DEAR BRUCE: My 19-year-old stepson used to live with his father and me. He has been living with his mother for the past two years in South Carolina. His dad still pays his cell-phone bill, and recently, he ran the bill up to $1,000.
His dad is not making him pay this back. His car broke down (his second vehicle his parents have given him), so now his dad is letting him drive his truck until he can buy him a new car.
My stepson works part-time at the local grocery store, but only works a few hours a week. He has never been made to be responsible for anything in his life. Whenever he needs something, he calls his dad, and his dad provides for him.
We have many arguments, as I believe a 19-year-old should pay his own cell-phone bill, as well as save his money to provide his own means of transportation and his dad should not keep providing for him at this age. Am I being too harsh on this "child," as his dad keeps calling him? — G.T., via e-mail
DEAR G.T.: His father seems to be on a guilt trip after being separated from his son, exacerbating what might have been a bad situation by spoiling him rotten. How can anyone justify a $1,000 cell bill under any circumstances for a barely employed 19-year-old?
Where is it written that a father should be buying a car and providing a truck until such time as the kid can afford it? Your husband is doing this boy no favors. If the boy is not going to pursue his education, he should get himself a real job. As long as the old man is there, every time the kid holds out his hand, he is never going to grow up.
You are in a difficult position as the stepmother, but you are the responsible person in this family. Hopefully, you can persuade your husband about the errors of his ways.
DEAR BRUCE: I have a question about teenagers and car insurance. Someone told me that he wasn't going to put his teen on the family's car insurance because they have full coverage on their vehicle, which covers uninsured motorists (which their teen would be).
So, he said the insurance company is trying to make people pay more to insure teenagers when they are already insured by the uninsured motorist coverage. Is this true? — M.J., via e-mail
DEAR M.J.: There is absolutely no substance to anything you have been told. Uninsured motorists are covered when you are involved in an accident with someone who has no connection to you, who is either uninsured or underinsured.
It has nothing to do with a member of your household. Whether or not your current policy would be reduced, should your teenager be driving and have an accident, is a matter of the language in the policy.
Generally, it is not wise to try to commit fraud, and this is what your advisers are suggesting. If there is a surcharge for having your teen listed as a member of your household, take the hit. There's no way this person can be properly excluded unless he owns an automobile and it is completely insured with a "drive other car" privilege, which, in this case, sounds unlikely.
Send your questions to: Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680. E-mail to: email@example.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.