It’s not fair!!!

November 6, 2011 · 41 comments

My older sister took the plunge last week and signed her life away. She bought a 2bd/2bth 1,030 sqft condo in the greater Seattle area. She’s the first of us three kids to say goodbye to renting, and for good reason, she’s getting more space for less money. I think her rent was running around $750/month for a one bedroom, and her mortgage payments (PITI) are around $500/month. Part of me thought my sister was going to be a lifelong renter, so it’s nice to see her step out of her comfort zone. Especially because it seems to be a pretty good financial move.

But let’s get to the point. This post isn’t about my sister buying a house. It’s about a grave injustice that occurred before the house was even purchased.

I was hanging with Mom Ninja a few days ago (do you guys still hang out with your parents, or is it just me?) when she told me her and my pops helped my sister financially with the down-payment. She then asked if I was bothered by that fact.

Heck yes I’m bothered! THAT’S NOT FAIR! Why does my sister get a gift from my parents, but my brother and I get the shaft? We live in America gosh darn-it, where if you do something nice for one person, you HAVE to do something nice for everyone!

Haha, can you smell my sarcasm? When my mom asked if I was bothered by my parents generosity to my sister, I said “Why would I be mad? It’s your money you do whatever you want with it.”

And that’s the take-a-way from today’s blog post. My parents money, is my parents money. Period, end of story. They saw an opportunity to help my sister out, so they did. This obviously does not require them to suddenly give my brother and I an equal gift.

I guess this means I’m mature now? I guarantee things would not have gone down like this as a kid. If my parents came home and gave my little brother a new Batman toy, and me nothing, I would have gone freakin’ bananas and thrown an epic temper tantrum. But now that I’m older, I don’t really worry about fairness and all I try to do is be the best employee/blogger/husband/mentor/person I can be.

Life would be miserable if I expected it to be “fair”

1 LLMM

Life isn’t fair, but I do think parents should be, to be honest. You should not expect to get an equal amount of money or something like that, but your parents, being all grown-up and stuff, should WANT to keep it equal among kids. It’s not like your brother gets a pen and you get nothing.

But maybe that’s just the way I was raised; my mother would find a pen for all three of us or keep the one pen herself ;-)

2 Ninja

I’m sure over time the gifts equal out.

Actually I’m not sure cause there is no way to necessarily quantify the gifts we get. My brother, for example, still lives at home so I guess I could say its not fair that he gets free living expenses.

That’s why I prefer to just ignore fairness and senses of entitlements and instead focus on the things I have. That way when my parents do something nice for me, I’m appreciative instead of thinking “they owed me”

3 dojo

Wow, this is a VERY balanced response. Most would have thrown a fit. Yes, you are right, it’s their money and they should use it as they deem fit. I never expect anyone to do anything for me, even if we’re family. If they do it, I’m thankful, if not, I can do it myself.

I am sure that, when it will come the time for you guys to make such a change, your parents will do their best to help you out. And if it’s not the case, you’ll surely survive, since you already seem to have most things nicely figured out ;)

4 nebuchudnessar

I think it is a sign of maturity that you haven’t felt put out by the appearing inequality. You are right, it is their money to use it as they see fit.

You are doing well

5 Miss JJ

I think it is great that you think this way. I hope I am as generous if ever such a situation should occur in my family.
I do think though, that parents should try to make things as equal as possible and practicable. I have seen a lot of hurt feelings arise from perceived favoritism and inequality, especially when parents ask for more from the kid they give less to. If it sucks at work to be paid less than a colleague who does exactly the same job, why would it suck any more less if the same happens in a family setting?

6 Catch!

I think that’s pretty mature of you. I wish I could feel that way about the huge gift my parents gave my sister. They recently spent abot $10,000 on her huge wedding this year. Now I got married about 7 years ago and they spent $2000 on me, of which I paid back $1000 to them because I felt bad at the “huge” amount they gave me (and they cetainly made no move to “refuse it nicely”). When I got married my husband and I had just started our jobs (like that week) and had no money. My sister and her husband had more than enought to fund it themselves. So I still feel a bit sore about that one, but I keep it to myself.

7 Drew @EpicFinances.com

Congrats to your sister. Hope her HoA is reasonable — There were many condos in my area that were built 10+ years ago that were solid deals, but the HoA went from $120-ish to $240-ish a month and they have special assessments almost every 5 years — Large ones.

