Financial Favoritism: Giving More Money to One Child

Do you think parents should provide financial assistance to their adult children? If so, do you think they should do so equally, or is it okay for parents to give more money to one child? Is providing an unequal inheritance or favoring one child financially ever fair? Is inequality always a sign of sibling favoritism?

Questions like these pour into my inbox each month. These letters come from distressed and heartbroken readers who are trying to figure out how to deal with financial unfairness from their parents.

What happens when parents financially support a sibling? Does that child become dependent on his or her parent’s money? Does he or she ever learn to break free from the cycle of handouts?

How do financial gifts impact the other siblings? What happens when that sibling favoritism continues into adulthood?

Each time I open one of these letters, I pause, reflect on my thoughts, and respond as honestly as possible. The first set of questions arrived in an email six years ago. Since then, a slew of letters have trickled into my inbox, including one I received two days ago.

Why do they keep coming, and what do readers hope to gain by reaching out to me? The answers may surprise you.

Parents Favoring One Child Financially

Six years ago, I watched a close family member deal with issues of sibling rivalry. After a lifetime of witnessing financial favoritism, he began to break down.

It’s hard to watch someone you love struggle this way. After wrestling with my own thoughts, I wrote a short post about it. I described a set of parents that continually give more money to one child.

To be clear, I’m not talking about grown children with special needs or emotional or physical hardships. Splitting an estate into equal amounts may not be possible when one adult child requires more financial resources to survive and thrive. In these situations, estate planning must take these different needs into account.I’m talking about two healthy adult children who have similar capabilities and intelligence.

The story plays out in families everywhere. One child works hard, saves his or her money, and succeeds in life. That child doesn’t watch his or her siblings act the same way. Instead, he or she watches them play hard, have fun, and struggle to pay their bills.

Parents fill the gap between the second sibling’s income and the life he or she wants to lead. As the days turn into months and years, the depth of financial inequality grows.

The rest of the children witness this financial unfairness. They continue to watch their parents financially support a sibling—a sibling who is unwilling to make it on their own.

As the scale tips in favor of one child over another, the resentment between siblings builds. When the emotional toll becomes unbearable, sibling relationships shatter.

Favoring One Child Over Another

It’s been many years since I wrote that post, but the old timestamp doesn’t deter readers from reaching out to me. I still receive heartfelt emails from readers who stumble upon it. These readers feel broken and defeated by financial favoritism in their family.

They reach out for comfort. They want someone to say I understand and I’m sorry. The pain in those letters is palpable. The raw emotions often bring me to tears.

How to Deal With Parents Who Favor Another Sibling

One letter begins; “My parents favor my older sister, and it hurts me to see them together.” Another says, “I feel left out of my whole family. How can I deal with parents who favor my sibling and have favored her for years?”

The third reads, “Why do my parents favor the bad child? My parents favor my brother over me and buy him everything. He is selfish and only cares about himself. My parents never give me any money.”

I am not a trained psychologist. I’m just a blogger who writes about money. I read these words and provide my opinion when readers ask for it.

After years of reading those letters, I felt the need to revisit this topic. I hope that others will stumble upon this new post. I hope they will find an outlet to express their thoughts and feelings.

What are some ways in which parents show financial favoritism? Here are a few details I’ve received from readers over the years. Each is a demonstration of parents favoring one child.

  • My parents bought my sister a car but didn’t buy one for me.
  • My parents paid for my siblings college tuition and expenses but not mine.
  • My parents buy my sister everything.
  • My parents bought my sibling a house.
  • My brother gets everything he wants.
  • My parents bought my sibling a house.

My Parents Favor My Brother Over Me

Let’s discuss a hypothetical scenario—picture two biological sons raised in the same household. The first grown child is a go-getter. He works hard in school, graduates on time, and secures a decent job after college.

As the years wear on, his salary increases. This sibling earns money and saves. He doesn’t live an extravagant life by any means. He eats at home, drives old cars, and vacations close to home.

The second grown child does not take advantage of his opportunities. He fails out of college and begins working at a lower starting salary than his brother. He burns through money as quickly as he earns it.

My Parents Keep Giving My Brother Money

When he runs out of cash, this brother is happy to spend his parent’s money. He consistently accepts their handouts and always chooses the pricier options in life.

