Take the money and run!
September 20, 2012 9:21 AM   Subscribe

My 'rents want to support me. I don't really feel like I need their support anymore. Am I being silly by not considering their offer of money?

I live in a different country to the rest of my family, and have done for several years. I'm in my late 20s, married, no kids. We live comfortably; we have a fair amount saved up, and don't have major money sucks in our life besides a mortgage. We live in a country that has socialised medical care. We have access to great public transportation, so have little need for a car.

My parents have always been very supportive of myself and my two siblings, mostly emotionally when they were still struggling financially as a young couple, but also helped with money once we reached our teens and their financial situation was healthier. I appreciated this immensely while I was younger, but as I've gotten further into adulthood, I've felt weirder and weirder about the financial side of things. They paid for me to go to school again after college (and have always refused any form of payback). They gave my husband and I an incredibly generous amount of money to help pay for our wedding. All of these gifts have come with no strings attached, and have been prefaced with the sentiment that they don't want us to have to struggle the way they did early on.

They're visiting us at the moment, and sat me down to say that they feel like I'm not receiving my "fair share" of support as a result of living so far away from them. Both of my siblings live near to them, and they help both in different ways. They provide a lot of childcare for one, and just recently helped the other buy a new house; they want to know what they can do for me, and followed this up with the idea of money. They didn't specify an amount, but seemed to be talking in 4 and 5 digit figures.

My initial reaction was that we really don't need their money right now. Not only that, but I have ongoing guilt/shame about how much they've helped me already, like I haven't reached this lifestyle by working very hard for it. (I just had a long convo about this with a friend who has had little-to-no help from her parents since age 16, and she totally called me out for romanticising that struggle, so I'm trying hard to let go of that guilt, but... yeah, it's still there.)

Full disclosure:

- We've been trying to have a baby for awhile; ideally, this would get resolved within the next year, and I know things will look very different on the other side of actually having a kid.
- I'm not working at the moment; if my husband were to lose his job (very improbable, but not impossible) or have to stop working for medical reasons, we could probably live on our savings for a year and a bit, but that's it.

Despite the possibility of these complications, I still feel weird about accepting their offer. My husband and I have spoken briefly about it, but we obviously need to have a larger discussion. I guess I'm coming to you, hive mind, to help me think about this logically. Am I ignoring possible future uses for this? If you were offered a similar NSA gift, would you happily take it and just get on with your life? Once you were married and separated from your family, how much support did they give you?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My parents provide emotional support, but it's been a long time since I got handouts from them. I'd say, if you don't need it, turn it down. However, if doing that would cause bad feelings, then accept it, but stick it in a savings account and don't touch it... you never know what might happen down the line - perhaps one day your parents might even find themselves in a situation when they need it back...
posted by KateViolet at 9:24 AM on September 20, 2012 [11 favorites]

Since you are planning on having kids, a way to get around this and make everyone happy (you will not directly be receiving a monetary gift, but your parents still get to feel like they've given you something and contributed them), you can set up a separate savings account (or CD or whatever, since it'll be long-term) and let them start the college fund for your future children.
posted by phunniemee at 9:30 AM on September 20, 2012 [47 favorites]

Have them set up trusts or college savings accounts for your future kids. Grandparents are always happy to help support their grandkids.
posted by xingcat at 9:32 AM on September 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Only you can decide if it's really no-strings-attached, or if there is some sort of family politics going on deep in the undergrowth. Somewhat similar situations arise for me from time to time, and I accept - even though I don't really need to - on the basis that sometimes people just want to be nice, and it's better to let them act on it.
posted by StephenF at 9:33 AM on September 20, 2012

"Hey mom and dad, we're doing fine for money right now so for now it would actually make us happier to know that your retirement will be financially secure."

(assuming they aren't millionaires already, but it doesn't sound like they are)

Despite the possibility of these complications, I still feel weird about accepting their offer.

