Dear Jeanne and Leonard: Our son, who’s in college, is dating another student, a girl who comes from a poor family. “Maria” is smart, funny and ambitious, and we like her a lot. We look for opportunities to treat our son and Maria when we see them, but we’d like to do more for Maria than take her out for nice meals once in a while and give her birthday and holiday presents. In particular, we’d like to help with some of her college expenses (her scholarship doesn’t cover everything). My husband’s worried, though, that doing so could have unintended consequences for our son’s and Maria’s relationship. They’re just kids, and we wouldn’t want either of them to think we’re trying to push them into marriage. What should we do?
Dear Rachel: Of course you’re right: The financial support you’re contemplating could feel like a lot of pressure to a young couple. Plus, should Maria consider breaking up with your son, you wouldn’t want her to hesitate because she didn’t want to break up with you. Similarly, should your son consider ending the relationship, you wouldn’t want the financial downside for Maria to be an issue.
One solution is to help Maria anonymously. See if the university, an organization that assists needy students or Maria’s church would be willing to accept a gift earmarked specifically for her. Also, help her find a well-paying summer job. Your smart, ambitious young friend will like earning money more than she’ll like accepting charity.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My husband and I, both in our 60s, are recently married. We’ve bought a house together, but we also each own another home. We rent out our former homes and use the income to help with the mortgage payments on them and on our new house.
The problem is, I want my kids to inherit my house, my husband’s kids to inherit his house, and both sets of kids to inherit the house we own together. But my husband thinks we should sell his house and use the money to upgrade our new home, then count on the equity in my house to provide for our care in our later years. How do we resolve this disagreement?
– Complicated in Paradise, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Dear Complicated: One of you isn’t counting the money right. Either you and your husband have enough resources to live comfortably for the rest of your lives without selling any of your three homes, which seems to be your assumption, or you’re ultimately going to need the proceeds from the sales of two of those homes to live on, which seems to be your husband’s assumption. So hire a financial planner, and find out who’s right. Otherwise, life in paradise could get really complicated.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: Over the years, my father made several loans to me. I’ve never repaid Dad, but I know that when he dies, I’ll need to repay the money to his estate from what I inherit. What’s bothering me is that if I do, the money will then be divided equally among all of us siblings. That seems wrong to me, because I would be getting back a portion of what I’d borrowed. What is the right way to handle this with my siblings?
– Seymour, Kansas City
Dear Seymour: Unless you left something out of the story, you are correct: When you repay the money, you will be entitled to a portion of it equal to your percentage share of the estate. But don’t worry, there’s nothing unfair about this.
Look, if your father had $150,000 in the bank when he died and you owed him $10,000, then the value of his estate would be $160,000. And you would deserve your proportionate share of the $160,000. So relax and enjoy the money.
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.