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Market rotation persists: Nasdaq takes flight to record highs

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Technically speaking, the major U.S. benchmarks continue to trend higher amid firmly-bullish late-year price action.

Against this backdrop, the Nasdaq Composite has extended a break to record territory — placing distance atop the 12,000 mark — while the S&P 500 is starting December with its latest breakout attempt.

Before detailing the U.S. markets’ wider view, the S&P 500’s
US:SPX
 hourly chart highlights the past two weeks.

As illustrated, the S&P has asserted a three-week range hinged to the double bottom defined by the September and October lows.

The flag-like pattern has been punctuated by Tuesday’s early follow-through to record territory. Bullish price action.

Similarly, the Dow Jones Industrial Average
US:DJIA
 has pulled in to its range from last week’s record high.

Tactically, the February peak (29,568) marks an inflection point — formerly the Dow’s record high — also detailed on the daily chart.

Conversely, notable overhead matches the former range top (29,964) established last month.

Against this backdrop, the Nasdaq Composite
US:COMP
has taken flight, knifing to record territory.

The index registered consecutive record closes last week, and slipped just seven points Monday, to punctuate an intraday whipsaw.

Tactically, the 12,108-to-12,114 area marks a near-term floor, levels matching the early-November peak and gap support.

Widening the view to six months adds perspective.

On this wider view, the Nasdaq has cleared its range top, reaching uncharted territory.

The upturn marks about a 1.2% breakout, confirming the primary uptrend.

Tactically, the breakout point (12,074) is followed by deeper support at 11,950, an area better illustrated on the hourly chart.

Looking elsewhere, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is digesting unusually strong November gains.

In fact, the blue-chip benchmark just notched its best monthly performance since 1987 and its best November performance since 1928. (Both prior records were punctuated by market crashes, about nine to 12 months later, respectively.)

Still, the Dow in the current case had been working from a low base. Recall the successful test of its 200-day moving average at the October low, and subsequent snap-back to record territory.

More immediately, the Dow registered a single close atop the 30,000 mark last week for the first time on record.

It has since generally held the range top in the broad sweep. A near-term target projects from the prevailing range to the 30,700 mark.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 has registered record closes across two of the prior four sessions.

Tactically, gap support (3,594) is closely followed by the September peak (3,588).

Monday’s session low (3,594) matched gap support. (Also see the hourly chart.)

The bigger picture

Collectively, the major U.S. benchmarks continue to trend higher amid a still comfortably bullish bigger-picture backdrop.

On a headline basis, the Nasdaq Composite has broken out, reaching record territory atop the 12,000 mark.

Against this backdrop, each big three U.S. benchmark has registered a record close at some point across the prior four sessions.

Moving to the small-caps, the iShares Russell 2000 ETF is digesting a late-November break to record territory.

The prevailing leg higher builds on its initially decisive early-November breakout.

Similarly, the SPDR S&P MidCap 400 ETF has sustained its latest rally to record highs.

Here again, the MDY’s recent breakout punctuates a mid-November flag-like pattern.

Looking elsewhere, the SPDR Trust S&P 500 is holding its range top.

As detailed repeatedly, the prevailing flag-like pattern is hinged to a double bottom — the W formation — defined by the September and October lows. Constructive price action.

Placing a finer point on the S&P 500, the index has generally held its range top, notching record closes across two of the prior four sessions.

Tactically, Monday’s session low (3,594) matched the top of the gap (3,594).

Separately, the recent upturn punctuates a three-session range, effectively defined by the September and October peaks.

More broadly, the prevailing upturn punctuates a flag-like pattern hinged to the steep early-November rally. (The current pattern is a bit long for a flag, but it’s still a bullish continuation pattern.)

Tactically, the S&P has surpassed its absolute record peak (3,645.99) early Tuesday.

The breakout places it in previously uncharted territory, capped by no true resistance. To reiterate, an intermediate-term target projects to the 3,800 area on follow-through.

