Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should I Tell My Sister She’s an Irresponsible Twit?”

My sister is always complaining to me about her money issues. She and her husband are pregnant with their second child, live rent-free with her parents, have two brand new cars with $300 payments, and have high car insurance due to multiple wrecks on both of their records.

She gets mad at her husband because he asks her to find a job so they can have extra money and move out of her parents’ house, but she wants to be a stay-at-home mom. He works under the table at a restaurant, and he supposedly gets paid every other week but sometimes it’s only once a month. Thankfully, they get WIC and food stamps so food isn’t a problem. He gets sent home whenever it’s slow or when the restaurant needs a host (he isn’t trained for seating people). She says he needs a new job. When I ask if he has applied at grocery stores or something similar, she acts like it’s the worst job ever even though it’s a steady income vs. being a server and depending on tips.

I try to give her advice, such as to get rid of one of the cars (neither of them will get rid of his or her car because they both say, “we deserve something new”), switch to a cheaper phone company, etc. She’ll get snippy and treat me like an idiot. I understand she just wants to complain and I’m all ears, but I feel like they are both being irresponsible. She always tells me I don’t know how hard it is, yet my husband and I have lived off one income for almost three years while he was finishing school. We were down to our last 100 dollars less than three weeks ago (I freaked out thinking we couldn’t pay rent) and our card has been declined a few times for groceries. I know it’s hard.

I guess what I’m asking here is should I tell her they are both being irresponsible twits? I don’t like seeing her struggle and I want to help them, but I don’t know how. I send job postings whenever I see new ones and coupons for diapers and such. Or should I just let her complain and leave it at that? — Sister of a Struggling Twit

Leave your sister alone. She’s not asking for advice. Why are you making her issues your issues? Frankly, it sounds like you have more than enough to worry about in your own financial situation. Your credit card is declined multiple times and you freak out about how you’re going to pay rent? You don’t sound like someone who should be advising anyone else how to live a more financially responsible life. Focus on yourself, don’t give your sister unsolicited advice, and, when she starts complaining to you, change the subject or get off the phone and leave the scene. It’s not that hard.

Are you jealous that your sister is living rent-free at “her parents'” place? (I put “her parents” in quotation marks because it seems odd that you referred to your sister’s parents as her parents rather than our parents.) Do you resent that she’s getting help that you could use? That’s a valid feeling and would be worth discussing with your family. Are there ways they can help you and ease some of your financial burden? If not, you have to accept that. You’re all adults here and, if your sister’s sense of entitlement disgusts you as much as it understandably does, you especially need to keep your own in check.

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18 comments… add one
  • avatar

    PumpkinSpice May 23, 2016, 8:41 am

    Why borrow trouble? You have plenty of your own financial issues to deal with. If your sister needs to vent (as we all do sometimes), then let her. If you don’t want to hear it, then don’t listen. But instead of focusing on how to help your sister, you should be focusing on how to get yourself into a better financial situation. Why don’t you listen to the advice you are giving your sister, and turn it on yourself.

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  • avatar

    BecBoo84 May 23, 2016, 9:07 am

    I found the “her parents” part strange as well, but then decided that maybe they were half sisters where the bio parent they shared was no longer married to the sister’s other parent who had since remarried, but perhaps I put too much thought into it and made it more convoluted than necessary.

    Anyway LW, let your sister vent within reason, but also learn to set boundaries so it doesn’t become endless. I know how challenging it can be dealing with family members who are irresponsible with money, especially when kids are involved.

    Also, in the LW’s defense, it is a little bit different to be struggling financially because one person is in a very competitive undergraduate/graduate program where they’re unable to contribute much financially at the moment then to be there because you’re reckless with money and don’t want to work. Presumably, once the husband is done with school, their financial situation will improve dramatically; the sister, however, already doesn’t pay rent/utilities and really has no plan for increasing their income or cutting back on their expenses in the future.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark May 23, 2016, 9:09 am

    Yes, they ARE being irresponsible twits.
    .
    No. You should NOT have them.
    .
    ALL OF YOU — should fucking STOP HAVING KIDS.
    At least until you all get your shit together… Why?
    The world has plenty of dim people already — CLEARLY!!

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    • bittergaymark

      bittergaymark May 23, 2016, 9:10 am

      edit — have them = tell them.

