Hey Anna, My partner and I come from families that handle money very differently. His family will give us money with seemingly no strings attached but then they’ll expect things from us. Mainly, they want us to inform them about our decisions and take their loud opinions into account even on issues that (I think) have nothing to do with them. Are we obligated to take their thoughts and feeling into consideration if we’re accepting money from them? Should we stop accepting money from them even if it’s a “gift”? Are these two issues even related to each other? What do you think?
– Want the Money but Not the Drama
Managing money in a relationship is difficult all on it’s own but then when you throw parents and other people into the mix it gets that much more complicated. Then, add another level of difficulty when each half of the couple comes from different financial backgrounds. It’s not uncommon for one half of the couple to be completely financially independent from family while the other is happily used to receiving frequent financial gifts from mom and dad. There are several factors to consider in this situation — how gifting is received by the partner, how the money is used, and the expectations each person (within the couple) has.
How the Gift Is Received
The partner that is accustomed to accepting money from parents may have a less difficult time dealing with this situation, as that person will likely not see any issues or problems since he or she has grown up accepting this as the norm. The other partner, used to financial independence, may not be as quick to accept the situation, and resentments can quickly develop depending on the circumstances. Hopefully, if money is given it is given freely, but there may be certain family dynamics where money is used as a tool to control. Parents may continue to hand over their cash as a way to keep a foot in the door and exert power over their child/the couple. This scenario is not healthy for anyone. It may be necessary to stop accepting the cash completely and establish a stronger level of privacy to prevent complications within the relationship. If the money is given because the parents simply enjoy sharing their wealth, it is still important discuss between each of you, your level of comfort in receiving the money, how often the money should (and will) be accepted, along with how much is an appropriate amount to accept. The important thing to remember is that boundaries must be established.
How the Money Is Used
If both decide that you feel comfortable accepting monetary gifts, a heart-to-heart about how the cash will be used, in a way that will be fair to everyone, is essential. Perhaps the money can be deposited in a joint account for necessities or a rainy day fund. A discussion (and understanding) about how the money will be used can prevent potential feelings of resentment, especially if, deep-down, one of partners considers the money to be primarily for his or her own use.
What Are the Expectations?
Couples that are gifted cash frequently from loved ones should count their blessings. But if acceptance of money becomes a problem (big or small), it should be addressed between the couple as well as the gift-giver(s). Being open and honest in matters of money and family can help avoid unnecessary arguments and hurt feelings. Another thing to keep in mind is that even if the montary gifts are frequent they may not always be. Avoid any and all reliance on those funds.
This issue comes down to being open, flexible, grateful, and forthright about the money, and by doing so conflicts can be avoided (or lessened) and by discussing a potentially difficult topic there’s even the possibility of strengthening family bonds.
On a personal note, with me and Aaron, our rule of thumb is to not accept any large monetary gifts that have any potential for strings being attached. If we give a monetary gift, or accept one, it is done so with the understanding that the gift-giver doesn’t get a say in how the money is used. In situations like this I always think about that saying, “whoever pays the piper gets to pick the tune”, and let me tell you, I do not want anyone picking any of the tunes in my life. It’s all about autonomy, baby.
As adults (and/or couples) how have you handled financial gifts from parents or family members?
P.S. Read other reader questions here, and submit your own question by sending me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org with “Hey, Anna” in the subject line.