Beyond technical levels, each big three benchmark’s intermediate-term path of least resistance continues to point higher pending signs of a bearish pulse.

Also see: Charting a bullish technical tilt: Dow 30,000 and Nasdaq 12,000 under siege.

Tuesday’s Watch List

The charts below detail names that are technically well positioned. These are radar screen names — sectors or stocks poised to move in the near term. For the original comments on the stocks below, see The Technical Indicator Library.

Initially profiled Nov. 5, the Communications Services Select Sector SPDR
US:XLC
 has edged slightly higher and remains well positioned.

Fundamentally, the group may benefit from a December re-rotation toward technology in the wake of strong November gains across other sectors. (Recall the Nasdaq’s recent breakout after previously lagging slightly behind.)

Against this backdrop, the group is digesting a modest break to record territory.

Tactically, the breakout point (65.20) is followed by the group’s former range top, circa 62.60. The prevailing uptrend is firmly-intact barring a violation.

Looking elsewhere, the Health Care Select Sector SPDR is acting well technically.

The group initially spiked four weeks ago, staging a nearly straightline rally to all-time highs. The upturn punctuates a double bottom — the W formation — underpinned by the 200-day moving average.

More immediately, the prevailing pullback has been underpinned by the top of the gap (107.74) placing the group at an attractive entry 4.3% under the November peak. (The post-breakout low registered just six cents above gap support.)

Initially profiled July 23, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
US:AMD
 has returned 49.9% and remains well positioned.

Technically, the shares have cleared a three-month range top, rising to tag a record close on increased volume. The upturn punctuates a double bottom defined by the September and November lows. An intermediate-term target projects to the 101 area.

Conversely, the breakout point, circa 88.00, pivots to support. A sustained posture higher signals a firmly-bullish bias.

More broadly, the shares are well positioned on the three-year chart, rising from a bullish continuation pattern hinged to the steep mid-2020 rally.

Cirrus Logic, Inc.
US:CRUS
 is a well positioned mid-cap fabless semiconductor name and an Apple, Inc. supplier.

As illustrated, the shares have reached nine-month highs, clearing resistance matching the April peak (78.46) and November peak (78.48).

More broadly, the strong-volume upturn punctuates a November flag-like pattern hinged to a double bottom defined by the June and September peaks. Tactically, the prevailing rally attempt is intact barring a violation of the breakout point (78.50).

Dollar Tree, Inc.
US:DLTR
 is a well positioned large-cap discount retailer.

Late last month, the shares gapped to 52-week highs, rising sharply after the company’s strong third-quarter results.

The ensuing pullback has been comparably flat, placing the shares 3.4% under the November peak.

Tactically, the top of the gap (105.00) is closely followed by the breakout point (104.60). A posture higher signals a bullish bias.

Finally, Sonos, Inc.
US:SONO
 is a mid-cap manufacturer of wireless speakers and related accessories.

As illustrated, the shares have recently gapped sharply higher, rising amid a volume spike after the company’s quarterly results. The breakout places the shares at two-year highs, the best levels since the week the company went public.

The initial spike (long white bar) has been punctuated by five inside days — and this week’s slight follow-through — positioning the shares to build on the breakout. Tactically, gap support (20.20) is closely followed by the post-breakout low (20.01). A posture higher signals a bullish bias.

Still well positioned

The table below includes names recently profiled in The Technical Indicator that remain well positioned. For the original comments, see The Technical Indicator Library.

Company

Symbol* (Click symbol for chart.)

Date Profiled

Nuance Communications, Inc.

NUAN

Nov. 30

Northern Trust Corp.

NTRS

Nov. 30

American Airlines Group, Inc.

AAL

Nov. 30

Microchip Technology, Inc.

MCHP

Nov. 24

Coca-Cola Co.

KO

Nov. 24

SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF

XHB

Nov. 24

Zillow Group, Inc.

ZG

Nov. 23

Yeti Holdings, Inc.

YETI

Nov. 23

Carvana Co.

