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Sept. 25, 2021, 8:19 a.m. EDT

I’ve always worked for what I have, but married into money. My in-laws want to buy us a house and luxury car — the fights are endless

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Quentin Fottrell

Dear Quentin,

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

<STRONG> <EMPHASIS> <STRONG>You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on <INTERNET LOCATION="EXTERNAL" URL="https://twitter.com/Quantanamo">Twitter.</INTERNET></STRONG> </EMPHASIS> </STRONG>

Dear Hyper,

This is a problem millions of couples across America would love to have. Millions of people have the opposite problem, and lose sleep over the long-term care costs for their parents or in-laws.

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.

You face the twin issues of pride and practicality. Bottom line: Your in-laws should accept “no” as an answer. Still, there are many ways your in-laws can contribute to your life financially without causing too much disruption. For instance, they could contribute to a 529 savings plan for college for your own further education or for the education of your children should you decide to have any.

According to SavingForCollege.com : “A grandparent-owned 529 plan will have no effect on a student’s financial aid eligibility — as long as the funds remain in the account. But if the grandparent provides any type of financial support to the student — including withdrawals from a 529 plan — the amount is reportable as student income on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. “

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. 

<STRONG>By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. </STRONG> By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

<STRONG>Check out <INTERNET LOCATION="EXTERNAL" URL="https://www.facebook.com/groups/moneyist/">the Moneyist private Facebook</INTERNET></STRONG> <STRONG>group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.</STRONG>

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell :

‘I just don’t trust my sister’: How do I gift money to my nieces without their mother having access to it?We’re getting married and have a baby on the way. My wife has offered to pay off my $10,000 student debt and $7,500 car loanI have three children. I quitclaimed my house to my most responsible son. Now he has blocked my callsMy brother-in-law died, leaving his house in a mess. His landlord wants me to repaint and replace the carpet. What should we do?

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