When Enough is Enough – Funding Family Members Because You’re “Well-Off”?

by Darwin on March 10, 2013

So, I’ve now come across enough stories of friends “taking care” of their family when they’re well off and the others aren’t that it begs the question as to when it’s right, when it’s wrong and how prevalent this is.  I’ll share two recent stories that I’ve come across where young, successful people are basically being used as a piggybank because it’s obvious they are financially successful.

  • Working Couple Buying Cars, Paying Utilities for Aunts and More – The most recent situation is some old college friends we recently visited and we were talking about what’s going on with other old friends, family, our jobs, etc.  This couple is relatively well off with two working six-figure earners.  They have a nice house, new cars, a nanny for their kids because both parents work full-time and travel here and there and they take nice vacations.  They definitely work hard, play hard and by all accounts, one can only assume they make a sizable income together.  So, after we’re talking for a while and chiding each other for what’s going on in each others’ relationships, the wife starts complaining about how they’re basically funding the husbands’ family members.  Everything from paying the utility bills for one aunt when she says her funds are low to buying a car for his parents.  Literally – a car.  I dunno, it strikes me as really odd to hit up a nephew.  I mean, I hear stories now and then about a kid doing well financially and they want to “take care of” their parents, but someone as far removed as your sibling’s child?  So, even though they each have their own income, the wife was a little resentful that money that had been earning collectively is being used to fund other people that in essence, had a lifetime of their own to earn and save for retirement.
  • Paying for Parents’ Upper Class Lifestyle – This one’s a little more frustrating.  We have another friend who is very well off.  Husband works, wife is home with the kids.  Evidently, growing up, the husband’s parents lived a pretty high-flying lifestyle.  Fancy neighborhood, big house, new cars, country club, the works.  Ironically, his father was a financial planner of all things.  Well, fast-forward a few decades and now the parents are pretty much broke/in debt but they can’t fathom the thought of no longer living the high life, so our friend continues funds their lifestyle.  He pays them monthly and they still maintain the house in the expensive town, drive new cars and take vacations, but it’s somewhat with his money.  I understand the sum to be something like probably a couple thousand dollars per month.  Again, the wife is somewhat resentful because it’s money that is really their family’s but the husband is sending it to his parents to live a lifestyle they can’t afford just to “maintain appearances”.  Evidently, he feels obligated to do so and makes a ton of dough, but it’s the principle.

I can tell you if this were the situation in our marriage it would certainly create a lot of friction.  Fortunately, there are no family members on my side or my wife’s that could reasonably ask us for help, nor would we be able to agree on some sort of routine funding of the lifestyle of family members.  But this happens relatively often.  On one hand, if it’s the proverbial story of a parent who gave everything to make their kid a success and now that the kid’s successful, they want to take care of them.  On the other, there are plenty of parents who live life somewhat irresponsibly and happen to be lucky enough to have sired a child who is financially well-off enough to fund their retirement and entertainment expenses.  The truth is often somewhere in between.

Do You Take Care of Any Family Members Outside Your Home?

Would This Create Tension With Your Spouse?

Any Crazy Family Funding Stories to Share? 




{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

The Chickvestor March 10, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Mixing family and money typically is a recipe for a sticky situation. It’s important to set boundaries that you are comfortable with and stick to them. It’s easier said than done, but it’s necessary to prevent resentment and conflict with spouses, parents, and other family members.


Lance@MoneyLife&More March 11, 2013 at 8:51 am

Luckily we haven’t gotten to this point yet but I could see both of our parents needing help down the road. We have talked about it and decided that our parents are just going to have to live the lifestyle they can afford even if it isn’t what they are used to living.


krantcents March 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I don’t understand it ether. My mother and my in laws took care of themselves. I expect to take care of myself too. I see it as almost enabling because unless they change, you just assumed another dependent. I have no problem helping or even loaning money under certain circumstances, but I think supporting someone else will be a lifelong responsibility.


retirebyforty March 11, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I wouldn’t fund a lavish lifestyle. If my parents need help, I wouldn’t hesitate to send them money, but it will just be enough for the necessities.


Natalie F March 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I would be furious if i was put in the situation. The income that my household works for should be used for MY household. I’ll offer help when needed, but I won’t let someone abuse my kindness.


Darwin March 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Well, they let it happen to them; I’d struggle with a chronic cash exchange situation. One-time would even be awkward.


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