CVNA

Nov. 23

Palo Alto Networks, Inc.

PANW

Nov. 20

Bank of America Corp.

BAC

Nov. 20

Eaton Corp.

ETN

Nov. 20

SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration and Production ETF

XOP

Nov. 20

MetLife, Inc.

MET

Nov. 19

Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc.

HLT

Nov. 19

American Express Co.

AXP

Nov. 18

Kohl’s Corp.

KSS

Nov. 18

FleetCor Technologies

FLT

Nov. 18

Applied Materials, Inc.

AMAT

Nov. 17

Delta Air Lines, Inc.

DAL

Nov. 17

Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR

XLP

Nov. 17

Ross Stores, Inc.

ROST

Nov. 16

Boeing Co.

BA

Nov. 16

RingCentral, Inc.

RNG

Nov. 13

Urban Outfitters, Inc.

URBN

Nov. 13

Regions Financial Corp.

RF

Nov. 13

iShares Europe ETF

IEV

Nov. 13

Flex, Inc.

FLEX

Nov. 9

Snap, Inc.

SNAP

Nov. 9

Norfolk Southern Corp.

NSC

Nov. 9

Materials Select Sector SPDR

XLB

Nov. 6

Communications Services Select Sector SPDR

XLC

Nov. 5

Health Care Select Sector SPDR

XLV

Nov. 5

Alphabet, Inc.

GOOGL

Nov. 5

Uber Technologies, Inc.

UBER

Nov. 5

Keysight Technologies, Inc.

KEYS

Nov. 4

Harley-Davidson, Inc.

HOG

Nov. 4

Garmin, Ltd.

GRMN

Nov. 4

Pinterest, Inc.

PINS

Nov. 3

Sony Corp.

SNE

Nov. 3

8×8, Inc.

EGHT

Nov. 3

Exact Sciences Corp.

EXAS

Nov. 2

Universal Display Corp.

OLED

Nov. 2

Dentsply Sirona, Inc.

XRAY

Oct. 27

Maxim Integrated Products, Inc.

MXIM

Oct. 21

The Travelers Companies, Inc.

TRV

Oct. 21

Micron Technology, Inc.

MU

Oct. 20

Vulcan Materials Co.

VMC

Oct. 19

Utilities Select Sector SPDR

XLU

Oct. 19

ON Semiconductor Corp.

ON

Oct. 16

Ford Motor Co.

F

Oct. 15

Texas Instruments, Inc.

TXN

Oct. 15

First Solar, Inc.

FSLR

Oct. 13

Nevro Corp.

NVRO

Oct. 12

Teradyne, Inc.

TER

Oct. 12

SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF

XHB

Oct. 9

Shake Shack, Inc.

SHAK

Oct. 9

SPDR S&P Biotech ETF

XBI

Oct. 8

Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

ALXN

Oct. 8

Twilio, Inc.

TWLO

Oct. 8

Cloudflare, Inc.

NET

Oct. 7

Ceridian HCM Holding, Inc.

CDAY

Oct. 7

Motorola Solutions, Inc.

MSI

Oct. 6

RSailPoint Technology Holdings, Inc.

SAIL

Oct. 1

Martin Marietta Materials, Inc.

MLM

Sept. 30

Whirlpool Corp.

WHR

Sept. 29

Abercrombie & Fitch Co.

ANF

Sept. 29

Blueprint Medicines Co.

BPMC

Sept. 28

Zendesk, Inc.

ZEN

Sept. 23

Scientific Games Corp.

SGMS

Sept. 23

Crocs, Inc.

CROX

Sept. 14

Five Below, Inc.

FIVE

Sept. 10

Eastman Chemical Co.

EMN

Sept. 10

International Paper Co.

IP

Sept. 3

Anaplan, Inc.

PLAN

Sept. 2

Celanese Corp.

CE

Aug. 26

Westlake Chemical Corp.

WLK

Aug. 25

Deere & Co.

DE

Aug. 24

Expedia Group, Inc.

