About 10 years ago, my sister decided to become a full-time actress in our home city and do other jobs on the side to supplement her income. One bonus is that her schedule usually allows her to help our aging parents.
The downside is that her income is not consistent and when her husband was out of work for a few months, finances got tight. On a recent visit home, my father mentioned to me that he was considering funding an annuity so my sister would have something for retirement.
I’ve always accepted that my sister would likely inherit more than me as a means of thanking her for taking care of our parents. I live five hours away, so I can’t help out as often. And I acknowledge that my parents can do whatever they wish with their money.
However, I am hurt that in the same conversation about providing for my sister, setting aside a bit of money for their granddaughters’ future education wasn’t mentioned.
I want to be supportive of my sister’s choice of career, but if it’s barely paying the bills and unlikely to fund retirement, I think she needs to make other decisions.
I’d love to pursue my own artistic career, but in the next few years will likely have to return to a full-time career to help with our family’s finances.
How can I broach this delicate subject with my parents and sister — or should I just mind my own finances?
— The Not-So-Prodigal Daughter
Daughter: You should not weigh in on your sister’s career choices.
After thanking her for minding your folks and acknowledging how hard-working she is, you should absolutely stay out of this.
If you would like your father to help fund your daughters’ educations, you should ask him about it, and not link this issue to anything having to do with your sister.
Dear Amy: You published a letter from “Mean Mom,” who had become aware that she was often losing her temper with her child.
Years ago, my grandson told me, angrily, that I yelled at him all the time.
Although some of my frustrated scolding/yelling was probably justified, I wanted to stop useless yelling.
I created my own “Anger Management Plan.”
Each time I raised my voice in anger to anyone (my husband included), I set aside $5 for the church collection plate. (Only cash, so no tax deduction.)
It took a while for me to stop my scolding, but it worked. The idea of an immediate consequence worked for me.
My family teased me about it, and my priest loved the idea.
Perhaps it would work for “Mean Mom.”
Shelly: I love the idea of “gamifying” bad habits as a way to break them.
I recently did something similar, as a birthday gift to my cousin. I told her I would donate to her preferred charity every time I used a profanity. (Yes, I have something of a potty mouth.)
This year for her birthday, I presented her with a receipt for a (sadly, fairly sizable) sum to the charity she chose.
This has been an expensive habit to break — but this method does work.
Dear Amy: I’m writing regarding the question from “Stumped,” about how to redirect uncomfortable family conversations about politics.
When I started graduate school, one of the upperclassmen had a barbecue to welcome us first-year students. The conversation drifted to our department head and how difficult he could be sometimes. Suddenly one of my classmates blurted out: “Can we just talk about bunnies or something?”
We all burst out laughing and the conversation moved on.
So I suggest that when the conversation gets too heated, Stumped should offer a neutral subject everyone can agree on, like bunnies or something.
Melissa: I love this anecdote and applaud your optimism that everyone can agree about bunnies.
©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency