Saturday, March 28, 2009

Can't buy you love, or can it?

I was having coffee (well, chai latte, if you must know) today with the very delightful Sam, and the topic of money came up. I have not spoken at all about our new plans to my mother (regular readers will have an inkling why), but I know she was on the verge of offering to pay for IVF at various points in the past, and I have a feeling she will be more pleased about our new plans. In some ways that is why I am not mentioning them - especially not until they become more concrete. But her mention of David Miliband gives me a clue (and incidentally, at the time he adopted, there was nothing to stop non-US citizens going down the same route), and I think she realises it costs a fair bit and she often says "well, you'll have it anyway some day".

When I left home my parents paid my maintenance until I graduated from my undergraduate degree (there were no fees in those days) and my grandparents gave me a credit card while I was volunteering as a high school teacher in Zambia (I used it to buy dollar-priced sugar, at times the only kind we could get, as well as chocolate, cheese, and biscuits. Oddly I lost about a stone that year). I then fell on the mercies of the Medical Research Council, who funded my PhD, and after that have been gainfully employed, or for a couple of brief periods have had savings to draw on. I have not lived at home since I was 18; Mr. Spouse lived at home till he was, I think, nearly 30, but paid his parents rent and after about 5 years working was earning more than them.

My brother on the other hand seems to have been on a rubber band until about 6 or 7 years ago; he still keeps some books at our mother's house, and alternated between the two parental houses for the first 5 or so years after undergraduate. I don't know about his financial affairs after that and before getting married but I do know he has my mother's credit card (he is 39), has been known to use it without asking (the understanding is that it's for locally bought presents for the nieces, almost exclusively), and she often pays for his flights to see her.

Now, my father has also offered to pay school fees for the nieces to attend a bilingual school in their area. I could not work out why I thought this was a good thing - perhaps just because I approve of the school - but not of the smaller amounts for the credit card in particular, and for the odd other payment he "can't quite make". But a wise friend in the computer has suggested perhaps it is because it is a big, group-type thing - the ultimate education of my nieces being important to the family as a whole, and not something any one section of the family may be able to accomplish. So perhaps if it is offered, help with adoption costs would not be such a bad thing to refuse.

I'm very curious, though, about my readers (hello, I do have some, don't I? Or is Google Reader/Bloglines failing to update my feed? I know Reader takes hours if not a day sometimes). Do you receive financial help from your family, or do you give it? What are your parameters? What do you see yourself doing for your own children?


Perceval said...

I refuse as many offers as I can, because I resent the feeling of being bought. I prefer standing on my own two feet rather than being made to feel grateful, which can then be used potentially to influence my behaviour ;)

Thalia said...

I don't need or get any assistance, but I do get generous presents - my mum bought some of the furniture for Pob's room, for example. And I give fairly generous presents, too, so i think it all evens out. H's family have less money so we just give and receive less expensive things. But then I earn a lot of money, and have done for the last 10 years so I really don't need it.

Anonymous said...

Hello! Lurking quietly as usual, but taking it all in.

My Mum (a lovely, lovely person)showers money and gifts on us all on a regular basis. She frequently turns up with random armfuls of groceries, the odd item she knows I've been meaning to buy, a steady supply of new toys for Harry, etc etc. She knows that 18 months of not working (for MONEY, Ann, you're not simply not doing PAID work currently!) has impacted my bank account, and so recently the money has increased. £60 towards our long weekend. £30 in our anniversary card towards our meal. Refusing would hurt her feelings, (and I am an only child, so no parity worries there) and we are a close family so there is never any suggestion of buying influence; she knows we have savings behind us. My parents are comfortably off but not rich by any means, and if the stock market does not improve soon then their impending pensions are in serious trouble.

John has never received pocket money in this way from his mum and dad. Different fiscal policy entirely! Even when he was a young child, they were each bought a cow, and it was their job to feed it and look after it. When it went to market, they were given the profit from it for their savings accounts. On the other hand, John and his siblings have been given quite large cheques over the years in order to reduce their future inheritance tax burdens. The American SIL is viewed as even more of a fiscal sinkhole than me, and I know they firmly suggested to John's brother that he use the money to pay off their mortgage, not pay her medical bills.

Both sets of parents, incidentally, offered to pay for our IVF.

Jendeis said...

Delurking to write that for the first two years I was married, my parents helped us out (I was still in law school). Once I started working though, we started to fend for ourselves.

L said...

