Money Manners

Advice on tricky and emotionally charged dilemmas that involve money, friends and family. Weekly

Cheapskate friend?  Freeloading brother-in-law?  Spendthrift adult child who needs yet another bailout?  Tricky and emotionally charged dilemmas like these — dilemmas that involve money, friends and family — are ubiquitous.  In Money Manners, Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz offer smart, witty, down-to-earth advice on how to deal with them.

flemingschwarz1-434x360Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz have never ridden in a cab, gone to a party or sat next to a stranger on a plane without hearing a money-and-relationships story they wanted to write about.

The authors of Money Manners have been advising readers on how to deal with the cringe-inducing money problems that arise between family and friends since 2005, first for Money Magazine and the CNN/Money website (where their column was called “Do the Right Thing”), then for (where it was called “Money & Ethics”).

They also have written a book, Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check? Dealing with All of the Trickiest Money Problems Between Family and Friends – from Serial Borrowers to Serious Cheapskates (Free Press, 2010). Since the book appeared, they have been guests on numerous radio and television programs (including NPR and “Good Morning America”), and they and their work have received attention in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Canada.

Jeanne and Leonard have conducted two pioneering national surveys investigating the beliefs and values of the American public regarding money and relationships. They can tell you, for example, how many Americans say they have at least one freeloader in their family, how many were stiffed on the largest loan they ever made and how many say that, when friends go out to dinner, someone is always unhappy with the way the check is divided.

Jeanne holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Stanford. Leonard holds an M.B.A. from the business school at Stanford and an M.A. in communication (film), also from Stanford. The couple live in Palo Alto, Calif.


Friends disagree about value of seat upgrade
November 13th 2016

Dear Jeanne & Leonard:

Recently, my friend “Rob” and I decided on the spur of the moment to go to a Stanford football game. When we got there, we both were shocked to find that a seat anywhere closer to midfield than the 10-yard line cost $80. I wanted to buy end-zone seats for $50 each. But Rob argued that since we were already there and could afford decent seats, it’d be a false economy to get bad ones. I said OK, but then spent the entire game resenting how much we’d paid. What should I have said before we bought the tickets to persuade Rob that they weren’t worth it? It’s not as if we left home planning to spend anywhere near that much.

— Still Annoyed, Pleasanton, California

Dear Annoyed:

Now you know why some people think college athletes should be paid. But that’s another story.

To answer your question: We feel your pain, but you’ve missed the point. The better seats were worth it to Rob. Just because he was willing to pay a premium for something you don’t think merited it doesn’t mean his analysis was flawed. Consider HBO: Some people feel it’s worth paying for, some don’t. That doesn’t mean one group is right and the other wrong; it means only that their preferences differ.

All of which is to say, there’s no reason to believe that anything you said would have changed Rob’s mind. But what you could have done is proposed flipping a coin to decide which seats to buy. Then, at least, you’d have had a 50/50 chance of paying 50 bucks instead of 80 for your ticket.

* * *

Dear Jeanne & Leonard:

For over three years, my friend “Jennifer” and I have been taking tennis lessons from “Andrea,” and we’ve both improved considerably with her help. Recently, however, Jennifer got mad at Andrea over something Andrea said after her child and Jennifer’s got into trouble at school. Jennifer immediately found a new coach, and she wants me to switch as well. But the new coach charges $10 more per lesson, and I don’t see why I should pay extra just because Jennifer is angry at Andrea. It’s not like I have a quarrel with her. What do you think?

— Rachel, Arizona

Dear Rachel:

We think Andrea could also use lessons — lessons on being more politic with her customers.

More to the point, though, we think that if Jennifer is one of those people who is always at war with a neighbor, stomping out of restaurants in the middle of a meal or boycotting merchants because of some perceived mistreatment, then you’re right: Her beefs can’t all be your beefs.

But if Jennifer is not the perpetually aggrieved type, you need to stick up for your friend and stop taking tennis lessons from Andrea. Clearly, this woman said something to Jennifer that was so insulting or hurtful that it prompted Jennifer to put an end to what had been a successful, long-standing relationship. In a situation like this, your friend deserves your loyalty.

We know, 10 bucks is 10 bucks. But friendships are worth more.

Please e-mail your questions about money, ethics and relationships to

(c) 2016 by Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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