“Not a real reg”

Since: Jan 13

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#1 Mar 31, 2013
Dear Amy: I am sometimes at a loss when people ask personal questions. For example, when I recently told someone I was collecting Social Security, she asked, "How much do you get?" Unfortunately, I didn't think fast enough to say something like "I'd rather not say." Instead, I made up a number.

People often ask questions of a personal nature not related to money. What is the most polite way to answer, while indicating that it is none of their beeswax?— Seeking a Polite Response

Dear Seeking: The most effective response to a probing personal question is to take a breath, and then (if you truly don't want to answer) dodge by asking a question in return, "Hmm, why do you ask?" The person may then say, "Oh, I was wondering because I start collecting Social Security next year, and I can't figure out if I should take it then or wait another year."

This buys you time enough to decide whether you want to answer this personal question truthfully and engage in a conversation you might not want to have or simply reply, "Well, I'd rather not say."

Dear Amy: We are still very close to our children's former nanny. My problem is that she sends our entire family gifts (usually clothing) for birthdays and holidays. Often, the clothes she sends are too small for the kids, and the things she buys me are things I would never wear.

I know she has very limited economic means and hate that she spends her money buying us things that we don't need or use. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I don't want her to continue to waste her money. Should I ask her to stop?— Grateful

Dear Grateful: You can say to her: "You are always so sweet to remember us for birthdays and holidays, but please, you have already given so much to our family and you work so hard. We want you to save your money for yourself. Can we change the gift giving and get together instead? The best gift to us is to spend time with you!"

If this doesn't work or if she lives far away, you might be able to offer her very low-cost suggestions for things you and the kids would use, such as notepaper and pens or a favorite sweet. And always, whatever she does, your family should express its sincere gratitude for her generosity.

Dear Amy: As a former middle manager of a national retail company, I have to disagree with your advice to "Up in the Air Au Pair." She was wondering whether she should tell her employers that she was about to start a professional job search.

This situation is no different from any other employer/employee situation. The nanny's first responsibility is to herself and her future, and she should pursue her next job in silence and then provide a month's notice to her employer.

Unfortunately, "being nice" in these situations will likely (and should) take a back seat to the needs of the parties involved?— Been Burned Before

Dear Burned: I don't think the nanny relationship is necessarily comparable to corporate relationships: She was considered a part of the family, and the family/employers had asked her for a two-year commitment. But I agree with you completely that the nanny's first responsibility is to herself and her own professional future.

Rancho Cucamonga, CA

#2 Mar 31, 2013
LW1 - Practice saying "Why do you ask?" If you are practiced at it, you won't need time to come up with it.

Amy's reflections on what people MIGHT say in response are pretty darn stupid. SS checks are based on one's earnings and length of employment. Knowing how much another person's SS check is does nothing for estimating whether you can retire now or need to work another year. And if somebody DOES answer in this inane way, tell them to google "how to calculate your social security."

LW2 - Just ask her to stop - politely, of course. If it hurts her feelings, she is way too touchy, and it's her problem, not yours.

LW3 - The nanny relationship may not be identical to corporate relationships, but it's not that different either. When my cleaning lady decided to up the price for her services, I decided I could do without the cleaning lady. I liked her, but I couldn't afford what she was asking. In fact, upon doing the math, I figured out that even paying her what I was already paying was a bit beyond my budget, so....I clean my house myself now.

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