Considerations for Couples: Accepting Money from Parents

Accepting Money from Parents | AndThenWeSaved.com

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

 

Hi WTMBNTD,

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: hello@andthenwesaved.com with “Hey, Anna” in the subject line.

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3 thoughts on “Considerations for Couples: Accepting Money from Parents

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  1. Katie

    I was in this exact predicament! I was buying a car (mine finally broke down after 13 long years) and for the monthly payment I wanted to be at, I needed to put $2,500 down instead of the $1,500 I had. My boyfriend’s dad went with me to make sure I got a good deal and offered to kick in that extra $1,000. He knew I needed it, and due to his persistence that I take the money, I couldn’t refuse. When he gave me the money, he insisted I “didn’t need to pay it back” but if I’d help him in his construction business during the summer by stripping plastic off steel beams, then we’d be even. Because his request of me to “strip plastic a few days” was vague and indefinite, I knew I didn’t want to be tied to that. I told him I’d be happy to help, but I will be working in the summer and can’t take a few days just to help him. I told him I’d pay him back and I was determined to. I paid him $250 right away when I had it the next month, and he threw a fit, claiming he didn’t want it. I made him take the money. When tax refund time rolled around, I gave him the other $750 the second I had it. My boyfriend became a bit upset with me, claiming that me turning around the money so fast looked like I just didn’t want to help him in the summer (which, I didn’t-again, it was a vague and indefinite request I seriously did not want to be committed to) and that he knew it would make his dad upset. The bottom line ended up being, I don’t care if ANYONE gives me money “no strings attached”-I’m paying it back immediately, or I’m not taking it because I don’t want anyone holding something over me, as it seems the parents in this post are trying to do. People get so weird about money and it’s sometimes a touchy subject-I’d rather not take a “gift” from someone if I knew I’d have to deal with any of that.

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  2. Emma

    My father in law offered me a relatively small sum of money when I moved into my first house. I was uncomfortable as I had never borrowed money before and had bad experiences in lending cash to friends. When I declined he was upset and so I told him why – simply because I didn’t know when I could pay it back, and I didn’t want to feel like he owned me or had a say in how it was spent. This is also as he had given his children monetary gifts several times, which indeed usually ended up in him asking for it to be paid back if he wasn’t happy with how it was spent. I found that by giving him a simple reason why I declined opened up a bigger conversation and we were able to settle our differences on the issue, without it feeling like I was sounding resentful or ungrateful.

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  3. Noel

    Money and family are hard to navigate. When combined, they can definitely be a mine field! Luckily my husband and I come from similar situations. Our parents each busted out check books for our wedding and to help with the down payment on our house. We are grateful and used the money for their specified purposes. However they seem to understand that my husband and I are pushy and opinionated enough, and we definitely have no room for anyone else’s opinions to be thrown in. They seem used to having strong-willed children who ignore their input, and understand that any gift given is really just that- a gift. If they did expect input in exchange for cash, we would definitely no longer be accepting any. Now we just have to try to remember this generosity when it’s our turn to have strong-willed children! Ha!

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