His parents buy him a house and an expensive car. They do not offer the other child any of these benefits. This enables the favored child to spend his own money on extravagant vacations.

He can spend money on anything his heart desires. If he goes into debt, his parents hand out money to repair his bad spending habits and poor life decisions.

Now put yourself in those shoes. What if your parents buy your brother everything he wants. What if you pay for the things you need while your brother spends your parents money without batting an eyelash? How does it feel when your parents favor your brother over you? How does it feel when your parents keep giving your brother money?

My Parents Favor My Sister Over Me

Now let’s discuss a second scenario. This time picture two biological daughters raised in the same household. In this example, the older child chooses a career in engineering while the younger child chooses a career in teaching. Again the first child can afford the items she desires. The second child cannot.

In this case, should the parents provide financial assistance to the younger sister? Should they buy her sports equipment, summer vacations, and a down payment on a house or new car? Should they buy nice things because she cannot afford them?

If you were the parent in these scenarios, would you offer financial assistance? Would you answer the same way for the scenario for both examples? Did the details of the story cause you to react differently? How would it feel if your parents provided your brother or sister with a handful of cash, but didn’t offer you any?

Now imagine you are a sibling in these examples.

My Parents Bought My Sibling a House

How would you feel if your parents bought your sibling a house and didn’t give you anything at all? Maybe your parents helped your brother buy a home he could never afford on his own, or your dad secretly pays your brothers’ rent. How does it feel when you watch house prices rise and know you can’t save up for a down payment?

Maybe you’ve approached your parents for money. Do they refuse to give you cash or tell you they can’t help? In a perfect world, your parents wouldn’t buy your sibling a house without providing you with a similar financial gift, but if you’ve read this far, you know the world isn’t perfect.

parents giving more money to one child

Parents Giving More Money To One Child

As a parent, would you be willing to give more money to one child than another? If you are willing to offer your adult children money, you are not alone. Nearly 75% of parents are helping their children financially.

Many parents provide financial assistance to their adult children, but what happens when gifts aren’t handed out equally? Is it ever okay for parents to give more money to one child? What happens when parents keep giving more money to one child? What happens when sibling favoritism continues into adulthood?

Children can grow into angry, frustrated adults. Imagine yourself in the same situation. How would you feel if your parents gave money to one child without ever offering to help you?

The examples above are not fictitious stories. They are real-world examples emailed by grown men and women.

Why do readers email me? Because it feels awkward and strange to discuss this topic in the real world. Admitting that your parents favor one child financially isn’t an easy task. It’s one of those dirty money problems no one wants to talk about. Once you utter this sentiment, you can’t take back your words.

Many of my readers feel ashamed and embarrassed. They can’t talk openly for fear that others will judge them or perceive them as being greedy.

They can’t discuss the situation in real life. When they do, friends tell them to keep their noses out of their parent’s business.

“You have everything you need,” their friends tell them. “Why are you asking for equality? Things aren’t equal now. You can pay for your own stuff. Why do you care if your parents give more money to one child? Why do you want more?”

Some of you will agree with these sentiments. You may be reading this post, thinking “get over it” or “stop complaining.” You may say, “It’s the parents’ money; they can do whatever they want with it.” If you feel this way, you were most likely raised in a balanced family where you felt appreciated and loved.

I’ve never dealt with financial inequality in my own family, but I have seen it many times. In those cases, the favoritism was extensive. Parents didn’t just give one sibling more money. They gave more love and attention too.

Sibling Financial Favoritism

What is sibling financial favoritism? Financial favoritism occurs when parents provide unequal financial gifts to their children. Giving more money to one child isn’t just a monetary issue. Favoring one child financially disrupts the family balance. It can lead to a lifetime of resentment and pain.

Siblings talk about money, balance ledgers, unequal inheritances, wills, and other financial jargon. Talking this way makes them appear greedy and selfish, but in reality, this isn’t about money. Complex family dynamics create a wide range of emotions, and these grown children feel angry, sad, and distressed.

This pain extends back through childhood. It involves sibling rivalries that began when they were small. It stems from the belief that parents love one sibling more than another. They feel like their parents play favorites and provide preferential treatment to the child they love.

As young children, kids measure parental affection in hugs and kisses. As adults, they begin to equate money with love. The idea of sibling financial favoritism weighs heavily upon them. Parents who favor one child over the other leave can leave one child with deep emotional scars. It occupies their thoughts and leaves them feeling hurt and unloved.

