Ask Dave Ramsey Healthy Finance

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Written by Dave Ramsey

Preparing for the real world.

Tell stepdaughter to step it up

Dear Dave,

I’m getting married this summer and about to become a stepfather, but my fiancée’s daughter from a previous marriage seems very irresponsible. She’s 20 and lives at home, has trouble holding a job and doesn’t really want to work. When she doesn’t have money to make her car payment, she seems to expect her mom to pay it for her. My fiancée and I both agree that she’s been too lenient with her in the past, but she doesn’t want to suddenly pull the rug out from under her. How do you think we should approach this situation?

—Kendall

Dear Kendall,

Marriage counselors say you have a good chance of having a successful marriage if you’re in agreement on four things: religion, money, children and in-laws. So, first things first. I’d strongly suggest you and your fiancée go through premarital counseling to make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to handling this and other issues.

If you and your fiancée really want to show her daughter that you love her, you’ll make sure she starts learning some character and discipline. And it’s very important that both of you are on the same page and in agreement every step of the way. You also might want to read a book together by Dr. Henry Cloud called “Boundaries.” This is a great book and it will give you both several ideas for creating a reasonable timeline aimed at teaching her more responsibility.

I would advise letting her mom present any changes to her initially. Neither of you wants to create a scenario where you’re viewed as the bad guy. Let her mom start the process by explaining that she made a few mistakes in terms of teaching her about personal responsibility and self-reliance when she was younger. Then she can begin to lay out the first few rules and expectations.

In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with requiring the daughter to get a job within 30 days if she doesn’t already have one. If she needs to go job hunting, make sure she’s out of bed and on the road no later than 8 every morning. During this first phase, looking for work every day should be her job. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to start teaching her about budgeting, saving and everything else that goes into handling money responsibly during this time, too.

Next, phase two might consist of requiring her to help around the house by doing chores on her days off or whenever mom needs a hand. Then, after a month or two of this, phase three might consist of her paying a small amount in rent.

Do you see what I’m doing? By stepping up the expectations gradually, you’re building a foundation so she’ll have the tools and knowledge to where, in the sixth or seventh month, she’s moving out and taking care of her own responsibilities—like an adult!

—Dave

About the author

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is a personal money management expert, a national radio personality, and best-selling author of The Total Money Makeover. Ramsey earned his Bachelor of Science in Finance and Real Estate from the University of Tennessee. A frequent speaker around the country at large-scale live events, he has a nationally syndicated talk show, The Dave Ramsey Show.

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