Update on my Roommate

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any.  Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

Six weeks ago, I wrote about my sister moving in with my wife and I.  I received some feedback that people would like to follow how this turns out.  I just recently asked my sister to provide my wife and I printouts of her credit card and bank statements from the time she moved in until the present, along with a spreadsheet reconciling the two, so that I could see where her personal spending money was going, and whether she was able to stick to the budget we had set out.

It turns out that she went over budget by $25, or 50%, included with the spreadsheet was also a note:

I’d rather not talk about this as it feels awkward and I’m not doing anything wrong.

Thanks, enjoy my business!

As I had noted in my previous post, my sister, wife and I had initial discussions regarding what was expected with the arrangement, we explained we were not the bad guys.  We wanted to provide her with a fresh start (money-wise) and our intention was not to be “parents” but offer assistance where it was needed.  Her note basically shows that she resents our rules and would rather not follow them.  My wife and I realized that at some point this would happen, but 6 weeks in seemed a little quick for this kind of backlash to occur.

The $25 doesn’t really concern us, we both understand that sticking to a very strict financial plan is difficult and it would be very easy for her to go over the allotment with a few small purchases that in the past she wouldn’t even have thought of – what makes us mad is the selfish attitude that she has, and the fact that she thinks that reviewing her financial records is something that we want to do.

I read the comments people wrote regarding my original post – especially the ones that dealt with this exact circumstance.  Perhaps my wife and I asked for too much of a change from a person who had never had structure or had to explain anything financially to anyone (hence the significant amount of debt).  Our bottom line however is that we would like to be of assistance, but at the same time we also really would prefer not to have a roommate, we were doing quite well in our home by ourselves prior to trying to help.

Our “rent” from her is following the financial plan that we set out.  If she does not want to pay her “rent” then she is not holding up her end of the agreement.  We are not forcing her to stay with us, her alternative choice is to live on her own with nobody overseeing anything.

Due to work schedules and other commitments, my wife and I will not be able to actually sit down and discuss my sister’s finances for a few days, which also gives us some time to cool down as we were a little angered by the whole approach my sister took.

How would you deal with this situation?  Would you send her packing as she obviously is not taking our charity all that well, or would you try to reason with her?

14 thoughts on “Update on my Roommate”

  1. I say kick her out!

    Some people only learn the hard way and in this case despite how hard it is I think she needs to learn by defaulting on some of her debt. And then see who “enjoys” that.

  2. As long as she’s staying with you, there will be resentment, not gratitude. It’s called enabling and potential permanent harm to the relationship. I’ve seen it all too often.

  3. Tough situation – I really don’t know what you should do.

    I think you might have to have the (probably unpleasant) conversation that you probably had when she first moved in. IE In exchange for free rent, you will help her with her finances and she will stick to a budget and want to help herself.

    I think it’s worth another try, but maybe have the conversation first.

    She has to want to help herself and from your post it’s not very obvious to me that she does.

  4. i believe in giving chances-‘3 strikes and you’re out’-especially she is your sister and the plan is strict for someone who has gone from free spending to controlling spending all of a sudden. let her know that she’ll have another chance to stick to her budget; otherwise, she can start looking for a new place. you guys are there to help her with structure in her financial life. she should be thankful for that! i am sure whatever happens she now has more knowledge about budgeting than she will ever know on her own.

  5. I agree that she is your sister so 3 strikes may be needed here. She is being defensive about going over $25. Not very good way of handling it. She may also feel overwhelmed by sticking to such a tight budget when she is not used to it. Feeling overwhelmed is reasonable, her way of responding is to blame you though for this trouble. She probably does need a talk about understanding that it is frustrating and that is normal. However, the deal was free rent for following a financial plan. If she would rather not budget she does have the option to rent a place on her own. She can’t live there for free and not follow a budget. Now she did go over by $25… but is this an improvement? If it’s an improvement maybe a talk is needed to focus on how she’s improving and to not get frustrated about going over by a little. Simply set the target for next month to be even.. or even $10 over… as long as each month is an improvement.. work from there. Hopefully she’s not blowing all her “would be” rent money on personal spending… cause that’s not an improvement! I’m not sure on these details so I’ll leave it at that.