Some of you want to know, “Why would the successful sibling feel jealous of financial inequality? If the child is financially stable, why would they care if their parents give more money to one child?”

The reasons are complex.

Helping One Child

Here is an example: One reader spoke at length about wanting to become an artist. Although she dreamed of creating art, she chooses a job as an accountant. She chose a stable, well-paid profession so she wouldn’t have to worry about paying her bills.

In contrast, her sister studied writing and dreamed of becoming a novelist. While she wrote books, her parents paid for her food and housing.

The ‘successful’ sibling was miserable. What would her life be like if she had pursued her passion? If she knew her parents would foot the bill, she would have chosen a different profession.

She was successful but miserable. The ability to pay her bills did not leave her feeling happy and fulfilled.

The same goes for many other readers who talk about working in jobs they hate. They trudge off to work while their lower-paid siblings live off their parents’ subsidies.

These readers feel less love from their parents. If they quit their jobs, would their parents support them? Most of the people who write to me believe their parents wouldn’t give them a dime.

Why Does a Parent Favor One Child?

Why does a parent favor one child? Sometimes parents gravitate towards certain children. This often happens if they have similar temperaments, personalities, or physical attributes. Other times they side with a child who is easy to get along with or one who can be easily manipulated and controlled.

Favoritism hurts. When parents favor one child financially, this pain intensifies. Sibling financial favoritism destroys relationships between family members. It’s difficult to watch a sibling get more love, attention, and financial rewards too.

Complex Feelings: Bitterness and Anger

It’s hard to stand by while a sibling receives handouts. Will your sibling ever stop spending your parents’ money? Will he or she ever stop accessing the bank of mom and dad?

It makes some adult children cry out, “It’s not fair!” Sure we all know life isn’t fair, but when the inequality stems from within the family unit, it can be harder to bear.

Some of my readers are mistaken for being greedy. One reader said she didn’t really want the money. She wanted her family to recognize that she didn’t have an amazing life.

Her parents kept telling her she had everything and to feel grateful. It didn’t matter that she was horribly unhappy in her stable job.

She said, “My sister has it so easy. She works in a job she loves, and my parents foot the other bills. In the meantime, I stare miserably at the side of a cubicle all afternoon. I’m stuck in a job I don’t love.”

Defining and Judging Needs

Many of the readers who write to me live within their means. They carefully weigh their wants and needs. Many of them drive old cars and live in smaller houses. They watch their parents pay for new cars or bigger homes for their siblings.

Disciplined adults buy used products and forgo camp for their kids. Their siblings are unwilling to live with less. They ask for money for equipment and pricey sleep away camps.

Their definition of the term needs differs greatly from their family’s definition. They want their parents to say, “no, you don’t need that pricey stuff’ and they feel hurt when that doesn’t happen.

Parents Financially Support Sibling

parents giving more money to one child

I have not experienced financial inequality from my own parents. I have seen it many times via extended family members.

Conflict arises when one sibling perceives the other as lazy. Readers say things like: If I work hard, stay on track and save my money, I can afford a house in a nice community.

If my sibling does not do these things, does he ‘deserve’ the same life that I live? Do we not make choices in our lives and have to live by the choices we made? What about the sacrifices I have made to achieve my goals?

If I choose to become a software engineer, then I may earn a lot, but I might not enjoy my job. In that case, money wins over enjoyment. If my sibling chooses to become an artist, she may love her job but not be able to afford a house in a nice community.

Resentment grows when a sibling sees his or her counterpart getting the best of both worlds: a life they enjoy and financial success (in the form of money from their parents).

The bitterness blooms when a sibling has to forge his own path in life. Then watches his parents financially support a sibling without a care in the world.

Imagine working hard in a job you don’t love to pay your mortgage. Now imagine watching your parents buy your sibling a house he can’t afford.

How does it feel for one sibling to settle into a career while the other runs up debt? Is it fair for the parents to play favorites and even the financial score?

That sibling had the time of his life and ends up right on track with his sibling, who had to work hard. Many readers are resentful of their siblings. “I didn’t enjoy the last ten years the way my sibling did, and now we are on equal ground.”

