By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
I’m racking my brains about how to be fair in giving financial help to our two daughters. We are extremely fortunate in that they are well-adjusted and hardworking with excellent earning potential, but at this point in our relationship, it’s not clear to us how to proceed. Both kids obtained bachelor’s degrees which were fully funded by us.
Daughter No. 1 (aged 32) embarked on a career in the movie industry and, after a few years of menial jobs, landed a good staff position with a well-known company. Two years ago, she and her boyfriend bought a house together and asked for help with the down payment — we gave them $25,000. They will be getting married in April and asked for help in paying for the wedding — we gave them $20,000.
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Now for daughter No. 2 (aged 29). After college, she decided she wanted to go to medical school, but had taken all the wrong courses. She embarked upon a premed post-baccalaureate program to remedy the deficiencies, working during the day, and going to school at night. We helped her out financially over two or three years.
She took out federal loans for medical school, as we told her we couldn’t afford to bankroll it. My husband is 70 and trying to retire. She graduates with her M.D. next year, and will be getting married shortly after.
How do we tot up the balance sheets for the two girls? Do we count the extra money that we’ve already provided to daughter No. 2 against the $45,000 we’ve given to No. 1? I don’t know how their two salaries will ultimately stack up against each other, but No. 2 will obviously have a lot of debt.
Do we provide her with $45,000 for wedding and house purchase? Or do we take the view that she’s already had a large portion of it? I should add that they are delightful young women who are very fond of each other. I’m not sure that either decision would cause a rift between them, but we want to do the right thing. I need a new way of thinking about this. Please help.
There are no right or wrong answers here.
You have already been very considerate and generous with both of your daughters. Go with your gut and I’ll go with mine. Treat their respective educations equally, even if one cost more than the other. If you gave one daughter $45,000 or $25,000 to help with a down payment and other expenses after she graduated, give your other daughter the same amount. If Daughter No. 2 needs help with her student loans at any time, have those discussions when they arise.
The Moneyist Facebook Group weighed in on this. One member wrote: “What my parents give to my siblings is between them and my siblings. We each have needed and been given help at different times and in different ways. None of us children know what that looks like from a financial viewpoint. It isn’t my business what my parents do with their money. If your children are well adjusted as you say, they aren’t keeping score.” I agree with that. Do the best you can. Don’t lose sleep over it.
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Daughter No. 2 can choose how to spend the money. Given this daughter’s own financial situation, she may decide not to spend that money on a wedding. I’ve had many letters about the pros/cons of having a big (expensive) wedding. One woman wondered if she was selfish to have a big wedding. No, it’s not selfish, but it’s not always financially prudent. Another single woman asked me whether she should save $10,000 for her wedding or use it as a down payment. I strongly urged her to do the latter.
Another mother wrote to me several years ago about her own daughter, wondering whether her daughter should elope or have a big wedding. I told her: “I’ve attended dozens of weddings and I don’t remember the food, flower arrangements, table cloths or whether the wedding invitations were printed on the finest Vellum paper made from cotton with a frosted finish. The most memorable weddings were in a friend’s backyard.”
Your own daughters will be fine. You have gone to great pains not to favor one over the other, and I am sure they see and appreciate that.
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