Sunday, August 21, 2011

His Father-in-Law's Got Control

Posted By on Sun, Aug 21, 2011 at 11:20 AM

Dear Jack,

My wife and I married when we were right out of high school, but not because we had to. Her family was not exactly happy about it, but we were old enough to make our own decisions. Her family is pretty wealthy; my dad never had any money.

We made it on our own for about a year but it was tough. My wife decided she needed to go to college. She couldn’t qualify for any scholarships, and we made barely above poverty line, so we couldn’t qualify for a Pell grant. The advisor told her that to qualify, she’d either need to have children or get a divorce. We started looking into a student loan, when her dad said he’d loan her all the money she would need to go to school, wherever she wanted to go.

It sounded like the perfect deal, so she picked her school, applied and was accepted. Every semester, her dad would deposit money into an account that she used to pay her tuition and books. She got her degree and a job.

When her dad gave her the loan, he made her sign a loan agreement. She thought it was just another one of his stupid gimmicks to make her be responsible, like when he made her sign a contract when she was 10, detailing her chores and what she had to do to get her weekly allowance. To make a long story short, her dad’s charging us interest on the loan. It’s been 10 years now and we still haven’t paid half of it off. It’s killing us. We’re stuck in a financial hole and can’t save any money. We’ve both spent months at a time out of work. Sometimes we’ve had to go to him for money just to pay our regular bills. We would like to buy a house and start a family, but not with the way things are now.

If we had got a regular student loan, it would have already been paid off. It’s not like he needs the money, but my wife won’t confront him. She’s afraid he’ll disown her. As nice as it would be to inherit that money someday, sometimes I think it’s not worth it. Do you think I should step in and tell him what he’s doing to us?

Deep in Debt

Dear Debtor,

Dad already knows exactly what he’s done. That’s why he gave her the loan in the first place. It’s called control. He couldn’t stop her from running off and getting married, so he found another way to control his daughter. He couldn’t care less about the money. All he cares about is knowing that she dare not piss him off. You could refuse to pay him back and let him try to sue you, but I doubt your wife would ever agree to that.

So he’s a bastard. But he couldn’t control her (and you) if you didn’t let him. You say that if you had had a regular student loan, it would have already been paid off. So why haven’t you paid off this loan? Is the interest rate that high? Or have you only been paying what you could comfortably afford, when you paid at all?

I bet dear old Dad never complains, he just sends you an occasional reminder of how much you owe, and that number never seems to get any smaller, does it? The longer he can drag out this loan, the longer he gets to control his daughter. He’s just like a credit card company. Easy money whenever you need it, and a lifetime paying it back. The more in debt you are, the more you need that card, and him.

If you want out from under his thumb, confronting him isn’t going to help. You have to stop taking his money. You have to pay the maximum, every month, until it’s paid off. That means you have to get rid of whatever other credit cards you have, too. No more credit, anywhere, from anyone, until your debts are repaid. It’s scary as hell, I know. I’ve been bankrupt half a dozen times, thanks to my wives and their lawyers. It means years of ramen noodles for dinner and broadcast television for entertainment. But when you’re free of his debt, then you’ll be free to decide whether or not you still want the bastard in your life.

Got a problem? Jack Waggon will set you straight: jack.wagg@gmail.com

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