EXPE

Aug. 24

Johnson Controls International

JCI

Aug. 21

Canadian Solar, Inc.

CSIQ

Aug. 20

General Motors Co.

GM

Aug. 20

Starbucks Corp.

SBUX

Aug. 18

Builders FirstSource, Inc.

BLDR

Aug. 18

Steel Dynamics, Inc.

STLD

Aug. 17

Elanco Animal Health, Inc.

ELAN

Aug. 17

Brinker International, Inc.

EAT

Aug. 13

Enphase Energy, Inc.

ENPH

Aug. 13

Nucor Corp.

NUE

Aug. 11

Freeport McMoRan, Inc.

FCX

Aug. 10

Natera, Inc.

NTRA

Aug. 10

McDonald’s Corp.

MCD

Aug. 7

Industrial Select Sector SPDR

XLI

Aug. 6

Penn National Gaming, Inc.

PENN

July 30

Procter & Gamble Co.

PG

July 29

SPDR S&P Metals & Mining ETF

XME

July 28

iShares MSCI South Korea ETF

EWY

July 28

Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.

AMD

July 23

Materials Select Sector SPDR

XLB

July 20

Caterpillar, Inc.

CAT

July 20

Roku, Inc.

ROKU

July 16

Cognizant Technology Solutions, Inc.

CTSH

July 16

Costco Wholesale Corp.

COST

July 15

Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR

XLY

July 13

SunPower Corp.

SPWR

July 13

Walmart, Inc.

WMT

July 8

Danaher Corp.

DHR

June 24

Fiverr International, Ltd.

FVRR

June 19

HubSpot, Inc.

HUBS

June 8

Square, Inc.

SQ

June 8

FedEx Corp.

FDX

June 3

SPDR S&P Retail ETF

XRT

June 3

iShares MSCI Japan ETF

EWJ

May 29

Synopsis, Inc.

SNPS

May 27

Agilent Technologies, Inc.

A

May 15

Qualcomm, Inc.

QCOM

May 12

Facebook, Inc.

FB

May 7

Dollar General Corp.

DG

Apr. 28

ServiceNow, Inc.

NOW

Apr. 27

Five9, Inc.

FIVN

Apr. 24

Chewy, Inc.

CHWY

Apr. 24

Tesla, Inc.

TSLA

Apr. 23

VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF

SMH

Apr. 17

Veeva Systems, Inc.

VEEV

Apr. 17

Okta, Inc.

OKTA

Apr. 16

Target Corp.

TGT

Apr. 16

Invesco QQQ Trust

QQQ

Apr. 14

Apple, Inc.

AAPL

Mar. 27

Nvidia Corp.

NVDA

Mar. 27

iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF

EEM

Mar. 19

Microsoft Corp.

MSFT

Feb. 22

* Click each symbol for current chart.



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‘I want to hurt him the same way he hurt me’: My husband sprung a prenup on me 3 days before our wedding. Now I’m starting my own business and want to amend it

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Dear Quentin,

I was married just over 2 years ago and I have been in the same relationship for more than 10 years. We have both been single parents from prior relationships. Considering our age gap, he is much more successful in life as a sole proprietor. He’s 56, and I’m 40. He talked about a pre-nuptial agreement during our relationship, but he did not spring it on my until 3 days prior to our wedding day.

We discussed nothing as to what would go into the agreement. I was severely depressed, cried uncontrollably for days. Even reliving this is causing heartache. I consulted with my attorney but decided to sign it rather than not go through with the wedding. For two years, I asked for a copy and he couldn’t find it: When I finally had enough, I found it in his office, and made myself a copy.


‘I’m angry at myself now because there are provisions I would have included had I had more time to think about it.’

I still don’t fully understand what happened, and I’m angry at myself now because there are provisions I would have included had I had more time to think about it. My parents will be willing me a home, and a nice considerable amount of cash. I’m not in his will, there is no life-insurance policy, and I’m not listed on the deed of the second vacation home “we” bought before we married, but he wants to say how everything is ours.