  6. I don’t recall if you got her to sign a contract agreeing to those terms? Maybe she feels because it’s family you’ll be more flexible than the banks.

    Perhaps one of the terms of the contract could be “probation” every time she does not meet the terms. In terms of probation, I’m thinking of things like an actual personal finance class, a book report on a beginners finance book or something like that.

    It may be too late now. Hard to change the terms after the fact.

  7. I’d maybe try to completely ignore the fact that she’s resenting some of the help and focus on praising the changes that she has made. This may give her less of a parenting feeling and reduce the push back in the future.

    Also the budget might be a bit too big of a bite for her to accept all at once.

  8. If I were your sister, I’d be in an awkward position. While I need a place to stay, and I’d be appreciative of the free rent, I would resent someone telling me how to take care of my finances.

    So, if it was me, I’d back off on trying to control her, tell her she’s welcome to stay for a special period, and then she’s on her way. You can’t fix the world, and most people choose not to be as responsible as you are with money.

  9. The previous commenters raise a lot of good points. You’re in the position of leading the horse to water and trying to make them drink it – which is tricky.

    I would focus on the praising part of noticing all of the things she’s doing right (rather than focus on the C’s, D’s and F’s on the “report card”). The communication is really more important than the actual dollars and cents of the budget anyway. If she knows that she’ll get praise in what she tells you, she’s more likely to tell you more I think – and ‘fess up when she falls off the wagon – which she probably will. And that’s normal and ok.

    Maybe it comes down to one of those trite phrases – “would you rather be right or be loved?” Sometimes you have to let go of a rigid stance just to let someone else feel even some kind of ownership in their own process. Especially since she’s been out on her own and isn’t even your kid. Since you’re six weeks into the process, why don’t you sit down with her and ask how, if necessary, she wants to renegotiate your contract to make it more livable for her? Let her feel like she’s making more of her own decisions and give her more of a sense of autonomy than it sounds like she has right now.

    I still think you’re doing a wonderful thing and it might feel like you’re having to inconvenience yourselves when you clearly don’t have to and could just watch her fail, but I’m sure she will thank you one day. Just maybe not today. And probably not tomorrow. 🙂 Welcome to parenting… 😉

  10. I think it’s great that you took in your sister however, try not to take on the role of a parent. Have you thought about charging her “rent” in place of having her show you her daily finances? I wouldn’t keep the rent but instead apply it to her creditors. This serves two purposes, one you are no longer acting as her “parent” and two she understands that staying with you and wife shouldn’t be taken for granted.

  11. Take the high road. Your anger at her perceptions will not do either of you any good.

    Do have a chat. Ask her where she wants to go from here.

  12. Thank you everyone for your comments, they were very helpful in going into the discussion my sister. I will provide an update on how things are going in the near future.

    Dave

  13. This is a very sensitive situation in a sense that emotions can easily get intertwined with everything because you are all living together.

    It’s not a straight up situation where you are simply renting out a room in your basement to somebody at a fixed monthly rate – it’s your sister. And that makes things tougher to deal with.

    When I finished up university, I came home to live with my brother to get on my feet. I owed money from student loans and I can tell you, it was a huge break for me to not have to pay rent. I am grateful now for having this privilege, but at the time, I felt entitled to it because I am his brother.

    With that being said, everybody’s situation is different. When I moved in with my brother, he was single, and this probably made the situation a lot less complex and the dynamics were different.

    I have friends that were living with their parents until their 30th birthday because they couldn’t get themselves on their feet – either because of a lack of motivation, bad luck, or both.

    If this is a fear of yours, who knows, maybe it is a good idea to stay on top of the situation so that things are not taken for granted. Just maybe modify the plan a bit so that the tension recedes to normal levels.

    I am the furthest thing from being able to advise in these types of situations, but thought it could help to toss a couple of ideas in the mix.

    All the best.
    TWC

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