8 cashflowmantra

I would have to agree that you have exhibited a degree of maturity in your reaction to the situation. In the end, we should all depend upon ourselves and consider anything else we get in life to be a gift.

9 Mo D.

Very mature attitude, Ninja! As you replied to LLMM, the gifts probably do equal out over time. My Mom’s still in the mindset of “do for one, do for the other”, so when she bails my sister out of financial trouble for what seems like every couple of years, Mom’s prepared to do something nice for us. She can afford it, but when I tell her “it’s your money, spend it on something fun for yourself”, her reply is she giving us our inheretence now so she can see the good it does”… kind of a different way of looking at it, I suppose.

10 Lutus

I am with you, Ninja. I would just be grateful that your parents have the money to help your sister!

11 AMD @ amomsdime

You are a good man. I’m sure that I would have eventually come to the same thought but my honest initial, gut feel would have been unfairness fueled by jealousy. I do think I would have eventually come to the same place as I know gifts tend to come out in the wash and equal themselves out, but I don’t think that would have been my initial reaction.

12 Jessie's Mom

Mom Ninja’s money is her money, same as when she was hooking you up with gifts to pay down your student loans, not so long ago. It’s great to see your happiness for your sister.

13 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com

If I was worried about fairness from my parents, I would be a highly dysfunctional human being. I’ve always needed less, so I’ve always gotten less than my siblings. And I’m better off for it. As far as I’m concerned, my parents did a disservice to my siblings by hand feeding them.

14 Daisy

I don’t know.. I probably would have been a little annoyed. But that depends.

My brother didn’t graduate highschool. He didn’t go to college. He went to a trades program, for which he borrowed $10,000 (his tuition for 1 year was only $2000 but he felt he needed living expenses too) and then promptly dropped out after two months of borrowing the money.

My mom sometimes mentions my dad paying both of our loans when I graduate. Why in the WORLD should he have his loan paid when he didn’t graduate highschool and didn’t even graduate his trades program? He didn’t even try! He spent all of that money on god knows what! Whereas I’ve been in school for years – 5 to be exact – and have only $12,000 in debt, and am actually going to graduate. I feel like that’s ridiculous and not teaching him any financial responsibility.

But I suppose if he wasn’t such a — whatever he is, and my parents helped him, I wouldn’t be so annoyed.

15 Money Beagle

My in-laws help my sister-in-law with her student loan payments and it definitely bothers my wife a bit. Not because she expects them to automatically give her money, but since my wife and I were more responsible and paid most of them off early, she feels it rewards her sister-in-law for making not as good financial decisions.

16 MW

Aren’t you the same ninja that cried foul about the student loan forgiveness program? Because if you paid off your loans by yourself, why shouldn’t everyone else?

How is this situation any different?

Except for the fact that while life isn’t fair, parents really should be, in my opinion. I wouldn’t expect your parents to just give you a chunk of money, but I would kind of expect something in the way of, “When you need a leg-up, Ninja, we’ll be there for you.” Which kind of sounds like that’s what you’re expecting anyway.

17 modernhamlet

“Life would be miserable if I expected it to be ‘fair’.”

Mom/family stuff aside, these are real words of wisdom.

18 Midwest

My parents also assisted my sister with a down payment on their home. My wife and I purchased a home a few years earlier and received no “financial” assistance.(they helped us build a fence, stain a deck, and numerous other very helpful things) It didn’t really bother me though, because I think of it the same way as you do Ninja. Their money.

My wife and I have done a little better financially than my sister and her husband, so that likely played a part. It’s sad how families are ripped apart when their parent’s pass, and the children/spouses fight over what they “deserve”. Just a theory, but getting all pissed off over a few thousand now might be an indicator of all hell breaking lose the unfortunate day your parents relocate to the heavens.

19 Carrie - Careful Cents

I have 4 siblings (that spans over a decade between us all) and since I’m the oldest my parents brought me up in the “tough love” stage of parenting. But as they got older and had more kids, they became more lax and switched to the “it’s all good” type of parenting. So yeah sometimes I feel my parents baby my younger brothers and give them too much money (err I mean help).

But like you said, my parents money, is my parents money. I too have grown to believe that life isn’t fair and that I need to be mature about it and just go with the flow. Also, I still hang out with my parents too :)

20 Chariot

My first thought – Why would she even tell you? A test?

I do agree with you. Our parents money belongs to our parents. My sister has been struggling a bit so if my parents helped her a bit (and they have) I’d be just fine with that.