How to Deal with Financial Unfairness from Parents

How do you deal with unequal financial support from your parents? Do they divide their money in a way that feels unfair and unjustified? How do you handle their financial favoritism?

First, ask yourself, “What bothers you about your parents’ decision to give more money to your sibling?” Is it really about the money, or is there something deeper to explore?

Why are you upset about your parents’ decision to provide unequal financial gifts? Have you always felt less important than your sibling? Have your parents always treated your brother or sister differently? Do you think your parents love your sibling more than you?

What can you do in these types of situations? How can you deal with financial unfairness from your parents? First, try to accept your feelings.

It’s easy for outsiders to say, “I wouldn’t be upset or feel angry.” Good for them. They are not you. You have a right to feel unhappy about the situation. Don’t let anyone shame you for the way you feel. Recognize the complex emotions for what they are rather than what others tell you they should be.

Unfortunately, you may not be able to change the situation. Most of the time, you have to accept it for what it is without letting your negative feelings overwhelm you.

If your parents give more money to your sibling, they will probably continue to do so. Unfortunately, once your brother or sister accepts your parents’ handouts, he or she will continue to ask for more. It’s incredibly difficult to break the circle of dependency once it begins.

If you are able to pay your bills, then the good news is that you don’t need your parents’ money. You made it on your own.

You can count the blessings in your life and focus on the positive things that surround you. Do you have a good relationship with your spouse or significant other? Are the people in your life healthy and strong?

How to Deal With Parents Who Favor Your Sibling

If you are struggling to cope with your emotions, consider seeking advice from a trained therapist or counselor. Professionals can provide tools and techniques to help you deal with parental favoritism.

It’s not easy to deal with parents who favor one child over another. It may be difficult to watch your parents provide handouts on a routine basis. Pain and resentment may grow with each passing gift.

Bitter feelings often arise when parents become a crutch for a sibling’s bad behavior. The angriest letters come from readers whose parents financially support a sibling.

A little money here or there seems reasonable, but when the sibling can no longer survive without those handouts, the anger builds. Readers become downright irate at the thought of their siblings spending their parents’ hard-earned money.

In these situations, it’s important to keep a calm mind and clear head. Take deep breaths and reflect on your thoughts and feelings before talking to any members of your family.

Remember that your words and actions may impact your future relationships. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it should not be taken lightly either. Make sure you can discuss the subject matter calmly and rationally if you do choose to speak up.

I know that this won’t make up for the injustice you feel, but the truth is you have little to no say in the matter. If your brother or sister is willing to put his or her hand out for money, your parents will continue to supply gifts.

This will probably continue for most, if not all, of their adult life. Since the situation is unlikely to go away, your best option is to do your best to look beyond it.

If you are unhappy with your current life, search for ways to make it better. Learn about financial independence and strive to pursue your goals independently.

Sibling Spending Parents’ Money

Will your sibling ever stop spending your parents’ money? Over time it will become extremely difficult for your brother or sister to grow strong and capable. With each financial handout, your parents destroy your sibling’s desire to work and succeed. Over time a dependency forms that cannot be broken.

It’s little consolation, but this family situation will provide you with incredible resilience. As your parents support your sibling, they weaken his or her resolve.

You, on the other hand, have no choice but to make it on your own. So you will dig deep within yourself to achieve greatness. In many cases, you will become more successful in life than your favored sibling.

You will end up with more friends and deeper relationships outside of your family. Determined to be a success, you will strive for feats your sibling will never take on.

It’s easy to become weak when you don’t have to work hard to achieve financial success on your own. Look the other way when your parents support your sibling financially. Be thankful that you can find the will and determination to stand on your own successfully.

How do you deal with financial unfairness? What can you do when you feel less supported by your parents than your siblings? How do you come to terms with parents who don’t treat each child equally?

I don’t have all of the answers. They depend on your family dynamic, your ability to speak openly with your parents, and your belief that things could change.

Take Pride in Your Success

Be thankful for all that you have accomplished in life. Look around at your successes, write them down, and read that list to yourself regularly. You are in control of your life and your finances. Pat yourself on the back for that, because many people are not in the same situation.

Recognize that your parents may continue to enable your sibling. As a result, your brother or sister may continue to make the wrong choices and to act carelessly at times. Talk to them if you feel it will help, but approach your conversation carefully. Recognize, in most instances; they don’t want your advice and most likely won’t change their ways.

