Author: SHO

The Moneyist: My mother-in-law is narcissistic. My father-in-law is selfish. My brother-in-law is amoral. How do we protect our inheritance?

Dear Moneyist,

My in-laws are difficult: My mother-in-law is bipolar and narcissistic. My father-in-law is entirely selfish, and my brother-in-law is pretty amoral and lacks scruples. Trust me on this. My father-in-law and mother-in-law live on my brother-in-law’s farm in Florida.

My parents-in-law pay for lifestyle expenses, utilities, animal feed, vet bills, etc., and consistently “loan” money to my brother-in-law without hope of repayment. By the way, my brother-in-law is a multimillionaire (although cash poor) and hasn’t worked in 10 years. My father-in-law was a New York City teacher and draws an annual pension worth six figures.

Through a lifetime of spending at or beyond their financial limits, my parents-in-law have acquired several valuable pieces (art, antique furniture, etc.) and, due to my father-in-law’s pension, have a few hundred thousand dollars in the bank.

The Moneyist:‘He doesn’t give me any money’: My husband has been making secret payments to his parents. Should I tell him to stop?

My husband, who is wonderful and responsible, and I are expecting our first child. (We’re so excited.) My husband has asked his father to draw up a will that would exclude us but protect the inheritance of his future grandchild.

We both expect that his brother will end up draining my in-laws dry and taking everything valuable for himself. My father-in-law refused to create a will, saying “not to worry about it” and assuring us everything would work out fine.

Obviously, that’s no comfort at all. As an aside, my mother-in-law has dementia and relies on her husband as a caretaker; we cannot rely on her help in this matter at all.

What can we do to protect the inheritance of our future child? In the absence of a will, would my FIL’s estate be divided evenly between his two children? How can we make sure that my brother-in-law doesn’t drain his parents dry?

Thank you,

Concerned for my child

The Moneyist: ‘We bet on the wrong horse’: I co-signed my nephew’s $55K student loan: He has no degree and no job. What should we do?

Dear Mother,

I am #TeamFIL.

Imagine, for a moment, that you sent this letter to your father-in-law instead of me. What would he think? You lost me on this line: “My mother-in-law has dementia and relies on her husband as a caretaker; we cannot rely on her help in this matter at all.”

If you see your mother-in-law’s dementia as an impediment to you and your husband securing your inheritance and/or your child’s inheritance — they are essentially the same thing in this situation — the problem lies not with your in-laws, but with you.

Your in-laws have made smart financial decisions in their lives. I trust your father-in-law to make smart decisions in relation to his estate. He may or may not have a will. He may or may not leave money to you and your husband and child. His money. His choice.

Trying to control the behavior of others is a fool’s game. It can start with your in-laws’ estate and trickle all the way down to the person standing in line in front of you at the bank: “Why can’t they move faster? Why can’t they take me into account? Why can’t they do what I want?”

It is a one-way ticket to a life of anger and frustration where everyone except for you is the problem. If everyone else is the problem — your “selfish” father-in-law, your “narcissistic” mother-in-law, your “amoral” brother-in-law — then you’re the problem.

The Moneyist: My wife had a baby in June. She has $160,000 in student loans — and just asked for my ‘blessing’ to work part time

Every dollar and cent that goes to helping your brother-in-law is a dollar and cent that does not go to you. It sounds like a frustrating and infuriating situation for you. But it is one entirely of your own making. It’s your father-in-law’s money, his son, his relationship, his business.

He may have a will. He may not. But one way to control who your father-in-law leaves his money to in his will, assuming he does have one, is to keep making his business your business, and to keep casting judgment on everyone else in your family except yourself.

If I were your father-in-law, I might want to continue helping people after I’m gone. If he is taking care of his wife now, he could leave his estate to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America or Dementia Society of America, which help elderly people like your mother-in-law.