Technically, it isn’t. Now that I am about to start my own venture, which may be lucrative, potentially six figures a year, I want to amend the prenuptial agreement. In a way, I want to hurt him the same way he hurt me. It’s caused a lot of resentment on my end as I feel he never trusted me, although I have never asked him for anything. If he dies tomorrow, what is going to happen to me?

Should I amend the prenuptial agreement? Is it possible that the current prenuptial agreement is null and void?

Postnuptial State of Mind in Pennsylvania

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Dear Postnuptial,

You should know what’s in your own prenuptial agreement, given that’s it’s a legal document you both signed. I don’t understand why you did not have a copy when you originally signed the document, and why you didn’t actively insist on a discussion. With the help of your lawyer, that was your job to make sure that happened. You had the choice to call off the wedding and/or sit down and read every page. I’m not saying this to be provocative, but to remind you that taking responsibility for this sequence of events is more constructive than taking umbrage at your husband.

But let’s be very clear: Three days notice of a prenuptial agreement before your wedding without any willingness to compromise on the details or discuss them is sorely lacking in consideration, and is a chaotic and unsettling start to a marriage. I understand why it left you reeling, and why you felt both confused and angry. Prenups are enforceable in Pennsylvania, which is a marital property state, meaning that — in the absence of a prenup — assets are distributed in a fair and equitable manner. Inheritance is not considered marital property, so you should have no worries on that front.

Your prenuptial agreement should reflect that you both maintain your separate finances/assets in the event you divorce. In other words, what’s his is his and what’s yours is yours. He can’t have it both ways. According to Rowe Law Offices in Pennsylvania, “Historically, courts sometimes set aside premarital agreements when they were unreasonable; left one spouse destitute; were made without full disclosure of a spouse’s property and debt; were signed under duress or without mental capacity; were the product of fraud or misrepresentation; and so on.”

Should you amend the prenup? You can certainly create an amendment, as long as both of you are in agreement, or sign a new postnuptial contract that supersedes the original contract. But that is a question only you can answer based on what the prenup actually says, and whether you lawyer believes it is written in a way that gives you both the same financial independence post-divorce. The whole business seems messy and unpleasant. It was not a good way to embark on a marriage and, as a tangent to your question, it’s not a good way to continue one.

Certainly something needs to change. From the little you have said, it appears to be a marriage that lacks transparency and mutual respect. You need a financial therapist, a mediator or your own counselor to examine the causes and cures of this toxic atmosphere. Starting a business should be a time of optimism and joy, not steeped in an “I’ll show you” entrepreneurial revenge fantasy. Getting married is the biggest financial decision you will make in your life, if only because the toll divorce takes on an individual, and because you may end up taking turns supporting each other.

If this marriage ends, you should both leave with what you brought into it. Given that, the real issue here is not what happens in the event of a divorce, but everything else that comes before it.

The Moneyist:My wife has homeschooled our son and our best friends’ son since September due to COVID-19. Is it too late to bring up money?

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I lost my job at 55 and started my own successful business. I now constantly get texts from friends and former coworkers asking how I did it. What do I do?

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I read your column regularly. I never thought that I would reach out to you with my own issues. But I was wrong. I’m hoping you can help on how best to handle this situation.

In 2016, I lost my long-term job. The company simply went through serious changes, and my position was no longer needed. They were great to me when I worked there, and they gave me a small severance package. I was 55 at the time. I was more than a bit anxiety ridden as I wasn’t in a position to retire, and I was concerned about the prospects of being rehired at this age. The good news is that I was a saver, had no debt and always lived frugally. My husband’s job carried the benefits.


‘I woke up every morning at 4 a.m. to research, research, research how best to use my resources and ended up starting a small business.’

I woke up every morning at 4 a.m. to research, research, research how best to use my resources and ended up starting a small business. Once I started, I made mistakes, messed things up but I kept educating myself more and more. There were tough times that were not easy to get through, but I was determined, and kept going.

