Parting Ways

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.

For those of you that haven’t read my previous posts on my current living situation (here was my post in June, and my post in August) I currently have my 24-year old sister living with me.  As you may be able to surmise from the title of the article, the end of this arrangement is near.  After several discussions near the end of August, my sister decided that she couldn’t live with the rules that my wife and I had imposed and would be much happier living on her own.  As of November 1, my wife and I will be regaining our guest room.  On the flip-side, rather than living for free and having the opportunity to pay off her debts, my sister has decided to pay $750 per month in rent to live in a basement apartment.

My wife and I knew that it would be difficult for my sister to follow the rules, but we thought she would last 6 or 8 months (somewhere around Christmas), rather than the 6 weeks she ended up lasting.

On one hand, we’re disappointed that my sister was finding the experience so unbearable that she would rather leave and live with a significant number of debts than live with the rules we had laid out.  On the other hand, my wife and I have found that we are not “roommate” people – we value our independence and realize we were taking the freedom we had for granted prior to the our current situation.

So, what went wrong with the situation?  I think that there were two main reasons why the situation didn’t work out:

  1. We were perhaps a little too strict money-wise than my sister was able to accept.  Part of the reason we were so strict  was to teach her how to stick to a concrete financial plan that she would be able to translate into something that worked for her when she moved out by herself.  Another reason why we were so strict was we placed a certain value on what we were giving up by having my sister live with us and we expected her to “pay” us back by getting rid of her debt as soon as possible.
  2. She wasn’t ready. The entire time she was living with our rules, she was resenting us for being so hard on her, rather than looking at the opportunity she was given.  I think that after a few years to mature, she will (hopefully) realize that we weren’t being “mean”, but were trying to help.

We realize, that we could have relaxed the rules and allowed her to stay with her own rules, but we didn’t really want to enable her out of control spending, while resenting her for being in our home where we were doing fine prior to her moving in.

So, this little social experiment has come to an end.  My wife and I are counting down the days until we regain our freedom, and I’m sure my sister has a similar countdown on the go.

Would you have relaxed the “House” rules in this situation?

16 thoughts on “Parting Ways”

  1. Kudos on giving a great effort to help your sister.

    Too bad it didn’t work out, but who knows – maybe she did learn some things from you which will help her get things together later on.

    You could have tried loosening the rules, but I doubt it would have made any difference. From the comments she was making, it sounds like she wasn’t anywhere near ready to turn things around.

  2. Tim,
    I do not usualy like to write in but I feel rather strongly about this. As a brother and sister-in-law
    i believe it is not your responsebility to teach your sister, it is your responsebility to find a way to love her and find things in her caracter you approve of,if you give her this gift I am fairly confident she will find her way.

  3. Ah, an unfortunate end to a awkward situation. I’m sympathetic to the views offered by other commenters on all three posts. I hope there aren’t hard feelings either way after your sister has moved out.

  4. Theo… From reading Dave’s comments it is clear that he understands that it is not his responsibility to teach his sister (and likely that he would prefer not to). But you forget that it is also not his obligation to give her free room and board. So long as Dave is able to maintain his relationship with his sister throughout the process then no harm done.

    Dave, well done on sticking to your word. Your sister was not and may never be ready which is no fault of your own.

  5. I’ve followed your story closely Dave and was looking forward to your update – sorry to hear that it didn’t work out for you and your sister.

    Agree that it isn’t your job to be a parent to your sister and you’ve gone above and beyond your brotherly duties here. Sometimes you need to let her fail out in the real world and learn her lesson the hard way… I expect she will come to the realization eventually that you and your wife really were trying to do her a huge favour.

  6. I believe you did the right thing Dave. I’ve seen a similar situation unfold with my sister. If you don’t lay down a firm set of parameters in which people need to operate from the outset, it becomes virtually impossible to introduce them once the situation deteriotes into becoming resentful.

    This may not have ended in any sort of ideal way, however… It very well could have ended much, much worse had you have not stuck to your original agreement.

  7. Maybe it’s a cliche but “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” probably applies here. The student just wasn’t ready – and maybe your “teaching methods” weren’t exactly right for her.

    I tried force-feeding the money methods that I use with my oldest son and it didn’t work for a long time. When he finally figured out what he wanted money for, he saved like a crazy person. Probably more than I would have. And his strategies are amazingly similar to my own (have 2 jobs, live off the part-time one and save 100% of the other).

    So I bet you have taught her some good budgeting skills that will come in very handy one day – and she’ll be grateful to you then. At least you did your best – and she did her best too. It’s just that her best isn’t very good right now.

  8. The downside is that a year from now the situation will likely be no different as she is not about to change habits unless forced to do so.

    I truly hope your sister makes progress.

  9. When I read your earlier post, I suspected this would happen.

    She’s an adult and should have been treated like one. If she chooses to make certain decisions with her life, she should be allowed to make them even if you don’t approve.

    I think it was doomed from the beginning because neither party involved seemed to realize this.

    But live and learn. I know you only had the best of intentions.

  10. You know what I would have tried? Charged her rent for $400+ a month, just paying the minimums on her card and kept her CC or really taught her how to use it properly.

    If she sticks out the year, she gets it all back (as paying off the cards). If she doesn’t, she forfeits the big amount and you go on a great trip with your wife on her money. Using tactics working with human nature to not want to lose something seem to work better. A little more gradual, non-draconian approach usually does too. (Not saying your approach would be draconian to most people reading here, but probably would have been to her.)

    It’s like making someone who would do well on Weight Watchers go on a strict paleo diet because they can lose weight faster that way. Well yeah, except maybe they hate eating that way. And it’s not a race anyway, the important thing is to learn the life-long habits.

  11. You gave it a try, it did not work out.

    I disagree with Lisa above. Tim’s house, Tim’s rules. Lisa can make all the rules she wants in her new digs.

    If Tim gave in to Lisa he would become an enabler of sorts. That won’t help anyone. Many kids do that to their parents as well in one way or another. It creates strain on the relationship because usually the two parents don’t agree on what rules should be enforced either. Sooner or later people have to do their own thing that they believe in. But do so on your own dime, and don’t burden the people who are trying their best to help you.

    I will bet Tim feel’s somehow guilty now that he has done something wrong even though he clearly has not. That’s just the way it goes in these situations with family.

  12. Paul: Enforcing house rules on an adult and a family member is exactly why I thought it wouldn’t work out.

    I’m not saying he was wrong. I’m merely saying it couldn’t work.

  13. And the poster was Dave and for the record, I have never sponged off an older brother…since I don’t have one. 😉

  14. Yea sorry I saw that I wrote your name where “sister” may have been more appropriate… I looked for an edit function… couldn’t find it.

    Tim has some vacant space now, maybe you could sponge off him when he gets his sister settled. 😉

  15. Just because you share DNA does not mean she could sponge off of you and your wife in your home.
    Your sister knew the rules you live by and was looking for a free ride, end of story.
    If she learns anything from this good.
    In my experience you will take the blame for it all.
    Sometimes not helping/enabling is a hard stance . You and your wife are allowed to have a good life.
    Families need boundries, neighbours need fences.
    This is life not Disney!

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