The Moneyist: My sister moved from New York to our mom’s house due to COVID-19. She saved $11K in rent and expenses. Is that fair?

The Moneyist: My sister moved from New York to our mom’s house due to COVID-19. She saved $11K in rent and expenses. Is that fair?

Dear Moneyist,


My sister gave up her apartment in New York City and moved back home in April, shortly after COVID-19 erupted there, and has now been living rent-free with my mother for the past seven months. My sister is 42 years old and holds a full-time job with a nonprofit agency. She does not need to return to New York because her workplace has not gone back to the office yet, so all employees continue to work from home.



I remain in New York City, but was never offered this same opportunity by my mother to move back home and save money, although I would have been able to do so from April to September. I pay $1,575 each month in rent. I also have grocery, electric and television bills to pay each month. To date, my sister has been able to save at least $11,000 in rent expenses.


The Moneyist:‘It isn’t a matter of love, just a matter of feminism’: I’m 32, pregnant and have a six-figure job. Should I marry my boyfriend?


I am hurt and have brought this issue to my mother’s attention. However, she does not seem to think that this is unfair or shows blatant favoritism on her part, and continues to allow my sister to live at home. I explained to my mother that I could understand if my sister was unemployed or seriously ill due to COVID-19. Am I wrong to feel hurt?


My sister will likely stay at home until at least next spring, and will continue to save on rent and many other living expenses that I have to pay each month. If my father were still alive, he would never allow this to take place. My mother has 12 children, but has always exhibited favoritism toward just a few of her children, my sister being one of them. My sister has a history of being a freeloader within the family.


Is there something wrong with me?


Confused in New York City


Dear Confused,


Your mother has company during the pandemic. That’s a good thing.

But what do you want from this situation? Do you want to move in with your sister and mother? It sounds to me like you would prefer your life in New York City. Do you want your sister and mother to put their heads together, and give you half of that $11,000? Or would it make sense to split it 12 ways and give $916 to each sibling? Would you like your mother to say, “You’re right, it’s not fair”?


In order to win a debate, you need to know what you believe you want to happen. But this is a debate you are having with yourself. Telling other people what they should or shouldn’t do with their home or their rental or their money or even who they should share a home with is not a productive way to spend your time. It’s their life, their relationship, their choice, their money.


The Moneyist:My aunt ransacked my late mother’s house. All paper was removed — except for one alarming letter from her doctor


It will give you a great sense of freedom and relief when you stop trying to stage manage other people’s lives. You are an adult now too, and have embarked on your own life. You are no longer a child who wants the same-size slice of apple pie as everyone else at the table, and feels aggrieved if yours didn’t measure up. Your world is the same today as it was seven months ago.


Stop trying to control what other people do and don’t do. It’s none of your business. She was given this opportunity to move home, and one person’s opportunity is not your opportunity. That’s a very simple rule in life that will stand to you. It is a daily challenge for all of us not to judge other people. But life is sweeter, happier and fairer when we achieve that.


There is irony in your situation: In a way, you are already back at your mother’s house, in your old bedroom, grumbling about what other people have and what you don’t have. Perhaps your mother exercises favoritism. Yes, that may hurt. But you have a choice to stay hurt, or say, “People are not perfect, and neither is my mother, and that’s OK.” And move on.


The Moneyist:My brother is in his mid-50s and nearly lost his home twice. Should I give him half of my inheritance to pay off his mortgage?


Some kids suffer from “failure to launch,” as I told this letter writer. You’ve launched physically, but you’re still on the emotional launch pad. Light a candle for your sister and blast off! Then treat yourself to a meal at your favorite outdoor restaurant in New York before the cold weather sets in, and toast your freedom. Your sister received a gift. You can have one too.


You have worked hard for the life you have in New York. The city will come back and, if I know New York, it will be better than ever. What is the point of achieving all that you have achieved if you can’t allow yourself to enjoy it? Give yourself a gift by cutting loose from your familial ties. It won’t cost $11,000 or save you $11,000. It’s absolutely free. You only have to be willing to do it.


The Moneyist: My wife and I live with my dying mother. My brothers and I will inherit her home. Should I ask her to sell it — and move in with me?


You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com. Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.


Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook FB, +2.39%  group where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.