Sunday 4 December 2016

Dear Mary: Why does my rich neighbour keep pretending she has no money?

Published 28/11/2016 | 02:30

Illustration: Tom Halliday
Illustration: Tom Halliday

My son started college in another city in September. To cut a long story short he found out that a local's daughter is a landlady of a house in that city. I was surprised to hear this as her mother is forever going on about how they haven't got a penny. Curiosity got the better of me and over the following weeks my husband and I discovered through planning permissions and land registry that the family owns half a dozen other properties and land in various parts of the country.

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There was a rumour going around 20 years ago that a local had won the Lotto. I remember seeing it in the paper but didn't take much notice of it. Anyway, my son said he had access to newspaper archives through his college so we found the article about the Lotto win. While the name of the couple was not given, their description matches them perfectly.

The win was over €2m.

About 10 years ago my daughter was seriously ill, and the fact she had to go on a public waiting list rather than being treated privately meant she suffered a lot more over the course of 18 months. Thankfully she is in full health now. It sickens me that this family, who we see virtually every second day, and who I regarded as friends did nothing to help us and my daughter despite their massive wealth.

I could probably even forgive that but the reason I am writing this is that she has just been around moaning about how they are really struggling to survive. It is like they are mocking us and having a good laugh at our stupidity. They made other purchases at the time like a massive new premises for his business that cost nearly €100,000, and exotic holidays.

They said they had cashed in shares but I don't believe that now. I don't want to see this woman or her family for the next 12 months. But what do I say to her?

Mary replies:  But you don't know they won the Lotto - you are surmising that they did, and with fairly strong evidence, but it may not be the case and it may have been somebody else in the vicinity who actually did win the money.

On the other hand you know for sure that they own a number of properties and this is a fact that they haven't shared with you. There was no reason for them to tell you because it is their own business. It seems to me that it is an intrinsically Irish trait not to boast, particularly about money, whereas other people - Americans spring to mind - are quite the opposite and delight in telling others about their successes. While we do schadenfreude quite well, we don't seem to rejoice when the news is good. As a result people are fairly reticent to share the news when good luck comes their way.

I'm not for a moment suggesting that you would not have rejoiced at your neighbour's good fortune, but rather I'm looking for reasons why they might not want people to know about it. Consideration must also be given to the unsolicited begging letters that apparently arrive as soon as the names of big money winners become public.

I agree that your daughter would certainly have benefited from some financial assistance from these people when she was ill. If the situations were reversed then you would have helped their child. However, you have to keep this to yourself as you have no concrete proof that they won the Lotto, and anyway some people are far more generous than others.

Perhaps your neighbour is just keeping up appearances by moaning about money.

You can easily stop this by letting her know that your son accidentally found out that they have a property, and say that you understand it isn't the only one that they own. Then rather firmly, but with a smile on your face tell her that you won't put up with any more complaints from her about lack of funds, and tell her that you know now where to go for a loan when you are in need!

You don't want to see her for a while and my guess is that she will get the message and won't be calling to your house any time soon. But please keep a sense of balance - she hasn't done anything wrong and so she should not be overly punished - just keep her at arm's length for a while if that is how you feel.

She's doing so well but her boyfriend won't go to work

Q. My daughter, who is 31, is doing extremely well in a career that she loves. She lives with her boyfriend and they have been together since they met in college.

The problem is that while she works all the hours that God gave her, he doesn't work at all. In fact for the majority of the time they have been together he has not had a job, and therefore all the financial responsibility falls to her.

She has complained to me about a lack of money but she has also had a lot of help financially from my husband's parents who are quite well off and dote on her. Other family members have complained to her that her boyfriend doesn't work and doesn't seem to be doing anything to get a job, but she always defends him, saying that there is nothing suitable for him.

Nobody else seems to like him, and for the life of me I can't understand why she stays with him.

They are renting a house that isn't really very nice. In fact nothing in her life, apart from her job, is working out the way I had hoped for her. I know that I can't change things but it gets me really upset when I see the future stretching ahead with more of the same. I find it difficult to be civil to him when they come to our house.

Mary replies:  It is indeed a bonus when our children choose a partner of whom we approve and an even bigger bonus when we actually like them. I understand your concern as it is not just you who does not like her choice of partner.

But you will just have to go along with it. Your daughter has to be an intelligent person to have achieved what she has done so far. As such she no doubt realises that it would be more help financially if her partner were to work as well. She is indeed very fortunate to have wealthy grandparents.

It may be that she gets a lot of support in terms of housework, shopping, cooking and laundry from her stay-at-home boyfriend, thus freeing her to concentrate on her career. If they go on to have children then the childcare may well be taken over by him also.

So while you see it as him using her for an easy life she may view him as her equal. He has been around for quite a while now and it is obviously working for them, or she would have changed things. You have to be aware that he may continue to be a permanent feature in your daughter's life, and so rather than disapprove it would be wiser to keep your misgivings to yourself and make him feel welcome whenever he is in your home.

Above all you don't want to alienate your daughter so try just a little harder to be nice to him.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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