Pressure From the In-Laws

Michael is getting pressure from his in-laws to co-sign a line of credit. Dave warns Michael that this is going to be an uncomfortable situation.

QUESTION: Michael in Baton Rouge is getting pressure from his in-laws to co-sign a line of credit that would provide some money to keep his mother-in-law in her home. They would sell the house upon her death, and if they don’t recoup the money, they would each be responsible for a portion. Dave warns Michael that this is going to be an uncomfortable situation for him, but he’s right.

ANSWER: The fact that you don’t believe in co-signing or going into debt does not diminish your love for your mother-in-law. You don’t have to prove your love for someone by doing something that you don’t believe in. It’s going to be very emotional because you’re going to be the one person who stands in the road and says the emperor has no clothes.

This is a really stupid plan that your brother-in-law has. It’s really stupid. It’s going to cause problems and unintended consequences that he does not have a grasp on. I have coached so many families through these kinds of things who aren’t even speaking when this kind of crap’s done.

Let me tell you what’s going to happen. As soon as you guys do this, one of the three is going to lose their job, and a month later, the other one’s going to get sick—out of the four. Two of you are going to end up paying the whole thing. There are no separate loans on this. It’s joint and several. If the other three walk away, you get to pay the whole freaking thing.

None of you have the money to write the checks. The money is gone because Mom and Dad didn’t save enough for their care. At 91, she’s going to have to make other living arrangements. If no one had any credit or if it was just you left standing and everybody was broke, that’s what you’d have to do. We’re not borrowing our way into one mess to cover up for another mess.

I don’t think this has to do with you. You need to be careful with that. You’re going to have a problem with your marriage. This is you sitting down with your wife and saying, “Honey, this is not good for your family. It’s not good for your mom because it’s going to cause problems.” You people don’t get along already. Wait until one of you doesn’t pay a bill. Co-signing is a disaster looking for a place to happen. I wouldn’t couch it back on, “Hey, we just got out. I don’t want to go back in.” That makes you sound selfish. I would couch it on the idea that this is a stupid idea that’s got disaster sewn into the very DNA of it. It’s not good for anybody involved here. It’s a very sad situation.

I would propose one of two courses of action that we are willing to participate in. One is we would be willing to write a check for $X a month to help support Mom. Period. We’d just be willing to give money into a system that we are speaking into and things are being managed well. As long as it’s being managed well, we would be willing to pay $X toward Mom’s care. Or B, let’s sell the house and admit where we are, which is actually the better choice.

There is no chance I’m co-signing. You just be kind and calm and stand your ground. Don’t you dare get in this mess. You’re going to get fishhooks in your lips, in your ears, you’re going to get stuck in the butt, and you’re going to look like a pincushion, man, by the time they’re done with you. You do not get in this. That is not an indication of you or your wife’s lack of love, and when this dysfunctional family tries that routine, you just smile at them and say, “Well, honey, that’s not how it works. My love is not based on my money going to you.” When you have to purchase love, that is not a relationship.

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