Hmm, I also left at 18 and save for help while at Uni have had a job and my own place and no handouts since then. If some thing bad happened to me, like I needed money for medical care or debts they would def offer to help.

I think that living with your family even if not paying is slightly different as they may want you there too. It's not just about the cash.

My family do give generous gifts to my children though which I do not generally refuse as to do so would cause upset. I just tuck them away and one day it will be nice for them to have a little savings account.

I think if the money is offered freely and you could use it then there is no harm. However if you think it might give them a sense of entitlement to an opinion then I would think carefully.

FWIW We are comfortable, not well off. Live in a house much too small for us but then 4 years ago I thought it would just be the two of us.

Sam said...

Coffee (mine was coffee, anyway...mmmmm!) was fun; it was great to see you.

Rachel said...

We help my MIL with expenses as she is on a fixed income. My parents to be generous with gifts, but nothing regular. I suppose I could as my parents for financial help if I needed it, but we are lucky in that we are doing okay.

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up we were dirt poor. My mother actually came from a wealthy background but it was all tied up in trusts she couldn't get at until the set date. The family members who had married more sensibly, and our in-laws, gave us handouts. We had nothing that was not second-hand. We felt second-class, but I think this was because we were constantly being told to be grateful to the family, who wanted us to be permanently available as a holiday home (we lived abroad) and liked comparing their own children's appearance and achievements on the piano and good grades at posh boarding schools to, well, to us, in second-hand-trousers.

Now my mother is really quite well off at last, she married money, she owns a business making good money, she has her trust-fund money, and she wants to LAVISH cash on all of us. She practically keeps my two younger sisters and their partners and children. I started looking after myself before this rush of good fortune, and feel both jealous of and sorry for my siblings. They have it easy in some ways, but they are both sort of trapped in eternal Rebellious Teenager mode (one of them is 32 and has a kid, FFS).

Whereas I'm so very grown up. I don't need assistance with the rent, thank you. Or the bills.

But I'd take the money, for something like adoption or IVF. I'd argue that I was adding to the WHOLE family. So.

Coming2Terms said...

My parents were helpful in launching me (helping with college tuition) so it feels good to help family members (sisters and brothers) who need it now. My DH and I never asked for it when we could have, and now we're pretty settled so (knock on wood) we'll never need to ask for it in return.

If it makes your mum feel good to help I wouldn't feel bad about taking it...

gpm said...

Good post.
My parents stopped funding me through Uni once we got married even though I still had 2 years to go and hubby's take-home pay was almost-nothing. We were genuinely very cash-poor for 3 years (as soon as I qualified hubby went back to uni) but my parents never offered to help out and I don't feel upset about that. I kind of like their attitude that if I was old enough to marry (questionable buut I clearly thought I was) I was old enough to live unsupported. I have lots of friends who depend on parents giving them cash for presents and I have to admit to finding it rather odd but then I'm lucky that financially we are ok and don't struggle any more. I think we will be similar with our children because I think we learned such genuinely valuable lessons - but I'm not sure I'd find it easy to watch them struggle to pay for the basics like we did. And I think I would step in if I thought tere was any risk of them going into debt because I am absolutely paranoid about debt; we buy nothing (other than our house) that is not upfront. Hopefully we will raise our kids that if they don't have the money they can't get whatever it is that they want but I think stuff like that is getting harder. But I think I would definitely have accepted money if we needed ivf or for adoption etc .... and in fact hubby's parents gave us part of the deposit on our flat as our wedding present and I think I would see it in much the same light....

MsPrufrock said...

My husband and I discuss this regularly. His family often needs relatively small loans, all of which are paid back in a reasonable amount of time. My family (Mum, Dad and brother) are largely fiscally irresponsible, but have never asked for money. With my divorced parents it's a problem of their own creation, though I do still feel bad when I hear about their financial concerns. In fact, my Mum only tells my husband what is going wrong financially with her - she knows I'm a worrier and won't bother me with it.

If we can afford to, we plan on ensuring that P (and any other possible subsequent child) has a comfortable platform from which to start her adult life. This may mean paying for her education, buying her an inexpensive car, and/or a reasonable place to live.

When I was at uni I worked 30 hours a week to pay my bills and didn't get help from my parents due to their own financial issues. My husband was in a similar situation as a young adult, and if P doesn't have to work her ass off just to start her life, I'll be happy to be able to help her out. I want her to know the value of hard work, which she inevitably will, but I also don't her to have to work as much as we did so early in her adult life.