Dave Says

Increase expectations gradually

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Dave Ramsey

February 21, 2024

Dear Dave,

I’m getting married this summer and about to become a stepmom. To be honest, I’m a little worried about the family dynamic. My fiancé’s daughter from an earlier marriage seems a bit irresponsible. She’s 23, has trouble holding a job and still lives at home. She seems to expect her dad to step in when she doesn’t have money for her car payment. We both agree he has been too lenient with her in the past. He wants to change things, but neither of us believe suddenly pulling the rug out from under her is a good idea. Do you have any advice for handling this situation?


Dear Susie,

If you and her dad really want to show her you love her, you’ll make sure she starts learning some character and discipline. It’ll take a little time at this point, and it’s very important that both of you are in agreement every step of the way.

Marriage counselors say you have a good chance of a successful marriage if you’re in agreement on four things – religion, money, children and in-laws. I know you and your fiancé love each other, but I’d strongly suggest you two go through pre-marital counseling to make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to handling this and other issues.

After that, I’d recommend letting her dad present any changes to her initially. Neither of you wants to create a scenario where you’re viewed as a villain. Let her dad start the process by explaining that he feels he made a few mistakes in terms of teaching her personal responsibility when she was younger. Then, he can begin to lay out the first few expectations.

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with requiring her to get a job within 30 days, if she doesn’t already have one. If she needs to go job hunting, the process should be an everyday thing, because if she’s unemployed, finding work needs to be her job – her full-time job. It would also be a good time to start teaching her about budgeting, saving and everything else that goes into handling money responsibly.

Phase two might consist of requiring her to help around the house doing chores, or whenever help is needed. After a couple of months of this, phase three might be where she is introduced to the practice of paying a very small amount in rent each month.

Do you see what I’m doing, Susie? By stepping up expectations gradually, you’re building a foundation so she’ll have the tools and knowledge – to where in the sixth or seventh month – she’s able to move out and live like a fully-functioning adult should.

God bless you all!


Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is a seven-time #1 national best-selling author, personal finance expert, and host of The Ramsey Show, heard by more than 16 million listeners each week. He has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Today Show, Fox News, CNN, Fox Business, and many more. Since 1992, Dave has helped people regain control of their money, build wealth and enhance their lives. He also serves as CEO for Ramsey Solutions.