Q: My parents were always careful with money. But since Mom died, Dad has taken up with a much wealthier widow and is blowing through his savings entertaining her. Isn't she wrong to let him undermine his financial security like that?
A: Maybe. The key question: Is your dad's lady friend in the dark as to his resources or is she just uncaring? If your father has been pretending to be her financial peer, you can't blame the woman he's squiring around for his extravagance. If not, though, she -- like every adult -- has an obligation not to allow someone to spend more money on her than the person can afford.
But unless the merry widow has been holding a gun to his head, it's your dad who's responsible for jeopardizing his financial security. While he has a right to spend his money as he chooses, he also has an obligation to see that he doesn't run out of dough and leave others - you, for one, us taxpayers, for another - stuck with his support.
Questions? Email Money Magazine’s ethicists – authors of “Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?” (Free Press) – at FlemingandSchwarz@right-thing.net.