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B. May 23, 2016, 9:35 am

    I had to step away from this letter to calm down. The LW’s sister is exactly the kind of person that gives the welfare system a bad name. It’s meant to help people out when they’re having trouble, not to be a lifestyle choice. The people who are enabling the sister are the parents. They’re the ones who need to tell her she’s irresponsible. (But, of course, they raised her to be like this, so…) She and her husband seem like quite the pair. BGM is right, they should never have had children.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros May 23, 2016, 10:06 am

    They already probably know what you think of them. When someone repeatedly gives unsolicited advice, it means that they think they know better than you. Clearly, you DO know better, it seems, but it’s silly to think that calling them names or insulting them will make them change. I doubt that they are intellectually unable to realize that they have brought on all their problems, but they have no interest in making improvements. They are not interested in your advice, so it’s best to just stop giving it. You can’t force them to become responsible.

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  • avatar

    Essie May 23, 2016, 10:13 am

    LW, I do understand, we all know people whose lives are so much harder than they have to be because of their own mistakes. It’s frustrating as hell. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about it. IF she were struggling and asked for your advice and help, that would be different. But she’s hasn’t, in fact she’s rejected your help pretty firmly. As hard as it is….let it go. Maybe she’ll grow up, maybe she won’t. You can’t make her grow up.

    As for the LW’s own financial issues, I’m going to defend her, too. Plenty of people live pretty close to the line through no fault of their own. Layoffs, medical bills, all sorts of things can put you right on the edge. And sometimes it’s by choice – all the money is going into school, or starting a business, for example. Even though the LW’s finances are tight, she’s being smart about managing her money. Her sister is not.

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  • avatar

    Ron May 23, 2016, 10:30 am

    Yes, it’s called welcome to full-time grad school. LW and her husband may be just barely scraping by, but they are scraping by without parental help and they are making steady progress toward their life goal. They are following a sensible strategy.

    Sister and her husband are selfish and they are moochers. She didn’t want to work, she wanted to be a SAHM to two kids that she and husband can’t support and most galling of all, although she loves being a mother, she and husband are unwilling to forego two new cars in order to better support these two infants. They are being supported by her parents and by us as taxpayers. Yes, welfare was not intended to provide a pair of moochers with two new cars and expensive phone plans. The parents are enablers, but we don’t know at what stage they stepped in with support. Perhaps they are just trying to save their grandchildren.

    Yes, LW can’t really advise her sister. Sister won’t listen. That doesn’t mean LW has to listen to a long litany of sister’s whiny complaints. It’s truly not worth the rise in her blood pressure.

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  • avatar

    keyblade May 23, 2016, 10:41 am

    I think Wendy’s advice was spot on. This letter writer is turning her sister’s problems into her own.

    “We were down to our last 100 dollars less than three weeks ago and I freaked out thinking we couldn’t pay rent and our card has been declined a few times for groceries. I know its hard. ”

    I’m sorry you are going through a hard time, financially. Not making rent (or being afraid you won’t) and having your card declined multiple times in the last few weeks must feel embarrassing and scary.

    Wendy is right. You worry about you right now. You aren’t in any position to help your sister in any practical way, like teaching her how to budget. And she hasn’t given you any indication that she wants your help.

    The truth is you feel angry about your sister’s recklessness and you are looking for a way to make yourself feel better.

    Stop listening to her complain if its driving you crazy. Like Wendy said, ” when she starts complaining to you, change the subject or get off the phone and leave the scene. It’s not that hard.” I think you could even directly tell her that you are not the right person to listen to her complaints.

    This is the best way to keep your relationship with your sister on decent terms.

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  • avatar

    Vathena May 23, 2016, 10:57 am

    Sure, you could tell her that. What do you think she’d say? “Oh dear, you are right! All this time I didn’t realize what poor choices I was making. Thank you, thank you, LW, for opening my eyes to the error of my ways. I shall immediately seek gainful employment and faithfully use birth control from this moment on!” No- all it would accomplish is to make you feel better for about 30 seconds.

    This is a sticky situation, because there are children involved. Even if your sister was actively looking for a job, it’s unlikely that a visibly pregnant woman would be hired (especially in a blue-collar position, which from your description sounds like what she’s qualified for). Even if she DID get hired, she probably wouldn’t get maternity leave. And the cost of child care for two kids could easily eclipse her paycheck.

    Also, I share the dismay of everyone here that this family is supported by the taxpayers, but let’s remember that WIC is intended to help babies and children who didn’t ask to be born. These poor kids are already saddled with twits for parents, and I’m happy to pony up my tax dollars to see that kids like them can have at least a shot at adequate childhood nutrition. Hopefully they’ll end up with healthy brains, get educated, and not end up as part of the cycle of irresponsible twit-hood.

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  • avatar

    girltuesday May 23, 2016, 11:17 am

    Not your circus, not your monkeys, LW.

