Occasionally one of us will flip to the Mr. Money Moustache Forum and poke around while procrastinating. This thread on whether or not parents should help kids out equally was really thought provoking.
DH’s mom is excruciatingly fair when it comes to doling out presents. This means that our kids get a TON of stuff from his parents even though we don’t really need it because DH’s siblings are in much worse financial shape than we are (and also live close to DH’s parents so they can see what the kids need). It was especially bad the year DH’s then-unemployed brother and SAHM wife were living in his parents’ basement. We don’t really have a choice in the matter, and, since they focus on the kids, we don’t really feel like it’s our place to suggest they cut back (or put the money towards a 529 etc.). It is, after all, their money, and they’re giving it to the kids, not to us.
My father is much more like Jacob from ERE than like Mr. Money Moustache in terms of spending, infrequent cold showers and all. That means over the years my parents’ small nest-egg has grown enormously. I don’t know how much, but I do know my father is concerned about avoiding inheritance taxes and wants to give up to the gift limit every year.
With the exception of when DC1’s school was about to go under (and he donated a considerable sum to it on our behalf), I have told him no. I do not want their money. I want them to SPEND it, or failing that, give it to charity. I want them to move some place nice after my mom stops working and just enjoy life, even if it costs more to live there than it does in my small college town home town in the Midwest. They’ve taken me up on the giving to charity bit and have set up a number of local scholarships for graduating high schoolers to go to college or for the library to reward customer service or to keep the paper version of the stock books he loves to spend hours going through to do value added investing. (He says he needs to consolidate everything to index funds, but he keeps not doing it. If he ever dies, the estate is going to be a nightmare to unravel.)
My sister, on the other hand, does not mind accepting their money. So she does. Neither of us needs the money. It just gets put away and saved (or rather, it stays in whatever complicated 1980s mutual fund or single stock it was originally invested in because having to deal with selling it is a pain in the rear, which may be part of the reason I’d rather they just give the money to charity(!)).
It doesn’t bother me. It’s their money. (Though to be honest, a little bit of me worries about the extreme cost of assisted living expenses and wonders if it might be a wise idea to accept that money and put it in a “for parents’ assisted living expenses” account in case they’ve underestimated their health costs in old age. I know there’s Medicaid for nursing homes after the money runs out, but I also know that $ buys higher quality care. They don’t have long-term care insurance and my father is too old to get a policy.)
In terms of fairness for college– they paid for both of us, room, board and supplies. My sister’s college cost substantially more than mine did, but a portion of that is that I got a lot more need-based financial aid because they were wealthier when my sister went to school than when I did. Should she be penalized or I be rewarded for the stock market doing well or my mom taking on a temporary administrative position? (They did give my sister more spending money than they gave me– I had to work for my spending money, but that probably didn’t add up to much and she did take on a heavier class-load and more hard-core extra-curriculars than I did.)
We used the same ancient Oldsmobile to learn to drive on. Then my parents gave me a no-frills (as in 2-door, manual, no a/c) new Hyundai Accent as a college graduation present that my sister drove the two years (and seriously dented) because I couldn’t afford to pay for car insurance while in graduate school. They gave her her own no frills new Accent when she went away to college, but she also went to school in driving distance of home whereas I went half a country away. She paid for her own new car post-graduation (one with a/c!), the same year we moved to our real jobs and bought our own new cars for ourselves.
They paid for my wedding (~3K, though 1K of that was alcohol my father insisted on providing)– it was either that or there was not going to be a wedding because DH and I had no money just out of college. My sister doesn’t have a boyfriend, and when/if she does get married it will likely be much fancier than mine was. I do not know what my parents will do if she does settle down. And I won’t mind whatever happens.
I suspect though, it might bother me if they hadn’t offered both of us the same deal. We’ve both been offered stock transfers (though after I said no the second time, they stopped offering). We were both told that college would be paid for us– not that we’d get the same amount of money, but that we could each go to whatever college we wanted (the reward my mother negotiated with my father for her to go along with his frugality-to-the-extreme ways). We both got new cars, even the same type, though at different times in our lives. So the offers seem fair, and we’ve been allowed to react to them in ways that seem fair. That choice means that if there’s any favoritism going on, it isn’t going on through money channels. And that seems like a good thing.
I suspect DH and I would not mind if his parents showered a little less on us, but in this case we are so much better off than his entire family that it really feels like the money should be flowing in the other direction. And maybe it will, some day. Until then, we accept their generosity and save the money we would have spent on clothing and toys. We’re pretty sure his parents can afford what they’re doing, but at the cost of working longer than they might otherwise have. Still, while I wouldn’t say they enjoy working, they do get value out of work, so perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. If it turns out they miscalculated, we will have savings to spare.
What are your thoughts on financial assistance to individual kids when there are multiple children? If you have siblings, do you think your parents treat(ed) you fairly? If you have kids, do you have a philosophy for financial assistance?