There's nothing wrong with either accepting or not accepting a gift like this, since neither of you are in financial hardship. Some people prefer to be more financially independent from their families while others like a more interconnected web where everyone supports each other.

If you were offered a similar NSA gift, would you happily take it and just get on with your life? Once you were married and separated from your family, how much support did they give you?

My parents are not in a financial situation to give me any support, so I haven't gotten anything from them since I moved out. If they had more money and I was offered a NSA gift from them, I would probably turn it down unless I were in a really dire situation or maybe for special occasions like a wedding, but other people would take it and there's nothing wrong with that, either.
posted by randomnity at 9:34 AM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

"My initial reaction was that we really don't need their money right now. Not only that, but I have ongoing guilt/shame about how much they've helped me already, like I haven't reached this lifestyle by working very hard for it. (I just had a long convo about this with a friend who has had little-to-no help from her parents since age 16, and she totally called me out for romanticising that struggle, so I'm trying hard to let go of that guilt, but... yeah, it's still there.)"

Why not do something productive with that agnst? There are all kinds of non-profits dedicated to making the hard work of kids who don't have anything like this kind of help turn into fruitful rewards. Take the money and give it to them.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:35 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a time for everything, and now isn't one of the times that you need their help. Tell them how great it feels to know that you have their full support, emotional and financial, and how awesome it is to know that they've got your back no matter what. Tell them you've in a great place right now and it feels good to look at what you've accomplished, and that you know and appreciate how much they helped with that. Tell them some of the things you worry about for the future (kids, jobs, etc) and how safe you feel knowing you'll have them to rely on in anything does go unexpectedly. Basically, remind them that the day may well come when you will need them again, but for now, you'll love them just the same whether they're giving you things or not.
posted by aimedwander at 9:35 AM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I come from a culture where parents who have the means continue giving large gifts of money or high-ticket items to their adult children. In my case I have done what KateViolet suggests - I've socked the money away in a savings account and will hand it back if my surviving parent ever needs it.
posted by needled at 9:35 AM on September 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yeah, a trust or a savings fund is the way to go. Your parents have worked hard for the pleasure of spreading their resources in the way that pleases them.

If you really feel ooky about accepting a large amount of money, then how about sitting down with them, and make it clear that you truly do appreciate their hard work and generosity, but you don't want to keep the entire amount for yourself or your kids. Then locate a charity that is pleasing to all of you and give some or all to those less fortunate. This could take place either before they transfer the money to you (=they make the donation and reap any potential tax benefits) or after (=you make the donation, etc.)
posted by Liesl at 9:36 AM on September 20, 2012

Here is the guilt free way to look at it: don't look at what this money can do for you, look at what it can do for your children. Tell your parents that while everything is great now, you appreciate their offer and look forward to them being able to help with some key baby expenditures (a private room, a doula, some home help the first few weeks?) and to college funds.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:38 AM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Rather than wait for death and a will, one way to transfer wealth from one generation to the next is to pay for items such as a down payment on a house or for kid's private school when there are kids, etc. I think it would make your parents happier to see you spend their money than for them to be dead when you are spending it.

Ask them to set up a college fund for your future kids or something.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:39 AM on September 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

It might help to disconnect a couple of issues here. One is your financial situation, which is OK right now.

That has no bearing on your parents' motivation, which sounds like it's to make sure that all of their children are being treated fairly and equally -- a grown-up version of making sure everyone gets the same number of cookies for dessert. It doesn't matter that you only want one cookie while your siblings are scarfing down five; it's that fairness.

But also -- I live far from my family and I get the same thing from my dad, and it's not even about money or support or fairness, even though that's how it's always framed. The subtext is about distribution of affection. Living so far away, your family can't show their love for you by taking you out to dinner all the time or house-sitting or what have you. So gifts are one of the few ways that they can demonstrate that they love you and they're thinking about you. Your actual financial needs don't enter into that equation, either.
posted by Andrhia at 9:44 AM on September 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

College Fund, Trust Fund. Something with some modicum of tax protection.

