Daily News Portal

Advice | Carolyn Hax: Parent wants to give money but fears son-in-law will waste it

Dear Carolyn: I have decided to give a sizable cash gift to each of my children and their spouses each year. My son and daughter-in-law have already told me what they are going to spend the money on: doing house repairs, paying off their car, etc.

My concern is with my daughter and her new husband. They are both teachers in their late 30s. He has a history of overspending (apparently it runs in his family). He had a lot of debt when they met and my daughter helped him navigate paying down loans and credit cards. She has shared all of this with me. She said he still likes to spend on frivolous things.

They are expecting. I was unhappily surprised when I asked about summer plans and they are just taking it easy with no plans to earn extra money. I don’t want to attach any strings to this money, but I cannot stop thinking about him using it unwisely. What do you think about my asking my daughter how they plan to use the money? Or should I just get over it and let them handle it?

Concerned: There are lots of options between butting into their business or enabling their business. You could give them (some of) the money in a trust, for example, to both couples, to avoid a judgy look. Or you could set up an education savings account, one you control, for your coming grandchild. These may seem like “strings,” but they are darn generous ones, and they are smart.

I like this one the best: Since your daughter shared his history with you, you can talk to her about what she would prefer. Not in a controlly, “tsk at your unwise spending” way, but in a way that acknowledges a reality that your daughter has managed responsibly and trusted you enough to share.

Tell her you are mindful of how hard she and her husband have worked on excess spending and debt, and therefore want her input on this gift. Specifically, say you want to avoid putting her in a bad spot with a windfall, but you also want avoid interfering or attaching strings. Encourage her to give it some thought and come back to you with ideas, and offer her some starter ideas as well. An education account for the baby? A trust that pays out over time?

The main element of finding the “right” answer here, whatever it turns out to be, is not the money or the spending or the husband. It is your relationship with your daughter. If it is a good one, if she has shared her financial circumstances with you freely, in the spirit of openness and in trusting search of support, then you are in a position to say credibly that you are asking for her input on her behalf.

Because that is what it would be. Handing an addict a huge dose of a problematic substance has given us a rich library of outcomes to learn from. Giving your daughter a chance to act on the experiences of others instead of gaining her own the hard way is itself a sizable gift.

Read More:Advice | Carolyn Hax: Parent wants to give money but fears son-in-law will waste it