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Chinese in-laws in bad financial situation

Hello. This is my first post. My problem is half a family relationship problem and half a financial problem so I wasn't sure where to post for advice.

I got married a year ago but met my wife many years before then. Despite being great together, we've always had a problem with her parents (my in-laws). They are very nice people, don't get me wrong, but they have issues that affect us a lot.

Specifically, my father-in-law is not smart with money, and they've gotten themselves deep into debt years ago due to bad investments and no savings. They are "retired" now due to age and physical incapabilities, and have no income whatsoever. My mother-in-law has become mentally disabled (due to sudden illness) years ago and requires constant care, leaving my father-in-law with all the important decisions. They have survived these past years due to "loans" (hand-outs) from family and friends (most of which have now cut them off) and by re-mortgaging their house several times.

Of course this affects us because they constantly ask us for money, and to be frank, we can't support them in the magnitude they request. Before I met my wife, my father-in-law would get her to take out large cash advances from her credit cards to give to him, pushing her into serious debt. I convinced her to respectfully decline these requests, and so he stopped asking for a while. But then he started asking for smaller amounts, which we accepted, and these small requests have gotten more and more frequent to the point where it affects us again.

It is important to note that my wife and in-laws are chinese, because it is an important chinese custom to help your parents as they get older, and I think that my father-in-law uses this to guilt my wife into giving more and more money. It is also chinese custom to not question the "man of the house / father" so it's hard to approach him about things.

I love my in-laws and want to help them as much as possible, but unfortunatley that isn't much right now. We barely make enough money for the two of us since we're just starting out our life together. As you can imagine this is quite frustrating. Has anyone experienced this type of thing? Any advice? Should we think of a small amount we can give per month and then cut them off after that? Should we keep giving and hopefully make more money in the future? Should we insist that they relinquish control of their personal finances to us so that we can budget them and manage their debt better? I think they would be offended by this...

Any help would be appreciated!
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replied February 3rd, 2009
Cut them off for good
You have to think of this not as a person that is bad with money, but as an addict. It is situations like these that bankruptcy was created. Someone that cannot pay their debts goes to a judge who liquidates their nonexempt property and their debts are settled.

I also have a Chinese wife. She comes from a single mother family as her father died when she was young. They came to America and thought that everyone uses debt to live. Her mother did not speak English well so she has never had much work but she and her siblings have supported the family. She told me that in Chinese families all the money the family makes is given to the eldest of the home.

Unfortunately, they decided to buy brand new cars and a home before I started to date my current wife. They would also spend one or two thousand dollars a month on groceries and shop with abandon for clothing. Their excuse was that they are getting things on sale so they should buy lots of clothing. When I met my wife she had so many clothes that they would end up giving a way old items that she had never worn.

My first year living with my wife, she wanted to give her mother money because she could not afford her taxes. She gave her mother $8,888 for good luck. That was too much money for us to give up.

Some people become addicted to spending money. My wife's mother never bought things for her but bought them for the whole family. She wanted them to feel good and buy their love. It is pointless to give more money to people like this. It is like giving a drink to an alcoholic thinking that it will sober them up. They may be in less pain now but it is just going to come back sooner or later.

I understand the situation of Chinese families. I think it is OK to give a little money to her mother each year around Chinese New Year, but not enough that it hurts us.

The way that I explained to my wife is that if we give her mother too much money she will feel comfortable and then go out and buy things she still cannot afford. It will just make matters worse because what is going to happen is that she is going to file for bankruptcy. Not only that but since she handles all the money, her unmarried brother and sister will also file bankruptcy. The home they live in will be foreclosed and hopefully no other bank will lend to them again.

If this happened I told my wife that I would not hesitate to lend them moral support or even let them stay in our home or another home we own. Instead of being in overwhelming debt, I had no debt when I married my wife. We are paying off her student loan debt. If we are in a good position then we will be able to help our entire family be well off. They may not own their own house, buy thousands of food, or drive the fanciest car; but they will be loved and cared for like decent human beings.

Remember that boundaries must be set, but if you are in a good financial position you will be able to help and advise your wife's in-laws when the time comes.
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replied March 19th, 2009
Extremely eHealthy
A little on the late side but I had the same problem with my in-laws. Culture is a big thing to some people and unfortunatly when you get into an interacial/biracial relationship, you have to take the good with the bad.

A few options to consider...
-Provide them a set amount on a monthly basis, say 100-200$ and no more!
-Cut them off like the other poster said, it will only harm your relationship.
-Refer them to debt counselling
-Provide them with resources etc in regards to services provided by the community etc.

I have separated from my husband because of culture issues, some of them being financial, family orientated as well as other personal reasons.

His family would alway call us and ask us for money, the two of us are in debt a hefty amount because of unecessary spending and providing family with money, now Im the one who asks to borrow money.

Unless you can find a solutions or a common ground, not only will your relationship be jeopodrized but so will your assests and sanity.

Good luck~
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