Or give the money to charity, if you don't need it there are a few billion people who do. As someone who had a lot of odd jobs, no stable family finances ever, I'm with your friend, there is nothing romantic about that struggle. You didn't miss out.
posted by French Fry at 9:44 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, I should say that my husband's in a similar situation - he and his brother both have gotten a lot of financial support from his parents, but we're more financially stable now (as a couple) than his brother is (as a student). They enjoy giving their children money - as they say, they'd rather give the sons their inheritance now while they're alive to watch us enjoying it. They occasionally approach my husband and tell him they've just done a big favor for his brother, and ask if we need anything. Sometimes we say no, but I do get the feeling that they've still kind of tagged it as "ours if we ever need it", out of that sense of equity between their sons.

Sometimes we spend it on a big project (a car, a home remodel, replacing an appliance) but really that's a nominal thing - we were going to do that purchase anyway, it's in the long-term budget, and the gift just means we don't have to take the hit to savings. Sometimes he's used the cash to fund an IRA for the year (he's self-employed). We're also planning a family vacation - instead of giving us cash, we're all going on (international) vacation together, and they're handling the planes and hotels. (It's kind of funny because they help us out in big ways, but we're pretty equitable about the smaller stuff - when they're visiting we often split checks, alternate treating each other to dinner, etc.) I've often felt guilty, but can usually talk myself down and just feel very lucky and very loved.
posted by aimedwander at 9:49 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

My grandparents gave my parents a small college fund for each of their children (my siblings and me) when we were born; by the time I went to college, it had grown large enough through prudent investing to pay for the cost of my entire college and part of grad school. I fully realize what they did changed my life and think of that with such gratitude (unfortunately they died when I was very young), and it made me feel closer to them somehow, even after they were gone.

Maybe your parents could do something like that?
posted by sallybrown at 9:49 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

It seems clear that they aren't offering because they mistakenly feel you're struggling and need the help, and it doesn't even seem like they're offering as a means of controlling you with money.

So if it would make them happy and they can afford it, why not accept the gift in the spirit in which it is given?

You could save it for your eventual child (both diapers and college are expensive), save it for a rainy day in the future, save it in case your parents need more medical care than they have budgeted for, or fly first class to Brazil and sip caiperinhas on the beach.

The reality is, if it's money they don't need and won't spend, you will get it eventually, and under much sadder circumstances.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:54 AM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding putting it away as an emergency fund and letting them know that you're going to do that. It really helps psychically to know that there's money stashed away if the worst happens.
posted by discopolo at 9:55 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

They probably aren't aiming to better your life when they're gone, but now. I would probably keep them in the loop about the kid, and suggest strongly they get back to you in a year; this might give you time to come up with some ways they could help ease that transition in your life. Maid service, spare bedroom house addition, whatever.

My parents had this same itch, and used to pay for my cell service on their family plan. I didn't really need any other help, but did feel guilty about not being able to give to certain charities -- this was something they were particularly able to help with, because of my dad's corporate matching program.
posted by tintexas at 10:07 AM on September 20, 2012

Michael Phillips, in the hippy-era finance book "The Seven Laws of Money" pointed out that a significant percentage of trust fund kids were always unconsciously trying to get rid of their money. That is the only datapoint I have. I think your real question is "How do I make peace with money?" and the secondary question, "Do I take this money?" will answer itself.
posted by mecran01 at 10:15 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

My mom and my in-laws tend to give us money or every so often fund a large purchase for us (contributing to house down payment or home improvements, etc.) as a way of gradually passing on their money while avoiding inheritance taxes.
posted by telophase at 10:17 AM on September 20, 2012

Parental gifts are really like gifts from anyone else. In most cases you can't tell people not to give you a gift, and this isn't one of the exceptions. Demur once, tell them you don't need the money and would like to see them enjoy the money they've worked hard to earn, and if they persist after that, take the money and use it as you see fit.
posted by orange swan at 10:42 AM on September 20, 2012

They're visiting us at the moment, and sat me down to say that they feel like I'm not receiving my "fair share" of support as a result of living so far away from them. Both of my siblings live near to them, and they help both in different ways.