Accept the discrepancies. Your parents are not keeping a ledger of payments or ensuring their estate plan levels the playing field. In reality, they may not be able to ‘even the score’ or divide their estate equally.

Don’t keep a scorecard or lay your hopes on receiving more money upon their death. That’s just creepy, plus for all, you know, they will outlive you. Don’t waste your time on this Earth waiting to see what happens when someone dies. Make peace with the situation as it stands right now!

I realize this is all easier said than done. Believe me, I do, but in time it does get better if you change your frame of mind. Once you know you can’t do anything about it, you can stop carrying the bitterness around with you. Sometimes therapy is the best way to address your resentment.

Sibling Harmony and Balance

I hope to provide equal gifts to my own children, but I really have no idea what their lives will entail. I plan to talk to them about financial decisions. My goal is to avoid hurt feelings and pain. I will discuss my thoughts and ensure that communication remains open as much as possible along the way.

My mom served as a great example for me. She tried her best to create harmony in our family. As children, neither of us suffered from emotional or physical hardships, which certainly made it easier to balance our needs.

Still, I don’t want to diminish my mom’s efforts. She split her time, attention, love, and money equally. As a mom of two children, I know that’s harder to accomplish than it sounds.

Inheritance Favoritism

Unfortunately, this balance isn’t always easy to achieve. Family dynamics are complicated. Unresolved conflicts between siblings and parents can fester and grow well into adulthood. Add in the complexity of money, and the lines between love and loved ones can easily blur.

These negative feelings can persist as parents age and need financial support and long after they’re gone. Favoritism issues don’t end after a parent dies; in many cases, they flare after the funeral when inheritance favoritism rears its ugly head.

Sibling Balance: My Story

My own memory of familial balance came at the age of four or five.

“Am I your favorite?” I asked my mom as I climbed into her lap just before bedtime. I was sleepy from a long day of activities and in need of extra reassurance and love.

My mom’s expression grew soft. I paused quietly so she could answer. She looked down at me with her big brown eyes, pulled the hair away from my brow, and spoke without hesitation.

She didn’t have to ponder the question or think of an appropriate answer. “You know I love you and your brother equally,” she said. Her response felt like a simple fact, a truth that cannot be denied.

She gently cupped my face within her hands and planted a kiss upon my forehead. At that moment, I wholeheartedly believed her. To this day, I still do.

I hope one day, my children can say the same. I know we all do.

104 thoughts on “Financial Favoritism: Giving More Money to One Child”

  1. It is saddening to see the parent spends more time and money on one child over the other. Of course, there were always reasons to justify their actions

  2. thank you for this. I cannot help but cry reading this. it is so difficult to talk about. every time i see my sister getting whatever she wants i feel like punching a wall. i just remember everything that has happened since childhood and i feel so god damned angry. i want to be the favorite. even if just for one day.

  3. thank you for this. I cannot help but cry reading this. it is so difficult to talk about. every time i see my sister getting whatever she wants i feel like punching a wall. i just remember everything that has happened since childhood and i feel so god damned angry. i want to be the favorite. even if just for one day. please.

  4. It’s not just about a sibling getting more- my Dad set my sister up to have financial independence & be a homeowner. Paid for her education even though she doesn’t work or use it. . He did not do that for me because I am married & financially secure. If I ever get a divorce, I will be poor- Honestly the more I write the more angry & hurt I get

  5. I pursued a career in medical regulation (complaints) to try and be financially secure. This ended up breaking me and I couldn’t work for months but survived because I had emergency savings + sold my car to make ends meet. I am in no way well off, rather surviving with a mortgage and public transport in the current climate .
    My parents have given each of my 3 sisters about 100k each because times are tough but I have received nothing. One in particular they ‘had’ to buy a new car because she was having another baby despite not being able to afford 3. They also pay for this sisters’ rent and the private school fees for her kids. Apparently the issue is that her husband chooses not to work… not that she similarly also chooses not to work either.
    This wouldn’t have left me feeling the way I do if it wasn’t that for the last ~10+ years my sisters all CHOSE to not work. They will have nominal retirement funds and expect to receive the majority of the estate because of their poor choices. I tried to talk to my parents when they asked me to be the executor, citing they “knew I would be fair” but it left me feeling like:
    * they don’t want to parent now and say no to the girls
    * they expect me to do so after they’ve gone re the estate
    * just trying to evenly split the estate will result in a legal challenge
    I honestly don’t have the fortitude for it anymore. I am wondering if it might just be easier to start a new life and just leave my old childhood family behind.
    Yes it is just money but it reliving some of the more painful memories of my childhood. I am not looking for a platform but when looking for the deeper meaning to these feelings… it boils down to being neglected as a child.
    I wish I could just let it go and be free of the pain. It seems so trivial but all I can say is “we cant help the way we feel”.