When you try to control other people’s actions and spend your time persuading them to see the world from your point of view, you are effectively playing God. That is probably the most impossible role to play in this life. Play the role of wife, mother, friend and kind daughter-in-law instead.

Living a life where you want nothing from anyone is a freeing and happy place to be. You have a child on the way. Your husband cares about you, and it sounds like you think the world of him. You have many good things in your life. Focus on those non-monetary gifts instead.

Be #TeamFIL too.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at 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.

NewsWatch: Stock-market investors brace for busiest week of earnings in October’s final hurrah


The S&P 500’s tech giants will vie for attention as they barrage the market with third-quarter earnings in the week before the Nov. 3 election. See full story.

Ready for another Big Tech hearing/earnings doubleheader?

Three months ago, Big Tech’s biggest names traipsed into a Congressional hearing to be berated by politicians for their business dominance, then paraded in front of Wall Street a day later to be cheered for their financial dominance. Somebody must have enjoyed that, because it is about to happen all over again. See full story.

Trump, Biden debate pitches fail to make mark with these Pennsylvania voters

Despite a more civil and often substantive discussion of important issues for voters in the Keystone State than in the first presidential debate earlier this month, voters here told MarketWatch that the proceeding did little to change their minds, just 12 days from Election Day. See full story.

Markets are driving shift to green energy away from oil and gas dependence regardless of election winner — the difference is how fast

The U.S. will transition to a clean-energy mix regardless of who wins the White House. But the pace of that change, and with it, the toll on the environment, could look dramatically different depending on the election outcome. See full story.

The inventor of the ‘4% rule’ just changed it

Bill Bengen says the now-iconic rule was always treated too simplistically See full story.


The help that Americans have been getting with rent, unemployment benefits, student loans, paid leave and more is scheduled to end soon. See full story.

: Surging coronavirus colors White House race in closing days

President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Robeson County Fairgrounds, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lumberton, N.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


President Donald Trump on Saturday mocked Democrat Joe Biden as “an inspiring guy” for raising alarm about the pandemic even as the president attracted sizable campaign crowds with coronavirus cases surging across the country in the closing days of the race.

Biden, pressing the case that Trump doesn’t deserve a second term because of his handling of the pandemic, said at his own smaller drive-in rally outside Philadelphia that he didn’t “like the idea of all this distance but it’s necessary” for public health reasons.

“We don’t want to become superspreaders,” he said, using a term that has been used to described a Rose Garden event in late September where Trump announced his Supreme Court nominee. More than two dozen people linked to the White House have contracted COVID-19 since that gathering.

Biden, with some help from rock legend Jon Bon Jovi, was courting voters in hotly contested pockets of Pennsylvania that could prove key to deciding the outcome of the race in the state.

Trump criticized Biden for saying during Thursday’s debate that the country is headed for a “dark winter” because of the pandemic — the scenario that health experts have warned about for months. The president jabbed at television news outlets for covering the pandemic, which has killed nearly 224,000 people in the United States. The nation’s coronavirus tally reached record heights with more than 83,000 infections reported on Friday.

“We’re rounding the turn … our numbers are incredible,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Lumberton, North Carolina, that drew hundreds of people who stood shoulder to shoulder.

The president was scheduled to hold rallies later in Circleville, Ohio, and Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Trump said that he watched Biden’s Pennsylvania rally as he flew to North Carolina and said it appeared attendees, who were in their cars, weren’t properly socially distancing.
“You know why we have cases?” Trump added. “‘Cause we test so much. And in many ways, it’s good. And in many ways, it’s foolish. In many ways, OK? In many ways it’s very foolish.”

Trump, who spent the night at his Mar-a-Lago resort after campaigning Friday in Florida, started his day by stopping at an early voting polling site set up at a public library to cast his own ballot. The president last year switched his official residence from New York to his private Florida club, complaining that New York politicians had treated him badly.

