Reader Advice: Unequal Financial Gifts for Grown Children

Over the years I’ve written a lot about unequal financial gifts for children. In response I’ve received many personal emails asking for advice. Up until this week all of those posts came from grown children in these situations, but a few days ago I received this comment from a concerned parent.

I thought I would repost his comment and ask my readers for advice. What do you think this concerned father should do?

We very much love and have been trying hard to treat both our now adult children equally. We paid for their education, though they paid for their living away from home.  They love and trust each other, and this is very important for us.

Our daughter worked hard in school, got a university diploma and has been working tirelessly, even now, while raising her three teen/pre-teen children.  They have their own house with a large mortgage, but they live comfortably as both she and her husband have good income, and need no financial support.

Our son, several years younger, had a couple of false starts at college but eventually got a minor degree, while engaging in a more liberal and financially less responsible lifestyle, accumulating a sizable debt.  We cleared most of his debt with a “loan” at one point, most of which was left unpaid.  At the time we made it clear that it will be considered  in the distribution of our estate whenever…  Many years later, after getting married and having one child, he lost his job (not his fault…), and had a hard time finally finding one, which is still just an unpaid “Internship”, hoping it leads to a reasonably paying full time position.  Now their second child is coming, and they still live in a rented apartment, in an area not preferred for raising children.  Their savings are not enough for the down payment on a reasonable house.  We live frugally, but would be willing to help him out from our limited retirement savings.  However, it would be difficult to justify giving an equal amount to our daughter now, as our savings were meant for our old age, so we should have no need to rely on our children’s help.  In a way, we would like to equalize the chances of our grandchildren.

So, what to do, and how to do it?  We would love to hear from you, the contributors of this blog “on the other side of the coin”.

3 thoughts on “Reader Advice: Unequal Financial Gifts for Grown Children”

  1. At some point I feel like the child needs to sink or swim. As long as he has a roof over his head and food to eat then let him struggle for awhile longer since you already bailed him out once and he hasn’t paid you it all back. He doesn’t “deserve” a house. He needs to earn it and that means becoming financially responsible enough to save a down payment. My parents try to be fair to me and my 3 siblings but I’m definitely the “I don’t need financial help one.” If my parents kept giving money to a sibling who didn’t work hard enough to get his act together I would be mad. It’s like spoiling the child who always acts bad for attention.

  2. I agree with Kay – I would say it is time for the son to sink or swim. In our family my husband and I are like your daughter, and his sibling is very similar to the son. I have watched my in-laws stress and delay their retirement to support the siblings family, and the sibling just takes and takes and will probably continue to do so as long as support is provided. I now worry myself sick about the fact that my husband and I may need to provide for my in-laws (and in that case will we be providing for the siblings family indirectly, if the in-laws refuse to stop supporting them). Please don’t put your daughter in this situation. I am sure your son and his family will be just fine, even if they aren’t in a perfect living situation as long as it isn’t completely unsafe (gang activity and the like), more than likely things will ultimately be fine for them, without it being at the expense of your daughters respect and sanity. (Sorry for the novel, and I realize I’m late on providing feedback to the letter writers concerns, hopefully they see it!).

  3. I’m with the other commenters. I’m not a parent BUT this has enabler written all over it. The son is doing fine, there is no reason he needs a house. And who is to say that he’ll be able to afford the house payment when he actually does have the house? Will the parents just keep bailing him out every single time? Sink or swim, buddy.


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