Family members have come and gone now, keeping me busy in the meantime. My parents visited for 4 days, plus my sister, her hubby and two sons. We all had a good time and managed to get along quite well.
My sister brought some bad news. They will likely lose their home to foreclosure in a few months. My brother-in-law lost his job 2.5 yrs ago. After 3-4 months, he found another job at half the pay. My sister is a high school teacher. Together they make about $100k, down from $150k. Unfortunately, they had been living like they made $175k, so they REALLY couldn't afford to lose any income, much less $50,000.
Also, their house lost about 30% from its peak. They had borrowed off this house at its peak to buy a rental home. They are OK on payments for the rental home (thanks to steady renters), but behind on their primary home and just can't keep up with payments. I assume they are under water on it.
It is one of those situations in which a couple that makes twice the U.S. median income, drives very nice cars, and has premium cable, iPhones, Tivo, season ski passes, etc. is "forced" to stop payments on their home. Because, you know, iPhones and cable and Tivo, etc are necessities. And selling that beautiful Volvo and buying an old but reliable car "just wouldn't be worth it." And my sister couldn't possibly work over the summer, like those younger teachers at her school do. And no way would she rent out the separate entrance basement living space--who could suggest such a thing!
Either we don't pay for those things to begin with, or those are all things we would do or cut immediately. Definitely before we lost our home.
Their plan is to move into their second home. It is in a 1950s neighborhood--old but not old enough be be charming (not at all). Fortunately, it is zoned for great schools. They will have to downsize from 2800 square feet of living space to 1100 (that includes the converted garage). Ouch.
What will they do with the money they save? Who knows--though it is safe to say that they won't put it towards retirement. We'll have to up our own retirement savings to be able to support them in their old age. But it will be rough given that it is already clear that my S.O.'s brother is going to need help too.
I'm kidding, but only kind of.
I'll have to write later about the fact that my sister's husband drinks like a fish. I don't think it has affected his work, yet. But given the financial crises they've already had, this makes me all the more nervous for their long-run stability.