Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

Housecleaner sometimes needs extra funds

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: The woman I have employed to clean my house for several years has a very difficult life. She's a hard worker, does a beautiful job and is completely trustworthy. But, like so many people in her situation, her financial situation is extremely precarious.

I pay her very well and am generous at Christmas, birthdays and so on. When she is faced with a sudden emergency such as her car breaking down, I will give her some extra money to tide her over. She always says she'll find a way to pay me back, but we both know that won't happen.

These extra amounts probably total around $1,000 a year, overall.

I am able to afford to help her, and am so glad to be able to do this. I tell myself that I choose to support her instead of a far-off charity, although I contribute to organized charities, too.

She is always tearful and very grateful, but I am increasingly uncomfortable. I hate being put in the position of being her "last resort." The last time she came to me, she needed $300.

I would feel awful knowing she was going to lose her apartment or something, but I cringe when she walks in the door, wondering what it's going to be this time.

 

How do you think I should handle this?

-- Trying to be Kind

Dear Trying: If you are willing to spend $1,000 annually to help this person, you could either raise her pay by that amount -- and perhaps be willing to say no to any extra entreaties, or put aside that amount into a private "emergency fund." Having this money (figuratively) set aside might ease your anxiety about her next "ask" by simply adjusting your mindset.

As she draws down the fund, you will have to decide what to do if she asks for over the amount within the course of a year. You should also do some research to see if there are local organizations that might help with her utility bill (for instance), or with emergency needs.

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