Financial Fairness

My parents have always tried very hard to make sure that my sisters and I got roughly the same of everything.  Sure, my sister might have taken soccer while I took tap classes while our other sister took flute lessons, but it always seemed very even.  We all had to get jobs at 16.  They bought our prom dresses, and paid for 4 years of in-state tuition (we made this easy by going to the same school).  They have the same amount of money set aside for each of our weddings.

My parents are very scrupulous about this sort of thing, even though none of would care if the others were getting more.  If they gave my sister, the grad student, a little extra Christmas money, I probably wouldn’t notice, but I also wouldn’t care.  If they paid a little extra on my baby sister’s upcoming wedding, I’d be all for it (I’m considering making a “donation” myself, by buying her wedding shoes or something).

Chad’s family is almost the exact opposite.

They’re very traditional, so his sisters went for lower-paying careers in fields like art and education.  One is itching to become a stay-at-home mom, once her husband graduates from law school.  Chad went for the traditionally masculine, higher-paying engineering field.

I get the feeling his sisters get a lot of assistance.  They’ve also been pretty nice to us, so no complaints, but I definitely see a lot more gifts, monetary and otherwise, going to Chad’s sisters.  They paid for all of his sister’s $50,000 wedding, but significantly less than that toward ours.  They bought the other one a car, although they have loaned us one until Chad graduates or until they need it.

I used to get sort of upset at what I saw as a great disparity.  Not because of the money, but because I felt like things should be fair.

Now, though, I see how well we’ve managed to do (not too difficult with engineers’ salaries), and I feel like it’s actually more fair this way.  We don’t need assistance.  His sisters might.

At any rate, I mostly enjoy of being free of any obligation – real or imaginary – to his parents.  I like knowing that we’ve kind of done things ourselves (unless you’re counting the huge amounts of support we got before we went out into the working world…).

Do your parents make sure that everything is equal, or do they dole out more money to your needier siblings?  Do you care? Let me know in the comments!

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12 Responses

  1. No. My little sister has gotten about 20 times the help that I have, and I wouldn’t trade places with her for the life of me. She did need more help, but I also think my parents dropped the ball on helping her become an independent adult.

    I think it is equal enough with my older sister, though they may have gave her a bit more in wedding money (she was too young to contribute much).

    I don’t care really. I just worry that their help is counterproductive.

  2. *giggle* Ahhh. I must pass on commenting for my part. But I love that your parents were super-extra fair and also good about setting early boundaries as well.

  3. They’re just financially and mentally handicapping their daughters for the future 🙂

    Economic outpatient care, I think. I hope your sisters-in-law won’t end up financially destitute from not having had the right level of encouragement to be independent rather than dependent.

    My parents are not that fair either, but I couldn’t care less. I just know that I reciprocate what they give to me, and nothing more or less.

  4. Yeah the millionaire next door talks about Economic Outpatient Care, although there’s quite a negative connotation to it – parents/grandparents subsidizing lifestyles through paying for private education or giving large sums of money for house downpayments. It may or may not apply to Chad’s family.
    My wife and I are each the younger of 2 children. My parents were fair (my sister and I are currently financially better off than either of my parents now, but we would have never allowed discrepancies in our youth), my in-laws, specifically the mother-in-law is hyper-fair, to the point of not offering something from her basement that no one’s touched in decade until my wife has cleared it with her brother that she can have said junk. It’s never been a problem though, and I guess that’s the point. As a mature adult, it’s hard to get upset over “what’s fair is fair.” nice post!

  5. Have on brother, (now 25) and am now 27. My parents were fair-and-pretty-much-equal when we were kids. Now, I honestly don’t know – I suspect so, but if they paid for my brother’s masters or didn’t offer to pay for his wedding (I am not married so this is just an offer because he’s not female, I don’t much care. We’ve got enough, they’ve got enough so gifts can be gifts.

    My partner’s family are a different matter – they’re not naturally as giving with things like time, emotional support, words of kindness and their 3 kids have very different needs so I think there’s more counting. My partner has said he hopes they leave his sister-who-needs-it more than him.

    However, I think that in both cases we can be relaxed about it because we’re in a privileged position: we have enough and our parents are self-sufficient and living well.

