Dear Annie: I am a divorced mother of two married children. I am now retired, but in the past, I have helped both my children with financial problems. The kids and their spouses make more money than I do. My son always yammers on about some get-rich-quick scheme and recently borrowed money from me to invest in his own business. He has promised to pay me back, but as always, when the time comes, he invariably has some excuse as to why it's inconvenient to do so. Over the years, I have co-signed vehicles for him that I end up paying for, and he has never totally repaid any loan.
My daughter's problem is credit cards. No matter how many times I have helped her out, she keeps going into debt. She calls me and cries and tells me her husband will divorce her if he finds out how much she owes. She has medical problems and I feel guilty not helping her. But I'm getting so tired of my kids borrowing from me that it's awkward being around them. I am fortunate that I am comfortable financially, but I worked hard and planned for my future. I have never charged a dime that I could not pay.
I recently inherited a small amount of money from a brother, and I'd like to share it with my other siblings. I have given my children a little of this money, but I don't think it's right to give them more. I told my daughter that she needs to discuss her debt problem with her husband, and she won't. She says she can't afford counseling. I feel guilty that I can't keep helping her, but I know it is just prolonging the problem. What can I do? -- Morose Mom
Dear Mom: You already know that the best way to help your children is to insist they stand on their own two feet. Tell both of them that any future "loans" will be strictly for medical or family emergencies. Business investments and repaying credit card debt do not qualify. Your children count on your guilt to keep the cash flowing. Straighten your backbone and keep in mind the long-term picture. Your daughter can find free help through Debtors Anonymous (debtorsanonymous.org).
Dear Annie: You were spot on telling "Grossed Out" to call the humane society, because his wife accumulates animals whenever she gets upset. However, you missed an important point.
This lady's behavior is called hoarding. Hoarding, whether it be of stuffed or live animals, is a mental illness. He should get his wife the appropriate help, because simply getting rid of the animals will not fix the problem. -- Seen This Before
Dear Seen This: Several readers pointed out that the woman has a mental health problem and needs help. We completely agree and should have mentioned it. While the humane society deals with animal hoarding, they are primarily interested in the well-being of the animals. Here are some resources for the humans: The Anxiety Disorders Association of America (adaa.org) and the International OCD Foundation (iocdf.org). The National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org) offers information and support for those with anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive issues, including hoarding.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailboxcreators.com, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at Facebook.com/AskAnnies.