The Moneyist: My mother visited my sister, who didn’t give her breakfast or lunch. She makes $150K. Should I tell her to feed her guests?

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Dear Quentin,

My sister and her husband are penny pinchers. They make around $150,000 a year, and save a considerable amount of it. Good for them!

The problem: When we visit them for the night or for the day, they don’t feed us. I always ask in advance if I should bring anything and she says no.

We were taught to be the hostess with the mostess. When we have people over, we always have too much food, and we go out of our way to accommodate their very strict dietary needs.


‘We always have a great time, but I also enjoy three meals a day.’

We make around $50,000 a year but have a net worth around $1 million. So we are also good with our money, but we would never have our guests starve.

Side note: I think our success bugs them as he points out that our real-estate investments are doing so well. I’ve offered to go in with them on a real-estate deal and the answer is always no.

Should I as the older sister sit her down and explain that she must feed her guests? I’ve attempted this in the past and failed miserably.

This last time was a little different. She didn’t feed my mom, who is in her 70s, breakfast or lunch. I think they were just waiting for us to leave so they could eat.

Or should I give up and make sure to pack a picnic basket every time we visit them? We always have a great time, but I also enjoy three meals a day.

I Like Food

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Dear Foodie,

It’s the side note that worries me.

You have no reason to feel guilty that you have had success with real estate on an income of $50,000, while your sister and her husband appear to have less money saved for retirement on an income of $150,000. You are not responsible for their financial affairs.

Going into any type of business with a friend or relative is best avoided. Someone inevitably does not pull their weight, decides they are owed more money, insists on more control, or wants out, and the relationship and business suffers. Don’t do it. Avoid it at all costs.

Exhibit A: This woman, who started her own business after being made unemployed, now has every Tom, Dick and Harriet from her old job asking her how she did it so they too can make a quick buck and become an overnight success. Step 1: Get up at 4 a.m.


‘TAD: transparency, action and directness.’

Your other question is not unrelated to your side note. You are not responsible for what your sister does or does not do. You can control whether you eat, or even visit. If you want to eat, bring your own food: “I’ll be hungry when I get there. I’ll bring food. Can I bring you anything?”

If you are sisters and close, there is absolutely room for your mother to bring food too — and if she questions why, tell her the truth. If you’re not close, there’s even more room to be blunt. The truth is always the easiest way forward. Talking around these issues rarely works.

If you’re calling for a cup of tea, and you would fancy having a bite while you’re there, bring an apple pie. If she puts it away, say, “Where’s that pie I brought? Let’s slice it open! I’m starving.” What’s the worst that can happen? You get fewer invitations, and eat at home.

Try the TAD approach: transparency, action and directness. If she asks if you would like lunch, say yes please. If she asks you to go into business together on a real-estate deal, say no thank you. But whether it’s your diet or business, don’t put yourself in other people’s hands.

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