This is the part that stuck out for me, as my wife and I have had that very discussion with my parents. My brother and sister-in-law live near them and my parents have helped them out financially - both voluntarily and on an emergency basis - many times over the last several years. The total amount is now probably near $10,000. They also have provided regular childcare and have taken care of a lot of expenses for the grandchildren that would ordinarily be stuff the parents pay for (music lessons, schooling, etc.). And even though my wife and I are doing fine and need the money less than my parents do, they feel compelled by fairness to even it out.

So far, we have just politely refused the money, explaining that their offer itself is generosity enough, and that it means a lot for us to know that we could rely on them if we really had to. To balance that out, when they visit we generally allow them to buy a meal or to bring our kids some clothes or something. That way we are not totally refusing any gift at all (which would be rude). But we are also avoiding their larger desire to give us "balancing out" money just because they've had to bail out my brother.
posted by AgentRocket at 10:51 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Something else to consider -- if your parents feel strongly about the unfairness of things as they stand, will they try to make up for it with uneven gifts in their wills? Because that often creates bad blood at a trying time. It may be better / easier to accept their gifts now than to fight about them after they're gone.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:05 AM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am on the other side of this. My daughter just turned 23, and is about to graduate from college. There is money around, finally, more than we are used to, and I am actually working past when I could practically retire in order for there to be money for her to go to grad school, travel, move, whatever.

Daughter is resistant to the idea that she might need this money, but I also feel that there are no significant strings attached, in that the relationship is fine, she stays connected and communicative from out there on her own path in life, and I do not feel we are "buying" anything with this money other than the peace of mind of making her life a tad less stressful.

But, as I said, sometimes we get the notion that this future money is kryptonite to Daughter.
posted by Danf at 11:13 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been offered similar NSA money by two different family members. Both have also helped other family members out with considerable amounts. My gut reaction was that I didn't want to be like the other people they'd helped - wrong or not, I felt some pride that I didn't need the money in the way the others did, that I was surviving on my own. Some years down the line, I wish I'd felt differently about one of these offers and accepted it (it was in order to give me the opportunity to do a specific thing I wanted to do). Obviously no-one else can tell you what to do, but you might want to think about how you feel about your siblings who are being helped. Do you feel superior or proud about not needing the money now, and if so is that something it would be useful to unpick? You might still want to refuse but it might be useful to understand your feelings better about those who are being helped.

I like the suggestions from those who say consider asking them to set up a trust for your putative children. It's also worth considering what plans your parents have made for their own old age, though. Are they likely to need money themselves later on? Would you want to help them if they were struggling with the cost of their care?
posted by paduasoy at 11:14 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I give my grown son money from time to time. Same thing to a couple of my wife's grown grandkids. We are not rich, but we can afford these small gifts. In my view, it's better than rice cookers or gadgets.

Indulge your parents in this. Tell them that you are doing well financially, and that you are putting the money they give you into (some type of savings account. Don't use it for speculative ventures). Tell them that, when you reach retirement age you will either turn it into something for the children or use it appropriately, to cover some sort of financial disaster. (You may think, but not say, that these funds may come in handy if your parents suffer a setback requiring extraordinary medical care.)

Tell them that their thoughtfulness has given you an extra measure of comfort and security in a world where people's situations can turn upside down in a heartbeat. Tell them that you are lucky to have such caring parents.
posted by mule98J at 11:24 AM on September 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

My in-laws are like this. I'm not sure this would work for you given the remote distance, but one way we have found to resolve the issue - I prefer to find good deals on vacations and do them on a budget (even though I could afford not to, I don't like spending money just for the sake of it), and my in-laws prefer to go on very luxurious vacations which are all-expenses paid/all-inclusive. They never vacationed like this when they are younger and they feel this is their time to relax. So when we go on family vacations with them, we pay for our own flight, but we let them pay for the vacation - they pay for the vacation for the whole family, generally. That keeps me from getting stressed out about how expensive the hotel they want to stay at or tour they want to take is, how there's a much better bargain right around the corner, etc., and we both get a great time out of it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:29 AM on September 20, 2012

My view is that it's their money and it's their decision what to do with it.

