DEAR ABBY: My wife and I are 50-year-old professionals who have paid every penny of the cost for our two daughters' four-year college educations. Our oldest, "Lana," went on to law school and has incurred well in excess of $100,000 in law school loan debt. She has struggled to find a job as an attorney, and I'm no longer sure she still wants to practice law. Lana is married to a medical student who also has significant student loan debt.
Two nights ago I made the mistake of telling Lana that her mother and I would help her pay off her student loans. I regret having opened my mouth. She and her husband spend their money on frivolous luxuries and are not responsible financially.
My wife and I live frugally. We withdrew money from our retirement accounts to help fund our daughters' college educations. We now need to increase our retirement contributions and pay for maintenance and repairs to our home that we delayed while paying for their tuition.
Although we have always helped our children financially, we can no longer afford to trade our future financial security and our present standard of living to support them. I would appreciate some advice. This may be an issue affecting a lot of parents at this time. -- SPOKE TOO SOON IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR SPOKE TOO SOON: Before making any promises to your daughter, you should have reviewed your retirement plans with your financial adviser. It's still not too late to do that, and once you do you should immediately inform Lana that, upon review, you now realize that giving her more money will compromise your plans for retirement.
You should also explain that you have deferred important repairs to your home because the money was directed instead to her education. The problem with deferring maintenance is it usually costs more than if the problems had been dealt with promptly, which is why you are, regrettably, unable to bail her out of her student loans. It may be the wake-up call Lana needs that it's time to assume her own responsibilities.
DEAR ABBY: My mom and I have been travel agents for 15 years. My cousin, whom I have always been close to, asked to join our business multiple times over the past few years and we always said yes.
A few months ago I learned that she went behind our backs and started her own travel agency. When I confronted her about hiding it from us, she denied it. Then one day I went over to her new office. She said she hadn't wanted to hurt our feelings, but she already has. She says I'm being "irrational" for not supporting her, but I think she was wrong for not joining us and going off on her own. Do you think our relationship can be saved? -- FAMILY MATTERS IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR FAMILY MATTERS: Your cousin should have been forthright about starting her own business instead of hiding it. It is not "irrational" to feel hurt that she didn't level with you, and that was her mistake.
However, this is a free country, and your cousin had a right to change her mind about joining your business. Your relationship can be fixed as long as you and your mother accept that she had a right to go into business for herself if she wished, and refrain from discussing business when you're together.