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.