I would tell them: How grateful you are that they want to support you and have given you so much support. That you are doing well financially, thanks to their past support and the way they raised you, and you want to make sure they are using their money to keep themselves happy and healthy. That you don't care about your "fair share" and you honestly do not mind if your siblings get more support than you do because of their proximity.

And once you've said that, if they say, Okay, but we are giving you money, take it and thank them.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:21 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Be aware that this may be a way that they can balance the scales for more-frequent but smaller things they do for your siblings.

Maybe they (for example) babysit for your nieces/nephews, or have family events that you can't attend, or invite everyone else over for Sunday dinner each month. These small acts, over time, add up into big effects. Your parents might therefor feel bad that you don't get to take part in this, and they hope that being the deus ex machina that drops a windfall into your lap can have a comparable if different effect.

So you taking it and doing something with it -- paying off some debt, maybe, or socking it away for Future Baby's education, say -- will let them have a significant impact on your life. And that will make them feel good, which is a nice thing for a kid to do for their Mom & Dad. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:39 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

If there are no strings attached, take it.
posted by spaltavian at 12:40 PM on September 20, 2012

mule98J: Tell them that, when you reach retirement age you will either turn it into something for the children or use it appropriately, to cover some sort of financial disaster. (You may think, but not say, that these funds may come in handy if your parents suffer a setback requiring extraordinary medical care.)

Based on my own experience, this seems like the perfect answer.

You are young now. Your parents still see you as their child, no matter how grown up and independent you are. They will probably always see you that way. But some day, maybe sooner than you think, you will find yourself seeing your parents in a different light.

It might start with an illness or surgery. You'll fly home to help out, and it will hit you, suddenly and without warning: Wow, they look so frail. I still remember the first time my father suffered a serious illness. When I saw him afterward, all I could see was how thin he'd become.

When that day comes, and you start to serious consider the possibility of your parents passing away, a role reversal occurs, and you take on the role of parenting them as much as you can.

My husband's Mom passed away not long ago, years after succumbing to early onset dementia. His Dad was amazing with her; by the time she passed, she didn't recognize her own children any more. My husband and his siblings did everything they could to ensure she never had to spend a day in a nursing home, her biggest concern before her illness overtook her.

Thankfully, my own parents are still going strong. My Mother and her five younger siblings (also all still going strong, though in their 60s and 70s now!) currently take turns caring for my 96 year-old grandmother. Who takes less pills every day than I do.

Your own kids will be growing up and thinking of attending college one day, too, and college expenses increase, year after year, at a truly alarming rate. Most likely, you will be financially supporting them at least partially through college.

You may even be looking at both of those scenarios--caring for parents and children--at the same time.

No question, there WILL come a day when you need that money your parents want to give you. If you don't need it now, just sock it away until later.

There is no need to feel guilty about this. They want to do something for you. You can return the favor right now by serving as the Family Bank Vault, and holding onto that money for them.
posted by misha at 12:46 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Perhaps this gift-giving is a way of your parents showing themselves how far they've come - when they were your age they were struggling financially, and now they can afford largesse, thanks to years of hard work. If that's the case it might be politic not to mention too loudly your good financial circumstances and instead accept the gift. Alternatively is there any tax benefit to your parents if they have income/assets under a certain threshold? I'm not trying to say your family are tax-evaders, just that you might be helping them out by accepting the money.

You could always decide to donate to charity or keep it to help your parents down the line as suggested above, to offset the guilt, though I don't think you need feel bad for accepting an NSA gift from immediate family!

