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My Advice: Unequal Financial Gifts for Grown Children

A few days ago I posted a reader’s question about unequal financial gifts for his children. I thought I’d follow up with my advice. Here is the email I sent in response:

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I have not experienced financially inequality from my own parents, but I have witnessed it many times via extended family members.

Here is the issue… Hypothetically, 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 do they “deserve” the same life that I live? Do we not make choices in our life and have to live by the choices we made?

For example, if I choose to become a software engineer than 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 they may love their job but not be able to afford a house in a nice community. I believe resentment grows when a sibling sees a child getting the best of both worlds; a life they enjoy and financial success (in the form of money from their parents).

Similarly if a child goes through his late teens and early twenties enjoying life and running up debt, while another sibling settles into a career and starts working, is it really fair to even the financial score. That sibling had the time of his life and ends up right on track with their sibling who had to work hard and make a way in their lives for themselves. Resentment breeds when perception says “I didn’t enjoy the last ten years the way my sibling did and now they are on equal footing.”

You also have to take into account “perceived” need versus “real” need. Is your son really in such a dire predicament. Does he really need to move into a new, nicer community if he cannot afford to get their himself?

I have seen parents who believed their children “needed” an SUV because they had two children. There are many families who drive smaller cars and get by just fine with that. Only you know if he really needs help, but it is important to realize that your dreams for his life may not match up with his salary and lifestyle.

Having said all of that I love my son more than anything I ever could have imagined in life. I am going to send him to preschool next week and my heart breaks for the couple of hours that he will be away from me each week.

While I know that it will be good for him to play with other children I hate to let him go even for just a little bit. The love we have for our children is strong and as parents we want to do everything in our power to protect and help them. Ultimately you have to follow your heart in your decision and if you believe your son needs help then you will probably provide it to him.

I would suggest talking to your daughter about the situation though. From what I’ve seen a lot of the pain comes from misunderstandings between parents and their children. The child who receives money feels loved. The child who does not feels left out.

If you plan to give your son money I would have a very frank and open conversation with your daughter about your choices and how it ultimately effects her. She may be perfectly fine with your decision but even if she’s not she will appreciate the fact that you were concerned over this topic, that you thought of her feelings and that you reached out to her before doing anything. Let her know that you are concerned that she will not receive equality in this situation, but that you love her so much that you wrote a comment seeking advice 🙂

My son is not even three, but one of my goals in life, (and I sure hope I’m able to remain on task), is to provide a level of transparency into the decisions we make for him. If we don’t understand motivations we may come to resentment them.

Thanks again for leaving a comment and sending an email. I do hope you will let me know what you decide and how things work out. I wish you the best of luck.

Jenn

Monday 1st of September 2014

This is great advice! It makes me want to send you details on my family situation to get your opinion. :)