Personally, I choose to make even gifts to my children. If daughter A is planning a wedding I will give her a designated amount to do with as she pleases. And give daughter B that same amount for her future wedding or whatever. Same would apply to college funds and cars. To keep them unspoiled and working hard, I will tell them none of this. They’ll be pleasantly surprised!

21 Liz

I have the same mentality. I don’t expect that my parents should give me an equal gift if they help my brother and he would never expect that he should get something if they help me. I’ll take it a step further and say that it’s not even any of my business.

Oh, and my brother and I also still hang out with my parents. :)

22 StackingCash

This post gave me an epiphany :). Now I understand why personal finance is a taboo subject. The possibility of problems arising from jealousy! I’m so slow sometimes…

23 Kellen @ AccountantByDay

I was looking to buy a house last year, and my parents were willing to help me come up with the 20% down (in exchange for 20% of the sales price when I sold later.) We were worried about mentioning this to my 2 older sisters, in case we upset them. It probably worked out better that my parents decided to buy their retirement property, and could no longer help me out.
My one sister bought a house on her own this year, through a $0 down program, and if my parents had paid my 20% down, they would have had to pay hers too, and then they’d be out quite a lot of cash. And my other sister is just horrible at financial stuff, and would have been VERY upset not to get the same offer (parents have bailed her out over and over through the years on late bills, getting her gas refilled when she ran out in winter, giving her cars…). Because, if someone gives you 20% to put down, you can easily buy a house – the question is whether you can make the monthly payments.

In reality, I’m not sure it works out well for parents NOT to be fair. I’d be most okay with missing out since I’m the youngest AND I earn the most, but it is tough enough for my sister who is 10 yrs older to see us getting nice things and buying houses on our OWN, nevermind with help from mom and dad.

24 Chariot

If someone does help their kid with a down payment, the parent should be financially sound enough to do so. And prepared to accept the consequences of possibly creating dependent and financially irresponsible children.

My grandma made a mistake of “helping” my parents upgrade to a better house. She sold her own home to do so and agreed to move in with my parents. My parents went from a townhome to a 5 bedroom house. It was a disaster I had to live with all my life. No one was happy. My parents couldn’t afford the house on their own and my grandma gave them money every month for the rest of her life. My grandma wanted to move out but couldn’t afford to do so (or wouldn’t try because that would mean letting my parent go deeper into debt). My mom had to live with my dad being babied for 20+ years and not having her own household to run.

Yeah, that helping hand ended up being just the opposite. I can’t imagine how different our lives would have been had she declined to help them and forced them to remain financially independent. This is an extreme example of what can go wrong but I hope people really look at the big picture before giving large amounts of money to their kids or even raising them with the assumption that they are entitled to something.

25 Kristin

Some major milestones in a young person’s life are higher education, buying a home or car, and getting married. You might even include starting a business on that list. Depending on the individual person, everyone is going to hit those milestones in different orders at different times, if at all, and the timing and order will affect a person’s financial ability to shoulder each alone.

One of my friends from college had an older sister who never attended college. The older sister wanted her father to spend as much money on her wedding (which was actually cancelled) as he had on the younger sister’s undergraduate education, so that it would be “fair.” Needless to say, that didn’t happen. However, since the younger sister did go to college and got a very well-paying job, she will probably be able to cover her wedding herself whenever that might happen.

Things shouldn’t be “fair” on a dollar for dollar basis, but make sense for the person and the family as a whole. However, one child using all of a parent’s resources to the detriment of the other children isn’t a healthy situation for anyone, which goes beyond fairness.

26 Jake

I always find it interesting that we have collectively decided that ‘fair’ and ‘equal’ are synonyms. In my opinion, being fair does not me that every gets the same, fair means that every gets what is appropriate for them.

Ninja, I am glad that you were able to be a responsible grownup and realize that you are not entitled to your parents money and they can do what they want with it. I think you are also smart enough to know that if you needed the support of your family, that they will be there.

Nice piece.

27 Merceedes

My Father did sort of the same thing for my brother and I. We were both paying rent to live in my parents house after we graduated college (we did spend some years on our own, but took the opportunity to move home when it made sense for us) The money I paid went to paying for utilities/mortgage, while (I later found out) my brother’s ‘rent’ went to an investment account which my father gave to him when he decided to purchase his house.

