Unequal Financial Handouts: Would You Turn Down a Gift From Your Parents?

March 21, 2013 at 12:19 PM 13 comments

I received quite a few comments and emails after writing my last post What Do You Think: Unequal Financial Handouts From Parents. Many readers felt that the situation was unfair, that the younger, less driven sibling should not receive additional gifts from his parents and that the more successful brother was being penalized for his accomplishments.

Via email one reader wrote, “It would be difficult to turn down a gift from my parents. Why would I want to turn free money away?” This is an interesting question and I can certainly answer it from my own point of view.

First of all, in my experience free money is rarely free. There are usually strings attached in one form or another. If your parents bought you a house they may set rules on how it should be maintained, they may get angry when your children roughhouse on the furniture they purchased or when walls and floors are damaged. They may feel like they have liberties to offer suggestions and even make changes to your home without your permission. They may hire contractors and lead them through your home to investigate changes when you aren’t around.

In the example of parents buying a house there may be many bumps along the road. What happens if you want to make improvements on the house? What if they don’t like the decisions you make? What happens when you decide to sell your home? Will they now tell you where to buy your next house or tell you that the new neighborhood you choose is not suitable for their tastes? What if they think you are selling at the wrong time, for example your family expands, but market prices are low?

They may also hold this gift over you. This may make you feel like you need to visit with them more often, agree in conversations where you clearly have differing opinions or allow them to hold a greater control over general decisions in your life.

When my husband and I first looked at beach properties my in-laws offered to loan us some money to buy our second home. My husband was eager to own a property and would have taken his parents up on his offer, but I politely refused. Given our circumstances we certainly were NOT in need of a beach house and I did not want to become indebted to my in-laws.

I believed we should fund the home through our own means and if we could not wrangle enough money for the down-payment and monthly mortgage payments then we should not own. I held true to that belief and my husband now agrees that this decision was the best one we could have made. We have gotten into quite a few arguments with his parents over the years and owing them money would have complicated matters extensively.

In the particular scenario I mentioned in my last post I believe it would be even easier for the less successful brother to turn down the house he was offered. In addition to strings and complicating family relationships there is also the issue of inequality. If he earns as much money as his more successful brother did at the time he purchased his beach house, then there is no reason he too cannot buy a beach house all on his own. He could also offer to pay his parents for the house if he wanted the particular house they picked out for him. He could explain that it seems unfair to receive a house for free when his brother pays for one.

The problem I have with this scenario is that the brother always seems to accept the gifts his parents give him. At the root of it I suppose I simply have a very different perspective on taking things from people. Right or wrong I want to make it on my own. I’m sure the less successful brother feels like his parents WANT him to have the gifts he offered, so there is no reason not to take them. In fact, he may feel like he is insulting his parents by refusing them. Do you believe this may be the case or is the truth that the brother wants all that the successful brother has even though he didn’t have to work for it? In the end is he just being selfish? I really can’t decide.

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13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. My Shiny Pennies  |  March 21, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    I would not turn down a gift from my parents. Family dynamics are complicated and each are different, but I know gifts from my parents is just how they show they care. I would feel guilty if the gift was not bestowed equally upon my 3 siblings, but fortunately my parents are good at not playing favorites.

    Reply
  • 2. Newlyweds on a Budget  |  March 21, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    I agree that I would never take money from my in-laws. Well, let me rephrase that. I would take money from his dad, because I know he wouldn’t hold it over our heads, but I would never take money from his mother for the exact reasons you mentioned. Unfortunately, they’re a joined pair.
    I would have no problem turning down a gift from my parents, if I didn’t want the gift. While I respect my parents immensely, they don’t get to control my adult life.
    I think the son is just being selfish.

    Reply
  • 3. Sense  |  March 21, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    Funny. There is a similar dynamic in my family, only my sister gets heaps of help from my parents because she is bipolar and just generally doesn’t have her stuff together. I do get mad when they help her out sometimes, but only because I think it enables her to not straighten out her life and also keeps them from retiring, not because I want the same help for myself. I’m proud that I’ve made it on my own since the beginning of college and would have it no other way. I know they’d do anything for me, but at the same time, I know they can’t afford it, so more often than not, I offer help to them. Not too much, because I know it’d go straight to my sister…just here and there, when I notice that something in the house is broken while I’m visiting home, I’ll buy them a new hamper or toaster, etc. because I know they’d never buy it for themselves, and that makes me sad.

    Reply
  • 4. eemusings  |  March 21, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    I moved out at 18 and have always been reluctant to accept handouts from my parents. The one time I did, for half of a new laptop after we were burgled, there was definitely pressure to sway to her preference. They have given me cash for graduation and as a wedding gift.

    I would accept help from them in buying a house because property prices here are just insane and any help at all would be jumped on, quite frankly.

    I wouldn’t feel right accepting money from HIS side, but that’s a moot point as they have less than no money to give.

    Reply
  • 5. Zanne  |  March 21, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    My parents are scrupulous about giving equally to each child. I did agree for my parents to finance my home, but we signed the same legal documents and pay the interest that a bank would require. I do of course know that it would be easier to obtain a forbearance from my parents but we now have 18 payments left on the life of the loan and have not had to ask. The mortgage would be payable to their estate if something had happened to them. My parents are equally scrupulous about not using gifts for strings. Once they give it, you never hear another word. I think if they weren’t like that, I would turn the gift down. So, we’ve been fortunate.

    Reply
  • 6. Jen  |  March 21, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the brother accepting the gifts. We don’t really know what the parents’ perspective is. They might might have felt the other brother was lucky in some ways and want to level the playing field. I know some people who are extremely lucky and never acknowledge that their success is part luck

    Reply
    • 7. Newlyweds on a budget  |  March 26, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      I don’t think there is such a thing as luck. Oprah says luck is preparation meeting opportunity. You can come across a ton of opportunities and not be prepared to take them on.

      Reply
      • 8. One Frugal Girl  |  March 28, 2013 at 12:23 PM

        I tend to agree w/ Newlyweds on a Budget.

        Reply
  • 9. Candice  |  March 22, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    My husband and I had the same argument when my parents offered to loan us money to use as a down payment and/or repairs for a home we were considering. My husband did NOT want to accept the loan at first. He eventually agreed but we did not end up buying the home, so we never borrowed the money. After that sale fell through, we only looked at homes that we could afford on our own without the loan. We eventually bought one without any help. So I definitely get both viewpoints.

    Reply
  • [...] week I asked my readers if they would accept a gift from their parents. I wrote the post after learning of a friend who is about to receive a beach home from his folks. I [...]

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  • [...] comments on last week’s posts: What Do You Think: Unequal Financial Handouts From Parents and Unequal Financial:Handouts Would You Turn Down a Gift From Your Parents? I appreciate the honesty and sincerity in your words. I wanted to leave a few last remarks on the [...]

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  • [...] While it’s always nice to hear from readers who agree with my posts there is nothing I love more than finding an intelligent reader with a different point of view. I received an interesting response to a recent post in which I asked readers whether or not they would turn down a financial gift from their parents. [...]

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  • 13. Amy B  |  April 21, 2013 at 12:08 AM

    I’m an only child. But I turn down gifts often. I’ve tried for years to get no christmas gifts from parents (atleast we’ve reached a low limit). I’m in a better financial situation than them. I don’t need their money and don’t want it.

    Reply

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