Greetings Loyal Readers!
We hope you all had a lovely and fireworks-filled weekend, especially those celebrating their Independence Day in the United States!
This week, we are delighted to introduce you to Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz, columnists of the King Features column, “Money Manners.”
From mortgages and retirement funds to student loans, expensive wedding gifts and cheap dates, money weaves its way through our interactions with family, friends and foes. Yet money problems are one of society’s biggest taboos, a seldom-discussed, looming green elephant in every room. Enter Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz, authors of Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?, a must-read guide to money and ethics predicaments. In their daily Q&A column syndicated by King Features, Jeanne and Leonard tackle the flummoxing financial questions that emerge when money and morality collide. Read samples of their column here.
Readers of Comics Kingdom's blog are in for a special treat this week, and it all begins with this introductory interview. Enjoy!
Q: Was there a particular incident that inspired your column “Money Manners”?
A: We used to read Randy Cohen’s column, “The Ethicist,” in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, and every week it would drive us crazy that he was always above money—always insisting that only shallow people would let money color their feelings about an issue. But of course it does matter if a friend is always sticking you with a check or if your nephew fails to repair the damage he did to your car when he borrowed it. So we developed our column to directly address the awkward, uncomfortable issues money can raise in personal relationships.
Q: Why is the topic of money so sensitive for people to address?
A: Money is enormously important, more important than most people like to acknowledge. For example, it confers status. It determines how comfortably you’ll live. It determines the opportunities you’ll be able to provide for your children. Plus everyone knows people who have a lot more—or a lot less—money than they do. So no wonder it can make people feel uncomfortable.
Q: You wrote the book Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check? Any plans to write another?
A: Only if we’re looking for a reason to get divorced.
Q: Well, we definitely don't want that! What’s the best way to avoid awkward money problems?
A: Death. How you’ve left your money will still cause problems, but only for other people.
Q: What money issues do readers find the trickiest to navigate?
A: Lending money to friends and family often leads to trouble, primarily because those loans are often not repaid, or not repaid in full. Another trouble spot is disparities in wealth among family members. There’s an African proverb that says “Brothers love each other when they are equally rich.” But most brothers aren’t equally rich. Finally, there’s the age-old issue of dividing expenses: how to split a check when one couple orders more expensive entrees; how to split the utility bill when one roommate takes three times more showers than anyone else; how to divide the rent on the ski condo when one couple gets the master bedroom suite and the other gets the room with all the bunk beds.
Q: What money issue upsets readers the most?
A: Historically, eighty percent of the wealth held by American households comes from the money that flows within families from older generations to younger generations. So who gets what is a very big deal, and beneficiaries are frequently upset by what they did or what they failed to inherit—and by what others did or didn’t inherit as well. There’s an old saying “Where there’s a will, there’s a fight.” That about sums up the issue we hear about most frequently from readers.
Well, this is just a tiny tidbit of what readers like you can expect all week from the incomparable Fleming and Schwarz, who tackle questions about money and etiquette with fairness, humor, honesty — and tough love when needed.