    • Zac, your feelings are valid. Have you said anything to your parents ? I feel you need ti have a sit down talk. It’s all how you communicate your feelings. I know how you feel! ! Seems as though you should tell your parents you’re not happy with your job and you need a break like your sisters and would kindly appreciate the same help. Say your overwhelmed and would like to have the same perks after all this time.

  6. ya.
    I am the Oldest. I had a Step-mom at two.
    I knew at 4 my new mom didnt like me much.
    My dad passed. My Step-mom passed. I rec’d 10% of what she had left.
    Another sibling rec’d 10 %. Two rec’d 40% each.
    This has been heartbreaking as I looked after siblings since I was 5.
    More and more as I got older.
    This has been a shock. What can I say to yonger siblings who rec’d 40%. If rolls were reversed. I would have given $$$ to younger siblings, no Q’s asked.

  7. It’s infuriating but at the same time I have to say that my favored sibling has manipulated both of my parents into feeling like without them he can’t make it. It’s not true of course but they are addicted to him needing them. They get a high in a sense from rescuing. He’s completely capable but why should he try? He always has someone cushioning his landing. Co dependent and sad. He will crash and burn once they pass and the money runs out. I used to be angry and resentful but after deciding that I have to make healthy choices from myself and knowing I can’t change it I’ve moved on in life. I love them from a distance and enjoy the beautiful family I’ve made with my husband. I had to walk away and worry about my own life. They’ve handicapped him, he will never reach the potential he could’ve with out all the sick games. Such is life but always know you do have a choice! Do not let it destroy you, you owe yourself better! Walking away sometimes is the best option, it’s not easy but in the long run it’s the best choice to make for yourself.

  8. I think for those of us living with the adult child favoritism, the article hits a lot of the pain points and I thank you for writing it. It helps knowing I’m not alone. Do you have any recommendations on what options to consider or tap when there may be possible financial abuse?

    My mom passed tragically decades ago and my sister is sucking my dad dry even if they both think their arrangement is ok albeit incredibly unfair. Basically, he goes without all the time because he bought her a house he can’t actually afford. He’s elderly, lives with another partner, can’t pay his way at her place, and is having some memory problems. He has no other income but the rent she pays and social security which basically covers the property taxes on the house she lives in and his barest necessities (it’s a big house for her, her husband, his brother, her adult children and their mates). He had a medical emergency nearly dying because he couldn’t afford his medication and I’m not sure how often he goes without meds /medical care leading up to this event, but it sounds like too often. He can’t afford a car or many things because he’s so broke. She owns a home but rents it out and may be pocketing the difference. I’m so tired of bailing my dad out and him constantly not making different choices that will help him. He really doesn’t want to listen to me at all. He just thinks he’s being an awesome parent enabling his favorite daughter and her family to have a more enriched life where they can take off for a month in Europe etc. Now my nephew wants help from him so he and his girlfriend can buy a house. I’m not in a place where I can financially help my dad when he has his next crisis as I’ve my own family to support (he’s never helped us once). It all makes me physically and mentally sick watching this play out. I’ve been basically treated like the second rate daughter and told I’m less valuable/worthy (yes it was said out loud) because I chose a less “noble” career path that actually pays decently – amazing the job you’ll do after nearly going bankrupt with zero family support- compared to her. Anyway, I’ve tried to just walk away, but am now being accused of being a bad daughter cause I won’t participate in the dysfunction anymore. My sister said to me that she plans to go after my half of inheritance saying she’s owed and that her family is more deserving. It breaks my heart to think he might die or become invalid because she sucked him dry and yes I’m getting help trying to get through the rejection, shame, hurt etc. But I don’t want to have guilt thinking I left him to be taken advantage even if he is unable to believe it.


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