When it comes to emotionally charged financial dilemmas, Palo Alto-based "Money Manners" columnists Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz have heard it all, from conflicts with in-laws who welsh on loans to siblings battling over an inheritance.
And they're ready for more, bringing their smart, practical advice column to the Bay Area News Group, appearing monthly in The Good Life section.
"These are universal issues -- nearly everybody's had money come between family members or friends -- but whom do you go to with questions like this?" Schwarz asks. "There's a void when it comes to money, ethics and relationships, so we lay it out for people. We talk about how you have to be fair, do the right thing and, well, somebody may not like that."
"People do feel uncomfortable about these situations," Fleming says. "How do you tell a friend the freeloading has to stop? How do multiple family members divide up the rent from a vacation home? Some people are just trying to do the right thing."
As Stanford grads -- Fleming with a Ph.D. in sociology and Schwarz with an MBA and a master's in communication -- they've been advising readers on how to deal with the cringe-inducing money problems that arise between family and friends since 2005, first for Money magazine and the CNN/Money website in a column called "Do the Right Thing," then for Forbes.com in "Money & Ethics."
They say they were practically born to do this -- both watched relatives damage relationships over financial matters.
"It's really been an interest of ours all our lives," Schwarz says.
Their book, "Isn't It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check? Dealing with All of the Trickiest Money Problems Between Family and Friends -- from Serial Borrowers to Serious Cheapskates" (Free Press, $21), has earned them interviews on NPR and "Good Morning America."
The also have conducted two pioneering national surveys on American views of money and relationships, with dramatic findings.
"It seems 49 percent of people had at least one family member they considered a cheapskate," Fleming says. "And 35 percent said at least one family member was a deadbeat."
"It seems like these issues shouldn't be so hard," Schwarz says. "But if they weren't, we wouldn't have a column."
Follow Angela Hill at Twitter.com/GiveEmHill.