Greeted at the polling site by a crowd of cheering supporters, Trump could have mailed in his ballot, but opted to vote in person. He wore a mask inside, following local rules in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. He told reporters that he voted for “a guy named Trump” after casting his ballot.

Biden hasn’t voted and is likely do so in person on Election Day, Nov. 3., as Delaware doesn’t offer early voting. Trump, who has made unsubstantiated claims of massive fraud about mail-in voting, gave another plug to in-person voting. “When you send in your ballot it could never be like that. It could never be secure like that,” Trump said.

The rise in coronavirus cases are an ominous sign the disease still has a firm grip on the nation that has more confirmed virus-related deaths and infections than any other in the world. Many states are reporting a surge of cases and say hospitals are running out of space in areas where the pandemic seemed remote only months ago.

Biden’s first stop was in Bucks County, part of suburban Philadelphia that Hillary Clinton won by a slim margin in the 2016 White House race. He was scheduled to host another rally later Saturday in Luzerne County, a blue-collar area that twice voted for Barack Obama but went overwhelmingly for Trump four years ago. Biden’s campaign said the former vice president will be joined by Bon Jovi, a native of neighboring New Jersey, who will sing at the Luzerne event.

In the Nov. 3 election more than 54 million votes have already been cast, with an additional 100 million or so expected before a winner is declared.

The pandemic has pushed Trump onto the defensive for much of the fall, but for the moment it is Biden’s team that has been forced to explain itself. In the final minutes of Thursday night’s debate, the former vice president said he supports a “transition” away from oil in the U.S. in favor of renewable energy. The campaign released a statement hours later declaring that he would phase out taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuel companies, not the industry altogether.

But Trump, campaigning in North Carolina, again hammered Biden on the issue. “He’s either crazy or he’s the worst liar,” Trump said. “I actually think there’s a third category. I think he doesn’t remember.”

As part of his damage control, Biden dispatched running mate Kamala Harris to help clarify his position as she campaigned in swing state Georgia on Friday. He also sought to clarify his position during remarks in Bucks County. “Let me be clear, I’m not banning fracking in Pennsylvania or anywhere else,” Biden said.

As for Biden and oil, while ending the nation’s reliance on fossil fuel is popular among many liberals, the idea could hurt him among working-class voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas who depend on the industry, and fracking in particular, to make a living.

Biden has said he would ban new gas and oil permits — including fracking — on federal lands only. The vast majority of oil and gas does not come from federal lands.

Where Should I Retire?: We want to retire to somewhere our kids and grandkids would want to live too. Our budget is $7,000 a month — where should we go?

Buffalo Mountain Park in Johnson City, Tenn.

Courtesy Visit Johnson City

Dear MarketWatch,

I’m retiring in six months and live outside of Los Angeles. It’s really pricey here.  

I’m 68 and my wife is 61. We will have about $800,000 in total savings and IRAs, and an income of $7,000 monthly including my Social Security. We currently rent.

We want to avoid high-humidity summers, but also try to stay away from the desert heat. Trying to avoid shoveling a lot of snow, too.

We like gardening, cycling, hiking, boating and fishing, so access to water would be a blessing. It would be great to afford a half-acre or more.

Our next two generations may follow us, so employment opportunities for them would be an extra benefit.  

I’m stumped on where to go, so your help would be greatly appreciated.


Dear Russ,

Congratulations on being on the cusp of retirement and the start of a new adventure.

I’m hearing you say both the South and the Southwest are out, given the weather. There are still plenty of options, but you may have to compromise a bit on winter weather. (How much snow? How much rain?) 

If you want the next two generations to follow, you need an area where unemployment has been below average (at least pre-pandemic). A fast-growing area could be a bonus. You may want to ask them what trade-offs they’re willing to accept before you pick a spot. I hope it’s not just wishful thinking on your part.  