  6. Great post! My parents have been fair to a fault. It’s always the same, to the penny. My dad gave my brother a little help on his house down payment; I got the same amount toward my car. Etc. etc. My brother and I are so close, though, that we always told mom and dad to be generous with the other but not to worry about compensating! I love my bro so much I want him to have everything and would never bregrudge him anything. But I know our relationship is the exception and not the norm. If I had a more contentious relationship with a sibling I’m sure I’d feel differently. Also, we both work hard and never ask for anything from our parents (everything that they’ve given us has been because they insisted at times), and so there’s no resentment or anger on that end either.

    • Sometimes I think that the reason my sisters & I are so laid-back about it is because my parents were so fair. If one of us had been a clear favorite, maybe we’d feel a little different now.

  7. This particular post doesn’t apply to my immediate family, as I’m an only child. My parents helped me when I really needed it, but at the same time, encouraged me to be financially independent.

    But this post does relate to an interesting occurance in my family. My mom recently passed away (recent post in my blog). My grandpa (mom’s dad) told me that he & my mom had an ongoing “agreement.” My grandpa remarried when I was about 5. My grandma is wonderful, but her children are very, very bad with money. My grandpa, being financially stable, likes to occasionally help family members in need -he insists he’s not being taken advantage of- by loaning those individuals money. But he says he sometimes gets tired of reminding them to pay the loan back. That’s where my mom came in to play. My mom & dad have never borrowed money from my grandpa, so he says in order to be fair, he used to give my mom the same amount of money he loaned (and forgave) to the other kids (well, adults). Now that my mom has passed, I seem to” take her place” in this agreement. So I recently got a check in the mail for $450. My grandpa says he forgave two loans to family members for that amount, and since I didn’t owe him anything, he would just send me the money. It’s his way of being fair to all kids.

    I don’t expect anything from my grandpa, but I appreciate the fairness.

    Sorry for the long comment, just reminded me of my own example 🙂

  8. My parents tried to put away college for me and my two sisters. It didn’t nearly cover the cost of college, but they did co-sign student loans with us. So that’s not quite direct financial help, just helping us get the money we need. My older sister and her husband got married soon after college, and had lower paying jobs like retail sales and teaching. So my parents helped a lot with their wedding costs (along with my bro-in-law’s mom). They’re doing fine now, have bought a house (possibly with help from the bro-in-law’s mom…), and both have really good teaching jobs.
    So, that being said, I’m not sure how much my parents would help with a wedding. They know that I make good money as an engineer (hooray engineering!) and that I’m all about saving (they know I love reading/writing about personal finance), so it’s unclear at this point what they’d do to help with that.
    My parents paid for lessons and things like that when we were younger, but we all played instruments and took dance lessons, so it probably all evened out. It’s weird looking back and realizing how much parents spend on extra curricular activities, and we didn’t think to thank them or how much it was costing.
    Where was I going with this insanely long post? Oh yeah. I think my parents know we’re all independent. My sisters and I are all in very different places (older sis is married, owns a house, and works as a teacher, I’m in a long term relationship, renting, and engineering, younger sister is single and renting in grad school (with stipend!)) But we all talk to each other, and if something comes along, we’re all there to help each other out.

  9. I think this is more of a gender issue than anything. My parents would have treated a boy differently (they wouldn’t have expected to pay for his wedding, for instance, but he’d have gotten more allowance because boys should be the ones paying on dates, etc).

    I have 3 sisters and I’m female so everything has been more or less even with us, but not to the dollar. We each got college paid for at the school of our choices (all private but not all equal tuitions). We each got car when we turned 18 (the same make and model in fact, but the year adjusted to be one year used upon receipt). I’m sure everything’s split evenly in the wills and what not – and luckily we’re all very independent and have decent jobs so far. But our careers are very different, and it looks as though our marital situations will be very different. I wouldn’t care if my parents helped one of my sisters down the line if she needed it. But things can’t always be equal; sometimes people fall on hard times – or develop addictions or disabilities which need to be addressed. You never know.

  10. I think it’s very important for parents to strive to be fair. Because my parents were not fair, it created resentment between myself and a sibling. The same is happening between my husband and his brother, who has gotten more hand-outs. It doesn’t do your children any favors because they become dependent and less resourceful. In my husband’s case, the brother got a lot more money because he needed it. He had kids and we did not etc.. Then we got hit with illness and got kids but his parents are not longer able to equal things out, until the brother pays back a massive loan (6 years and counting) which he probably never planned to do.

    I urge everyone to be fair to their kids if not in life, in your will. Even if one seems to need it more now, you don’t know what happens when you pass away. If my in-laws had passed away last year, they would have given a huge amount to my BIL and little to my more independent husband, yet it turned out we got hit with disaster now.

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