirs.

Speak to Leah’s fears. Establish you’ll recognize them, but won’t be held hostage by them. Tell her what you’ve done, reassure her she’s still your lemon drop and her mom is irreplaceable, but Daddy’s moving on.  She can take the giddy ride with you or stay gridlocked. Her choice. You hope she’ll give Rose a chance and vice versa.

Then grab Rose and floor it while humming “California Dreamin’.”  It’s time to catch the sun, because it’s cold where you were, and you deserve the soft warmth of a loving shoulder once again, my friend.


DEAR MARNIE: My husband and I are in our mid-fifties. We have a gifted 21-year-old son I’ll call Aaron. We’re now at a crisis point that has put our son in therapy over an old incident. As for some background, until Matt was 13 (yes, that long ago), we were doing well financially. At the time of Matt’s bar mitzvah and until he went to college on a full scholarship, whenever he received fairly large money gifts from family, we gave him part of it, and put away the rest with the understanding we would hold it for him for something special. When he was 16, my husband made some bad business choices from which we are just now recovering. Well, the “special” time has come. Matt wants to buy a new car but the money is gone. When we were facing losing our home my husband used it. We didn’t tell Matt then as he was too young, but were finally forced to admit the truth when he asked us for it recently. Matt is so enraged, he barely talks to us, and when he does, it’s a huge fight. My husband explained we never would’ve taken the money had it not been for an emergency and Matt should understand.  The more my husband explains he had to do it for the family, the worse things get and I’m caught between them. Now what?  – Mom in the Middle

MARNIE SAYS: While we’re on the subject of “middles” you and your husband get into the middle — with Matt’s permission — of one of his therapy sessions, then arrange for your own. Go! Do! Now!  Here’s why. You broke the deal with your son.  And yes.  It’s a Very Big Deal. Actually, make that Very Big Deals.

Getting It!  Your Personal Strategy:

Deals broken:

• You took his money without his knowledge. You never explained the need at the time or afterward.

• You eviscerated trust and respect, which I assume are (OK, should be) family values.

• You “stole” it and used it. Your Robin Hoodish reasoning doesn’t play outside 14th century Nottinghampshire.

• You failed to even mention possible repayment.

Don’t confuse need with M.O. or “your rights.”  He was too young, you say? Feh. He knew there were “problems.”  He didn’t need every dire detail. He did need to hear you needed his gelt and the conditions that would allow you to make it up to him! Yes, you were desperate. But healthy families cannot violate one principle (trust) for another (“taking”) and expect to survive this dastardly shell game without nuclear destruction.

Apologize to Matt. Explain you now know the difference between helping and helping yourself to his holdings – and his hopes. Revisit the crime and replay how you’d do it over.

Finally, life is a journey of change and circumstance. How we manage them tests our values and defines who we are – who we can trust – and who we can’t.

Sadly, your son found out.  Now go fix it.


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