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  • avatar

    Bostonpupgal May 23, 2016, 11:27 am

    Wendy and some of the commenters have some great advice. You have to remember your sister’s problems are just that, her problems. Unfortunately you can’t force theme to act responsibly. It’s time to set some boundaries around the discussions you have with her. If you really want to have a direct conversation, frame it in a way that’s not judgemental and makes clear that you love her but the complaints stress you out. “Sis, I know things are really hard for you right now, but it’s hard for me to talk about this with you. I hear you complain about the same things over and over, but neither of you are willing to do anything to change your situation. I want nothing more than for you to be happy, but I can’t keep having the same conversation with you”. In the future when she complains, change the subject. Ask about her kids, etc. Give non commital answers like “that must be tough”, “I’m sorry to hear that”, or just “hmm”. Cut the conversation short or walk away.

    Also, I suggest you and your husband meet with a financial advisor and start paying down your credit card debt and building some savings. There are also tons of great apps that help you budget, manage money, track expenses, and start saving. I suspect some of the reason these talks with your sister stress you out so much is because of your own financial situation.

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  • avatar

    saneinca May 23, 2016, 11:40 am

    LW, I doubt you speaking strongly or frankly to your sister will have any effect on her or change their situation in any way.

    So what can you do ? Nothing. Lend your ear occasionally ( listening to her complaints more frequently will only cause your control to snap)

    Also you can do what counselors do – ask questions in a guiding way
    “I am sorry your are feeling that way. what do you think is the cause of your problems ?”
    “I know you are not in a good situation. What would you like to change in your life to improve it?”
    That gives the control and onus to change back to the individual.

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  • avatar

    Anonymousse May 23, 2016, 12:16 pm

    Wait… How exactly is your sister struggling? She’s got a new car, a place to live, plenty to eat and a fancy phone. Sounds pretty good to me.
    I agree with Ron, the way the LW brought up her personal money issues, I read, as her trying to say she knows how it is to be financially unstable. Living off one income (while the other is in school) is different than living with your folks with your two kids.
    Why not tell your sister she’s got some serious financial problems? Ask her if she’s planning on living with her parents forever. Ask her if she chooses not to work because it’s probably cheaper for her to stay at home than go to work and pay for daycare or because, truly she wants to be a SAHM. Ask her all these things….because do you truly think she doesn’t know? Or do you just want to lash out at her because she seemingly has an easier ride than you right now?
    Consider your actual motivation here. Are you really trying to help? I’m sure her situation isn’t great, but it probably won’t last forever.
    Oh, and the whole thing about her not ever once asking for your advice on her personal choices.
    So, sure, go ahead with your unsolicited advice. Just don’t be surprised when she suddenly stops taking your calls.

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  • avatar

    wobster109 May 23, 2016, 12:48 pm

    Let her complain if you have the time and energy for it. Don’t look up job offers for her. You already know she doesn’t like that, nor does it help her, so why spend your time and energy on that? Remember, whenever you get too drained of listening to her you can say “sorry gotta go”.

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  • avatar

    Sister of a struggling twit May 23, 2016, 5:29 pm

    Sorry I should have clarified the sister thing. Her mom was married to my dad for about 5 years before they divorced. We were always close until my husband and I moved out of state for college. Her mom doesn’t talk to me anymore but I still call her sister because that’s what I still see her as. As for the financial situation for us, we do have credit cards that we only use for emergencies that are bother paid off. The reason I freaked about about rent is because we had two windows on our car get blown out from debris after a really bad wind storm. We’ve had car and medical problems pop up (hospital stay after a bad ruptured cysts, x-rays and blood work after a tumor was found on my thigh) etc. So the money we did have all went to that stuff. I do agree that my sister’s financial issues shouldn’t become my own and I will stop giving unwanted advice. Thank you all for helping!

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    • avatar

      Sister of a struggling twit May 23, 2016, 5:50 pm

      More clarification. X-ray for hubs and a broken toe and biopsy not blood work for the tumor. It was negative and removed. I realise now that I sound like a brat in my letter. Ha

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    • avatar

      artsygirl May 24, 2016, 10:38 am

      Hi LW – I completely feel your pain. My sister is the same as yours. Had a second child while having financial problems and her marriage was crumbing, in the time that I have owned 1 car she has had at least 6 which all are underwater and she just rolls into the next car loan, purchased a house with no money down and now has a massive mortgage also underwater, has zero savings or retirement but happily drops a few hundred dollars a month on cloths, etc. I love her and want to shake her and tell her to make better choices, but the outcome of that would just be a fight. She probably knows that she is making bad decisions (in fact she has made comments in a joking fashion), but unless she asks me for money, I have no right to make a comment on the way she lives. It is hard but for the sake of your relationship, you need to just step away and hope they get it all sorted out.

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