After about 18 months, it was working! Everything fell into place, and the train finally started going down the track! Now, I wake up each day and think, ‘I own a small business!’ My hubby even took early retirement to partner with me. While we are not making $1 million, we crossed over into six digits over the past few years.

We run our business out of a home office. I offer a service based on my knowledge from my prior job that I lost. So what is the problem? Several times a month, friends and prior co-workers reach out to us to ask how they too can get started in what we do.

This is just one example of the text I woke up to this morning:

“We are thinking about starting our own business as a husband and wife team like you. We want to discuss this with you, and learn from your experiences. What day and time would be good for you? Early morning or late afternoon? Can you come to our house?”

These requests send me to the moon and back, and I’m not totally sure why. I’m struggling with being a good human being and helping them vs. asking myself why would I want to train my competition to take business away from ourselves?

I liken these friends and former colleagues to the kids at school who march right to the head of the lunch line to get their food, without waiting in line like the rest of us.

My husband and I built relationships across the country and locally, but we do not live in a town where there is enough business for all of us.

Quentin, I hope you can help me sort through how best to decline these requests or tell me if I am wrong? We will retire in 6 years, and we hope to sell the business at that time.

Enjoying My Second Act (& Want It To Last)

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Dear Second Act,

Your life and business is not a blueprint for anyone. Your path is your own. Your timing was right for you. You did your boots-on-the-ground research, and it’s paying dividends. And you’re correct: Never underestimate your own ability to build relationships. Not everybody has that skill.

That text sounds like an aggressive sales pitch: a strong-armed approach with a smile. No. 1: If they are asking you to do them a favor, regardless of what that favor is, suggesting you do it on their terms is a no-no. If these friends are not willing or able to get off their sofa and come around to your home or meet you close to your house or business, how do they expect to start their own business from scratch, and go above and beyond to build both a reputation and a business?


‘Pushy people tend to know they’re being pushy. They just don’t care.’

No. 2: Pushy people tend to know they’re being pushy. They just don’t care. They may need you to acquiesce to their requests for the reassurance that others can and will bend to their will OR perhaps they simply have their eye on their goal and everyone else are minions (with a lower case “m”). You don’t need to worry about their psychology, of course, but you do need to be just as tough and push back. If people ask me what to do with their money, I say: “I don’t even recommend Broadway plays.”

And that lunar feeling you have when you get those texts? It’s your boundaries bending and creaking. It’s the Old You and the New You doing battle: guilt and people pleasing vs. self-protection and no-can-do. Remember, saying “no” does not make you a bad person. You could pick a book and say, “I read this. The rest was luck and timing. Good luck!” But my guess is someone who thinks that you hold the key to their success will not be so easily put off.


‘You learned a valuable lesson not to discuss your affairs with other people.’

That brings me to No. 3: The clearest, fiercest response is often times no response. Find that muscle. It’s one you can exercise over and over again. As a friend once told me when I had to make a big financial decision: “Take the emotion and personalities out of it. It’s just business.” This is your business. You have nurtured it and you have worked hard at it. Trust your instinct. Protect it. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Is your gut saying no? Then don’t go.

You have learned a valuable lesson not to discuss your affairs with other people. Make it known that you do not like to talk about business when you’re off the clock. Try a new approach to conversations at dinner parties or chats over the garden fence with friends or neighbors. If they ask you about your business and how it’s going, tell them: “Good, thanks.” If they persist, say: “My first and last rule of business is I never discuss business with friends, and I never mix business with friendship.”

Delete that text without replying. Do the same for other texts. Flex that “no reply” muscle and keep flexing it. It gets easier. Don’t be held hostage to the “reply” button on your phone, and do get acquainted with the ability to say “no.” After a while, you will likely come to enjoy it.

The Moneyist:‘Warren Buffett and Harry Potter couldn’t get those two retired early’: Our spendthrift neighbors said our adviser was ‘lousy.’ So how come WE retired early?

