It's a wonderful feeling to be able to be financially generous to our adult children--to support them if an unexpected need arises or to indulge them so that they can do or buy something they've always wanted. If we've got that bit of extra to spare, there's a deep pleasure in seeing our children enjoy it now rather than later--when we're no longer around.
And our kids are grateful. Why shouldn't they be? We've offered them support out of love for them and respect for their ability to handle the resource well. But sometimes, there's a little less of a heartfelt thank you. There can even be resentment, especially if there are strings attached. This letter that appeared in an advice column in a local Colorado newspaper spells out the dangers of attaching those strings--even if we do so indirectly:
When I met my wife five years ago, I had no idea of her financial status. I knew that her parents had a nice home and spent a lot of time traveling but she lived frugally and worked hard. When we got married, I learned about the extent of her family's substantial resources. Admittedly, they have been very generous — helping us with the down payment on our house, taking us on family vacations and starting college funds for our kids. The issue is that they've increasingly put pressure on us to raise the kids in specific ways, build our schedules and vacations around their needs and spend money according to their values. We, and my wife in particular, have been struggling to say no because of everything they continue to give us.
The letter was signed: Locked In Golden Handcuffs
The couples coach who answered the plea from "Locked" talked about the "aging" parents and their need to feel relevant. They also focused on what was triggering the son-in-law's negative response, such as feeling a loss of empowerment, freedom or authenticity or a sense of emasculation.
Whatever it is, it's not something I would want to visit on my son or daughter or their spouses. To give is to give freely. It's their lives to live. We are not in the driver's seat--even if we bought them the car.