Stepson Money Issues
Hello all. I had posted here a while back regarding my stepson, and it was nice to get a ton of answers and support. I've lurked for a few years after, but now I'd like to once again seek some thoughts from this forum.
I'll try to present as objectively as possible, and I do encourage objective responses too - I am fine if I'm told I'm totally wrong.
Quick setup - Married my wife 10 years ago and have been in her life for nearly 12. She has a son who was 8 when we met and is now 20. He lives at home and is eeking his way through community college, and with us we have our 9 year old daughter and 7 year old son. Stepson's father lives fairly close by and is involved - though stepson has been avoiding his father a great deal for the past few years.
The first time I wrote it was regarding my wife and how we constantly disagreed about rules and how to handle the then 17-year-old. The basic idea was that I was for clearer and firmer rules than my wife, and when she perceived that I was too harsh she would defend her cub very vociferously.
I find myself again at odds with my wife regarding my stepson, and at this stage it's about money. It's been pretty harsh at times, so I hope I can hear from objective 3rd parties.
My wife and stepson came to me actually in debt, but things are well enough with me that I was able to clear those when we got married and my wife was able to be a 'stay-at-home' mom for my stepson and our own two children that came along.
My stepson's biological father has paid child support the entire time (until stepson turns 21 in July). In order to avoid the angst from all involved, we put all of the child support money into a 529K account geared for my SS's education, and we even had his father directly deposit into that named account so there would be no question about where his money was going. We have stopped funding that lately since there is now enough for the community college and because that account can only be for education. We set up an online ING account for that money to presumably use for other 'support' things that come up (help fixing car if needed, etc).
So how has all of this money been put to use? He went to his first college after high school and unfortunately failed about 2 out of every 4-5 classes he took. He's not lacking in intelligence, he just literally did not hand things in or in some cases did not show up enough for the class. After four semesters he finally failed out, and we tried things at the community college. He failed some things there too, and thus it seems he will fail out of that community college. After 6 semesters and three classes over summers he will have 35 credits - if he had passed them all he'd have about 70.
He still has enough in his education account to get through a few semesters somewhere else - about 14K - but I'm not sure of the utility here. I understand at 60 credits he would have some options open up like the police academy, which is what he'd like (his father is a state trooper), but I'm not sure it wouldn't take another 3 years and two more colleges before he got there. By the time he turns 21 in two months he'll also have about $8K in the ING account.
What else is this child support money covering? Car repairs on the car we bought him when he started college. We also have used it for lawyers fees and fines from when he got in trouble with pot at 15, with pot at 18, and some traffic stuff at 20. He also used some of it to buy himself a large, flat screen LED TV.
That's really about it. We pay for his clothes, food, gas, entertainment, insurance, cell phone, etc. I should mention here that he has never held a job. He worked for half a summer washing dishes at a local deli when he was 18, but that was for a month and a half and maybe 3-4 days a week. He is trying to get one this summer, so we'll see how that turns out.
So this debate centers around this child support 'font' of money and how it should be dealt with. He has had a credit card since 18 that he is supposed to use for things like clothes when needed and for emergencies. Every month it has been over $600, and most of it is pizza, fast food, iTunes, gas, and the grocery store (where he uses it to buy cigarettes). I would like to use the child support money for these items. My wife wants to keep all of the child support money intact (barring the car fix or education) and designate it as "his money". She would then give all of the money left over to him in a lump sum when he's done with school. Any money in the education account can be passed to the younger kids' accounts and the cash given to him for that.
When I suggest using the child support money to pay for things he is putting on the credit card my wife accuses me of trying to take money that does not belong to me. My argument back is that if we continue to pay for this 20-year-old to entertain himself whenever he would like he will never understand the value of money and how to prioritize and save. Also, with everything either paid for by us or by the child support font, what incentive is there for him to ever get a job?
I put the offer out to give him every single cent of the child support now but then he will have to pay for EVERYTHING including his car insurance (not cheap in NJ), cell phone, food, clothes, etc and in six months he'd be required to pay rent. I was told that I was being too harsh with that and that I would never do that to either of my biological children.
Am I too harsh here? I would like to think that if one of my biological children were 20 and never had a job and was still out all night buying themselves pizza, cigarettes, and God knows what else that I'd put the hammer down. In fact, I'd like to think that the hammer would have fallen a lot sooner...
But still, how should I consider this child support money? I keep thinking that if this money is all his then why do I not get a say in cutting off the stupid stuff on the credit card? What do you all think of giving all of the money NOT used for education back to the child to use as he sees fit?
For the sake of trying to shorten an already too long intro I'll end here. If there are additional details you'd like to know to help you form your opinions just let me know.
Thanks in advance.