Miss Manners: Financial advice should come from expert outside family

December 3, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My father-in-law was arrested last week. His family is obviously distraught over this.

In addition to the emotional problems, the sequence of events that followed his arrest have revealed that his wife’s finances are not exactly where they should be considering she is not too far away from retirement. (She was unable to bail him out of jail and had to borrow money from relatives to hire a lawyer.)

I am extremely concerned for her emotional and financial well-being, particularly considering she will likely be losing her husband’s income permanently. I have a knack for personal finances, so I was thinking about offering to try to help get her finances in order by figuring out if she is handling debt wisely, showing her money-saving strategies, etc. Would that be inappropriate?

GENTLE READER: Tragedy is certainly the time for relatives to offer their assistance, but Miss Manners sees the possibility of danger here.

If your mother-in-law had nothing to do with her husband’s crime, she is going to be freshly skittish about trusting even a member of the family. The poor state of her finances suggests an ineptitude that could hamper you in showing her that whatever you do is in her interest.

Now, what about the possibility that her finances show that she was — purposely or inadvertently — mixed up in your father-in-law’s situation? You really don’t want to be the one to handle that.

Miss Manners does not want to discourage you from helping a relative in dire need. She is only suggesting the wisdom of getting a disinterested and reputable professional to do the work.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My roommates and I decided to throw a casual house party since we wanted to meet each other’s various groups of friends. We decided that the easiest way to coordinate among the four of us would be to send out an online invitation via Evite along with word of mouth.

We sent the Evite out six days in advance of the party but have received very few responses back compared to the number of those invited. Since this is a casual get-together, it is not a crisis; however, the four of us do need to figure out how much food and drink to purchase for our guests.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask guests to click a response given the lead time, whether it be yes or no. Do I have overly rigid expectations for guests to respond to a casual method of invitation?

GENTLE READER: If it is any comfort, people who send out engraved invitations to decidedly not-casual weddings also have trouble getting responses from their guests.

That is not a comfort to Miss Manners, who cannot understand how people can be so callous as to fail to realize the difficulty this imposes on hosts, in addition to the insult.

But it is evidence that the problem is not ease of responding. Response cards, stamped envelopes and computerized methods requiring only a touch of a key have not even made a dent in the amount of non-responsiveness. Like other disrespected hosts, you will have to call or text around to find out who plans to attend.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS

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