A thought: Why not look for a townhouse or over-55 community where the fees to the homeowners association include snow shoveling? Maybe mowing too? That might mean giving up on the half acre, but you can still do a lot of gardening on less land. Just check those HOA rules. A community garden could be a backup plan. Regardless, don’t underestimate how much work a half-acre can be!

Read: Four questions to ask when looking for a 55+ active adult community

Here are three very different places to consider. The MarketWatch “where should I retire” tool can point you to more possibilities.

The Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge is just south of Salem._ReedLanePhotography

Reed Lane Photography/courtesy Travel Salem
Salem, Oregon

You will escape summer humidity in the capital of Oregon, home to 175,000 people. You also won’t have to shovel much — though the flip side is rainy winters.

You’ll find those fishing opportunities on the Willamette River within city limits, but you can also drive less than 45 miles to Silver Falls State Park, considered a crown jewel in the state parks system. Two hours east is stunning Detroit Lake, 400 feet deep and more than 9 miles long. It’s in the Willamette National Forest, which covers 1.6 million acres over eight wilderness areas, so you’d also have plenty of hiking options. And when you want to bike, start with Salem’s 11-mile Minto-Brown Island Park Paved Path.

Salem is in the center of the Willamette Valley, so vineyards aren’t far away. If grapes can thrive, so can your garden.

Housing costs are slightly above the national average. Here’s what’s on the market now, using listings on (which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp.). You can easily flip to see rentals.

An alternative could be Corvallis, suggested here.

Read: Health care will cost this much in retirement — but probably even more

A man fishes in the Watauga River at Sycamore Shoals State Park near Johnson City.

Johnson City, Tennessee

This part of northeastern Tennessee could make the fisherman in you quite happy.

You’d also be just west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, so there are plenty of hiking opportunities. In fact, the Appalachian Trail isn’t far away if you want to hike some segments. Biking? Start with the 10-mile Tweetsie Trail to Elizabethton.

Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine has described the reader-chosen winner of its 2018 top midsize town vote as a relatively new adventure town with a “reawakened downtown.” 

You’ll have moderate summer humidity and average July highs in the mid-80s. Average snowfall in January is 3 ½ inches, so there’s not much shoveling to do.

Away from outdoor activities, Johnson City boasts of its live music scene. Eastern Tennessee State University, which is here, has a prominent bluegrass music program.

On the money side, Tennessee has no state income taxes, and the phaseout of its tax on investment income (known as the Hall Tax) will be completed on Jan. 1. Housing costs run well below the national average; they’re the cheapest among my three suggestions.

Here’s what’s on the market now, using

Johnson City also is the smallest of the three suggestions, with around 67,000 people. The broader tri-cities metropolitan area, which sprawls into southwestern Virginia, is home to more than 500,000.
If this is too small for the younger generations, they may want to base themselves in Knoxville (suggested here) less than two hours away.

If Johnson City isn’t quite right, an alternative might be Roanoke, Va., recommended here.

Read: What should you with all that money you saved for retirement? This man is spending it, and it feels great

A street in the revitalized and vibrant Short North Arts District in Columbus, Ohio.

Courtesy Brand Columbus
Columbus, Ohio

You can find your half-acre lot here, in the capital of Ohio, or you can look in Franklin County’s suburbs. 

Fast-growing Columbus has 900,000 people and is home to Ohio State University. The wider metro area tops 2 million, so you’ll find a range of communities as well as home prices and rents. The website Livability described Columbus as “quickly becoming one of the most popular cities for millennials” when it put it on its list of 100 best places to live in 2019. It jumped to 11th in 2020, when the list was reconfigured for our COVID-19 world and the increased ability to work from anywhere. 

One reason is jobs. The younger generations will find corporate headquarters of companies like Cardinal Health, Nationwide Insurance and L Brands as well as many other big-name employers.

For the water lover in you, check out Griggs Reservoir on the west side of the Scioto River in Columbus, toward the suburb of Hilliard, and the boat club there. Or head to one of several lakes north of the I-270 loop.