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My husband and his brother inherited a property. Our son moved in. We paid $60K in taxes and repairs. Do we split it 50/50?

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My husband and his brother inherited their family home. When they were able to take possession, our son and his family needed a place to live. His brother was quite willing to let them move in and, in lieu of paying him rent for his 50%, my husband and I would be responsible for all upkeep, repairs, taxes, etc.

The house is probably 90 years old, and needed quite a lot of work before they could move in. We spent approximately $20,000 to make it livable. After four years the house caught fire and, with the help of a crooked contractor, it took another $30,000 of our money to repair all the damage.

Now comes my concern: If my husband and his brother had sold the house when they first inherited it, they would have split proceeds 50/50. It would definitely have been sold, because we didn’t want to be landlords to anyone other than our son. But now six years later, we have paid well over $60,000 in repairs and taxes. This amount is well over what we had planned on, but it was a chance we took.

According to old tax records, the house was probably worth $45,000, and now is worth over $100,000, and growing. The future sale and split of the house proceeds was never discussed. My husband is all for splitting it evenly. I’m the one with the issue because of all the money we spent in improvements.

I understand his brother took nothing at beginning, and I’m all for his getting 50% of the original value plus some extra, but I just don’t feel like he should get half of the current value. The house would certainly never be worth what it’s worth now if we hadn’t done all the work on it. Unless the house continues to increase in value, we will never recoup our investment.

May I have your opinion on this problem? On paper, this makes me look petty but my mind is unsettled over this.

Upset Wife

Dear Upset,

Sometimes, the clue is in the question: “In lieu of paying him rent for his 50%, my husband and I would be responsible for all upkeep, repairs, taxes, etc.”

You are aggrieved that you walked into this money pit with both eyes wide open in order for your son to save money in the short term. It seemed like an attractive prospect at the time, and I can see why: Your brother-in-law is easygoing, so why don’t your son and his family live in the house for a while and give it a new lick of paint when needed, a scrub-scrub here and a scrub-scrub there, and make sure it’s ticking over while they live there rent-free? Everyone wins, right? Well, not quite.

You, your husband and your son and his family win. Your brother-in-law, alas, did not get much out of that deal. But being Mr. Nice Guy, he said, “Be my guest.” Literally. Why would he want to charge his nephew rent? He decided to forgo the money to be made from a potential rental property or quick cash for the sake of family. What’s the point in having a house if you can’t help other people out? Plus, it would be looked after. And it was. But then there was a fire.


‘Your brother-in-law decided to forgo the money to be made from a potential rental property for the sake of family.’


— The Moneyist

You don’t say how the fire started. Was the stove left on? Did faulty wiring cause it? Or did a power line fall on the house in a storm? If it was your responsibility to take care of the property while your son and his family lived there, you are accountable for those first two scenarios. Even if it was an act of nature, you are responsible for ensuring that the home is insured. Of course, the main thing is no one was hurt. Still, as you say, upkeep (and that includes insurance) is your department.

You don’t fare well in the renovation vs. free rent argument, but you also raise a hypothetical argument to support your case: You should receive more than 50% of the proceeds from the sale of the house because your brother-in-law and husband would have sold the house (maybe; we’ll never know for sure) had your son not moved in. It was worth $45,000 then, and it’s valued at $100,000 now, so given your $60,000 in repairs and taxes, he should be happy with $22,500.

OK, I’ll play that game. Let’s peel back another layer of wallpaper and say, “If their parents passed away when they were much younger, they would have sold the house at an even lower price.” Or, “If their parents lived to be 99 1/2, they could be living in the house in 2021, and maybe you would make out like bandits because you would never have paid money to Uncle Sam and Sam the Contractor.” Let’s peel away even more layers: “If no one had been born, we wouldn’t have this problem!”

If you have to bend the laws of space and time to justify your proposal, splitting the proceeds 50/50 doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, after all.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

The Moneyist: I married ‘the life of the party,’ but he’s different at home. He takes his money woes out on me — and calls me a ‘gold digger’

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