Money Manners: Law school decision not your business

Q A good friend’s daughter is applying to law school. I’ve known “Jess” most of her life, and I’m familiar enough with her academic record to know that she’s not going to get into a top-tier school.

While of course there’s no disgrace in this, the unfortunate truth is that these days, graduates of the kind of law school Jess can hope to attend generally have difficulty finding jobs that pay enough to justify the mountain of debt they’ve accumulated while in law school. (The market for the services of graduates of second- and third-tier institutions has, in recent years, been drying up. I know because I’m an attorney, and I suspect that Jess and her parents are unaware of the situation.)

While I don’t want to discourage Jess, I’d hate to see her end up owing $150,000 or more on a student loan that, at the salary she’s likely to be offered when she graduates, could take 15 to 20 years to repay. Should I speak up, or not?

A Perhaps Jess’ parents plan to help with the tuition.

Not that borrowing less makes law school a better investment on a dollars-and-cents basis. But it may be worth it to them to see their daughter receive a professional degree, especially if it’s in a field that particularly interests her.

In any event, what you should do is wait to see if anyone in Jess’ family asks you about law school or the practice of law. If someone does, you can encourage him or her to investigate the job offers that graduates of the schools to which Jess is applying are receiving – you can and should, in other words, point them toward reality. But it’s not up to you to tell them you think that law school is a bad investment for Jess.

Q A pushy acquaintance wanted to hire our housecleaner, but I lied and told her “Patricia” is already overbooked (I don’t know if she is or not).

I did this because I can’t stand this person, and I know she’d be asking nosy questions about us all the time. My husband says I was wrong to deny Patricia the job opportunity. What do you think?

A We don’t blame you for not wanting an overly inquisitive acquaintance to hire someone who has a backstage knowledge of your life.

Plus in general you have no obligation to place your housecleaner’s interests — or your acquaintance’s — ahead of your own. But still, you told a lie that may have cost Patricia money. To make things right, you need to find out whether she’s looking for more work, and if she is, you need to try to find her some.

Q My brother is the executor of our parents’ estate. Mother died eight years ago, and Father passed five years ago. Everything except $35,000 has been divided between the three of us children. My brother wants to keep the remaining money in the estate for another two years. He says it’s for unexpected expenses. Can this be right? I think this has been drawn out long enough.

A Five years generally is long enough for unforeseen tax problems or other unanticipated expenses to bubble up.

However, if your father was a party to complex business deals, there may be good reason for your brother’s continued caution. But why don’t you ask him what he’s concerned about? He must have a reason for holding on to the dough. If you’re not satisfied with it — if you think he’s being unreasonable – you can always ask him for your share of the money remaining in the estate, while offering to warranty, in writing, that you’ll pay your share of any expenses that pop up after you’ve received it.

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