I know…you’re thinking it’s the Midwest, so what kind of hiking can there be? Woodland options abound. Start with Christmas Rocks State Nature Reserve 40 miles southeast of the city. . Or tackle the Buckeye Trail—more than 1,400 miles that loop around the state.

You’ll find many bike trails, including the 25-mile Alum Creek Greenway Trail. This one is also part of the 326-mile Ohio to Erie Trail between Cincinnati and Cleveland, if you want to keep pedaling.

Weather-wise, it’s no surprise that you will get four seasons. January is the snowiest month, with an average of nearly 7 inches. Average summer highs reach the mid-80s, and humidity is moderate. Your garden will love it.

Despite its size, housing on average doesn’t cost much more than in Johnson City. See what’s on the housing market in Columbus and across Franklin County using

Readers, where do you think Russ and his wife should retire? Leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Now read: We want to leave cold Midwest states for ‘warmer and drier climes’ and affordable health care on $44,000 a year — so where should we retire?

The Tell: She said Tesla could hit $15,000 a share, and then billions of dollars came pouring in to her fund

Elon Musk

(Getty Images)

Back in February, Catherine Wood, founder and chief executive of ARK Invest ARKK, +0.60%, made the extremely bullish case for Tesla TSLA, -1.21% shares to reach $15,000. It’s like Amazon AMZN, +0.88% 20 years ago, she said. We all know how that turned out.

The Elon Musk faithful cheered her. The haters bashed her. Typical stuff.

Of course, even after the stock split 5-for-1, Tesla is nowhere near that eye-popping number at the moment, but it has, indeed, enjoyed an astonishing run, rallying some 425% year-to-date. As you can see, Wood’s fund has, understandably, risen nicely along with it. Her portfolio counts Tesla, at 10%, as is its biggest holding by a wide margin:

Josh Brown of Ritholtz Wealth Management, having spent time with Wood at a conference in New York City last year, said that he found her to be “serious, courageous and intellectually curious.”

That, however, didn’t stop Brown from taking issue with Wood for taking ARK Invest in a “trollingly bizarre direction” with this recent tweet that he criticized for “smashing value investors, innovation doubters and other nonbelievers over the head”:

“No one likes a sore winner, Cathie,” Brown wrote of the video. And she has been a winner, no doubt. The performance can’t be denied, and Brown illustrated her success by showing just how much her assets under management have surged in recent years to top $10 billion:

Brown, who has taken a step back from Twitter TWTR, +0.31%, acknowledged that a strong social-media presence has clearly helped raise ARK’s profile,

“I’ve basically deleted my presence there, best decision of my life. Never been happier,” Brown wrote in a post on his Reformed Broker blog. “She’s ridden the wave of fame that’s come along with her ultra-bullish Tesla position into a full-fledged cult following.”

Of course, as anybody who’s spent much time bouncing around Twitter can attest, that kind of “following” can turn dark in a hurry.

“Now she’s got to contend with the TSLAQ crowd AND the millions of beleaguered old school value people who have nothing to show for all their self-flagellation over the last decade,” he said. “Why stomp on a hornet’s nest that’s already fallen out of its tree and been dashed on the ground?”

Value has certainly been “dashed to the ground” in recent years. According to Morningstar, the average U.S. large company “value” mutual fund has lost 8% so far this year while the average “growth” fund is up a whopping 27%. This separation has been going on for years, with growth funds outperforming value since as far back as 2007, data shows.

Read: Tech innovation is changing the world – this fund manager is betting big on it

Both growth and value came under pressure in Monday’s trading session, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.09%, tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.36% and S&P 500 SPX, +0.34% all moving firmly lower to start the week.

Read: Value stocks ‘worst for 100 years’

ARK Invest, which bills itself as a firm focused solely on “disruptive innovation” with companies like Roku ROKU, +0.72% and Slack WORK, +0.48% joining Tesla among its top holdings, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.