Q. When my husband and I returned from vacation, we were shocked to find that most of our driveway had been torn out. Turns out, our neighbors had hired a firm to replace their asphalt driveway with pavers. But when the workers started the demolition, they went to the wrong house, and our neighbors weren't at home to catch the mistake.
Someone has to cover the cost of replacing our driveway, and our neighbor thinks it should be the contractor. While the contractor is willing to accept responsibility, it seems unfair to blame this hard-working immigrant. As I understand it, our neighbor showed our driveway to him when he came over to estimate the job (I'm not sure why), and that must have been confusing. Moreover, she should have scheduled the work to start when someone could be home to make sure everything went smoothly. What should I do?
A. What you should do is keep your opinions to yourself. Being the victim doesn't give you the right to insert yourself into your neighbor's dealings with her contractor. You're entitled to a new driveway, not to play Solomon in other people's lives.
You feel sorry for the contractor. But being an industrious immigrant doesn't give him a pass on bearing the consequences of the errors he made, and it's patronizing to suggest otherwise. Plus, surely his contract specified the address of the work site.
Still convinced the contractor is being taken advantage of? Then there's nothing to prevent you from giving him a substantial tip when his crew has finished installing your new driveway.
Q. One of my siblings, "Sarah," has volunteered to move in with our elderly parents and look after them. The rest of us agree — one begrudgingly —that she should be paid. But the amounts we have in mind vary widely, and our disagreements threaten to fracture our close-knit family.
A. One way to determine the appropriate compensation is to find out how much caregivers in your area charge for the services Sarah will be providing. If on average they charge $30 per hour and your family agrees that Sarah is likely to spend about five hours a day doing chores for your parents, then a reasonable salary might be $1,000 per week. And what about Sarah's free room and board? Consider it compensation for being on call 24/7 and having her life revolve around your parents' needs.
If our approach doesn't appeal to you, think about consulting a social worker with an elder-care practice. And whatever you decide on, remember this: If Sarah is being fairly compensated, then she's as obligated as any other sibling to pay her share of that compensation (or to have her compensation reduced by whatever her share would be).
Email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.