The two of us bought homes that cost pretty much the same amount, and only a few months a part, but my brother had an extra $10,000 to put towards closing than I did because of the investment account. Was/am I a little upset about it? Sure. But do I feel damn good about buying a house ALL by myself? Heck yes I do!

I am one who believes that things should be fair when they can be. I have never asked my parents for a significant amount of money, and I doubt I ever will. But I hope that if there ever comes a time that I may need it, that they would be willing to help me out.

28 Paula @ Afford-Anything.com

Whoa, it helps to be an only child. Then you never have to think about this stuff.

29 Lysander

I expected my parents to be fair and I expect that will continue going forward.

That said, fair is NOT the same as equal. What matters is that parents give the support in a way that provides the child the most value.

When I stopped by home last weekend my mom gave me a care package that included some money with a note to “get yourself some new shoes”

Mom also spent last Saturday babysitting my little nephew so my brother and his wife could go to the wedding of good friends.

This fall she paid the tuition for the last class that my youngest sister needed to get her Associate’s Degree.

She spent a week of vacation babysitting my older sisters three teenage kids so they could have a week long getaway for their 25th wedding anniversary.

At the end of the day, the costs of these things is wildly different, but they all provided the help that we kids needed in the way that we needed it.

30 Simple Rich Living

Excellent perspective! There are three of us siblings. I am certain my parents would love to if they have the means but they have never been and never will be in a financial position to help any of us of out whether it was tuition or future weddings or down payments or whatever. I am the eldest so I am more established than my two younger siblings. I like to treat them when I can such as taking them out for dinner or a generous Christmas or birthday gift or a flight on a backpacking trip or handing down some dishes and furniture to one. Initially I tried to give gifts of fairly close in monetary value but over the years, I am starting to give gifts that are tailored to what they need and this seems to make more sense.

31 Techbud

I would thank Mom Ninja for her honestly. Nice to keep this right out in the open, even if you were upset you had an opportunity to discuss it.

32 krantcents

If it doesn’t bother you, why did you blog about it?

33 Ninja

The same reason I blog about a lot of things. To talk about my perspective on a situation. How was that not clear?

34 BRB

Lets face it, right now if your parents gave your brother a Batman toy you would still want one too.

35 Ninja

Batman, not so much. Spiderman…now we’re talking.

36 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com

All this talk about “fair” is not the same as “equal” sounds a lot like communism. There’s nothing “fair” about giving a chronic screw up more money than a responsible adult because “he needs it more”. As far as I’m concerned, the screw up needs money less.

I have plenty of those screwups in my family, and every time someone gives them money, they instantly screw up more. The only time they’ve ever approached responsible is when they’ve done things themselves. Giving money to people who can’t make good decisions does more harm than good and is not “fair” in any sense of the word.

37 Jake

That’s funny, I was always under the assumption that fair means equal is they very crux of communism, ie. all property is communal, production of goods done for the consumption of all.

‘There’s nothing “fair” about giving a chronic screw up more money than a responsible adult because “he needs it more”’

That’s not communism, that’s a policy of vote pandering.

38 Little House

You’re much more mature than I am. And I’m older. ;)

39 Donna Freedman

I’m feeling better all the time at having stopped at one kid…she won’t have these potential problems.
I’ve got three sibs. One has been getting some financial help from my dad over the years — not because he’s making poor decisions, but because he’s needed it more. Long story, but it has to do with an early marriage and a tough divorce followed by a years-long (and ultimately unsuccessful) struggle to get at least partial custody of the kids, followed by another marriage, a house fire (lost everything), another divorce and now the necessity of having to raise a grandchild.
(Yep, it sounds JUST like a country song.)
This sib needs help more, so he’s getting it. He’s one of the hardest-working people I know, and he’s paid my dad back both financially and in terms of physical labor et al.
Am I bothered by the situation? Nope. I managed without help. He couldn’t. No longer, by the way; his books are finally balanced.

40 Rafiki

It’s probably cause you are a dude though. If you had both a daughter and a son, don’t you think you would spoil your daughter more?

Just to be clear, this isn’t a serious statement, more of a joke since I always joke with my significant other that if we get a daughter I would spoil her.

41 Jane Virtual Agent

awwww it was nice of you for not throwing a tantrum. LOL… If I were in your shoes, i might’ve thrown one. :) but hey, were all adults now. I guess we just need to be more open minded regarding this kinds of matter. :) I’m sure your parents would do the same to you if ever you’re in your sisters situation. :) parents’ will do anything for their kids, no matter how old they are. :)

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