Do your siblings accept your parents' generosity easily? Are they dependent on your parents for the help your parents provide? It might be easier for your siblings to accept help they really need if your parents can say they've given all of you the same amount of assistance?

Have you discussed your guilty feelings with your parents?

Interesting that you say you feel you haven't worked hard for your lifestyle - I don't have the answer to that, I just wanted to say I can sympathise - I grew up with values of scrimping and saving and hard work because that was what we all had to do. Now times are easier for everyone in my family due to hard work and a fair system. I'm reaping the benefits of my good education and good habits my parents taught me but I have had guilt associated with my success. I'm trying to teach myself that it is ok to have more than I absolutely need to stay above the poverty line, and that it is ok to let others help me, but I still oscillate between enjoying-my-good-life-hedonism and feeling guilty...
posted by EatMyHat at 1:19 PM on September 20, 2012

How lovely! I love the idea of starting a fund for future grand kids.

How about a family vacation with you, them, your sibs and their families? A couple of weeks in Spain or a cruse or some other wonderful memory.

You want to appreciate everyone while you are all able to. As we get older, it's harder to get around, or schedule around the kids and school.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:20 PM on September 20, 2012

It sucks that money has so many emotional connotations. I think you should first off thank them for wanting to be fair. That is incredibly sweet and well-meaning of them. And then I'd want you to be sure that the gift would not be a hardship to them. And then I'd ask them what there advice would have been to their younger selves if they had been gifted (or offered) such a large sum and then do that.

In my younger years (my 20s), I'd probably advise you not to take it. In my older years (mid-30s with kid), I think you should take it and put it away in some way that builds interest and helps you plan for your future or can provide a cushion.

Money is freedom. They say it can't buy happiness but it sure can buy options (if you don't squander it).
posted by amanda at 1:22 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

"their advice" not "there" -- Ergh!
posted by amanda at 1:24 PM on September 20, 2012

My wife and I are doing reasonably well financially and her parents do similar things, perhaps on a smaller scale, but for example her mother buys a lot of my wife's clothes.

Every family's dynamics are different, but for me it boils down to two things:

a) are there creepy strings attached? Doesn't sound like it in your case. Examples of creepy strings could be - telling you what to do with the money inappropriately; telling you what to do with YOUR money; criticizing your lifestyle choices either in general or framed as "hmmph, you're taking our money and wasting it on..."

b) are you impoverishing them? Doesn't sound like it. My late aunt was on food stamps and still trying to buy and give people in the family furniture, for example. In that case, we had to stop her, return stuff, let someone in the family give her the money back, etc.

If neither things are true, you really shouldn't worry, in my opinion. Parents want to give their kids stuff. I think it's normal.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:30 PM on September 20, 2012

Your parents want to give you this money with no strings attached. Take it.

I don't know what country they are in, but perhaps they receive better tax treatment giving incremental gifts such as this while they are still living.

You are lucky to have a family that is financially sound and generous. Don't feel guilty, feel grateful. Save for your child. Be good to people less fortunate than you.

Good luck.
posted by murfed13 at 1:40 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

When you have children will you be sharing your money with them? Maybe that will help you to see your parent's point of view. Why don\t you use the money to visit them more often? you probably don't fly over for a weekend visit but a bit of extra money means you could see them much more frequently without hitting your savings.
posted by saucysault at 2:27 PM on September 20, 2012

I had a similar issue for decades until I straight up told my parents that I felt like by taking money from them that I wasn't an adult.

My dad then explained that the reason they give me money is that's how they know they are successful. To them, the only real reason to work hard and make money is to be able to provide for your family and since I was their only child, it only made sense to give me as much support as I needed.

It had never dawned on either of them that taking support in that way could make me feel less successful. But at the same time, I never fully understood how much they valued being able to help.

Since then, I don't ask for help but if they offer to help with something, I don't make a big deal out of it. Like my mom said, I'm gonna get this money/support one way or another. At least this way, they are alive for me to thank.
posted by teleri025 at 2:46 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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