Annie's Mailbox for April 26, 2011: In-laws demanding financial support

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Dear Annie: My in-laws emptied out my husband's bank account and put thousands of charges on his credit cards. They refused to return the money, and it took us six years to pay off the debt they incurred.

My in-laws recently retired without any savings and rely on Social Security to make ends meet. It didn't stop them from remodeling their home via credit cards. Now we are told we must assist them financially during their retirement. This would cut into our own retirement savings, leaving our future questionable. They claim their children owe it to them in their old age.

We only hear from my in-laws when they want something, and if they don't get their way, they resort to name-calling. Are we wrong to refuse?

— Not a Money Tree

Dear Not: If your in-laws were destitute because they lost their jobs and savings, we would tell you to help them. But since they have stolen from you and refuse to live within their means, we see no reason to continue pouring money down the sinkhole. Make sure your husband is on board with this, and then suggest his parents seek financial counseling through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (nfcc.org) at 1-800-388-2227. Offer to go with them if necessary. Explain that they cannot count on others (even their children) to bail them out repeatedly, and they will benefit in the long run by learning how to live within a budget.

Dear Annie: Birthdays and holidays have always been important in our family, and we never miss an occasion for our nieces and nephews. We always send a gift and keep them posted with current pictures of our children.

However, my husband's brother and his wife never reciprocate. Our children are only 3 and 6 years old, but they wonder why they get presents from all their relatives except these particular cousins. It bugs me, too, since I go out of my way to hit the post office to mail stuff to their children. We only get lame excuses from my sister-in-law, who often says she has gifts for the kids, but hasn't gotten around to sending them.

I know I should let this go, but it bothers me that another holiday season has passed without so much as a current photo. They frequently post pictures on Facebook about the parties they attend and their recent purchases, so I know it's not a financial issue. And frankly, even a card would be nice. Should I say something or continue to watch my children's quiet disappointment?

— Annoyed in the Midwest

Dear Annoyed: Your brother already knows they are remiss when it comes to gifts. You cannot demand presents, but you can ask if they would please send a current photograph. Your other choice is to stop sending their children gifts unless you receive something in return. But please do not encourage your children to make an issue of this. Most kids don't notice what is missing unless someone points it out.

Dear Annie: You have printed letters from readers whose family members are drug addicts and alcoholics. I am a recovering cocaine addict. I stole from my family to maintain my $100-a-day habit and maxed out all my credit cards. My family put me through drug rehab and talked to me without success. When they finally stopped offering help, I had to make it on my own.

Leaving me to my chosen cocaine world was best. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are absolutely vital in any recovering program. And do not ever stop praying for the addict. Prayers and good intentions by those who loved me helped me through the terrible prison I had placed myself in.

I am still sober after 10 years and am back inside my family circle. A drug addict needs to be left alone while he is using, and the rest of the family needs to carry on with their lives.

— P.

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