I have a problem! I was raised by parents who were middle-class, who came from no money and who worked very hard to get where they are. They were very quick to teach hard work and thrift. I was never given anything other than food and a place to stay. I worked for clothes, toys, electronics, and anything that I didn’t need.
I have worked my way through college, paying for everything on my own, and I am very proud of where I am. I have my car, I pay my own rent, and I have a well-paying job in the finance world.
My wife and her family, on the other hand, are very well off. They drive very high-end luxury cars and live large (quite literally). I am someone who likes to earn everything that they get, and receiving something for “free” almost entirely makes me want to vomit.
My wife’s parents are very insistent on trying to get us a house of our own, and most recently getting me a luxury car. The arguments and fights between me and my wife seem endless, and I am at a loss for what to do.
Am I wrong to turn down their money? If there is a balance, what would that balance be?
The Hyper Independent
You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.
This is a problem millions of couples across America would love to have. You face the twin issues of pride and practicality. Bottom line: Your in-laws should accept “no” as an answer.
On the one hand, you say you are used to paying your own way and these generous offers make you feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, the sooner you get your foot on the property ladder, the sooner you will pay off your mortgage and also acquire equity in your home. What’s more, your wife will likely inherit a share of her parents’ estate in the future.
Any decision should take account of the personalities involved. It may be that you can accept a loan for a down payment on a house from your parents-in-law, but no car. Have a separate conversation with your wife about what she is willing to accept from her parents, and draw a line between her comfort level and your own. If she accepts a gift, it’s not a reflection on you.
That said, there’s a lot to be gained by maintaining your own financial independence, and not feeling like you owe a third party for your home or car. Whether it’s stated or not, such gifts often come with an emotional “gift tax” that could lead to further interference in your lives. Set up a system with your wife for dealing with such requests to avoid any further disputes.
Present a united front. You are a team, and your in-laws risk destabilizing that. If they are offering a big-ticket gift, you both need to sign off on it. Period. Otherwise, it’s a no-go.
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