We have an elderly cousin. He never married and lives alone in a Park Avenue apartment where the walls are lined with old paintings that may or may not be worth a small fortune. His closest relatives (besides us and some second cousins) are two nephews. One of them has struggled financially, and our cousin helped his nephew when he was in crisis a decade ago. Now the nephew has called his uncle and asked for help again, only this time he framed his request as "an advance on my inheritance."
Our cousin was shocked, hurt and angry--at the presumption of inheritance and because this was his nephew's first contact with him in more than a year.
Maybe because this happened within our family, we--the editorial we that is-- weren't surprised to read a similar case of entitlement in a Social Qs. This time, it was a grown-up grandson. The grandmother had invited the family, including the grandson and his wife, on an all-expenses-paid cruise to Alaska. The grandson couldn't make it--he and his wife are expecting a baby soon. But the grandson didn't just send his regrets. He asked his grandmother for a cash gift equal to what she would have spent on him to join the family trip. He suggested she donate the money to the baby's college fund.
"I am stunned," the grandmother writes to Philip Galanes. "I was happy to help them with wedding expenses and part of the down payment on their first home. But I told him this is not how life works. Was I wrong?"
Before I share Galanes' wise answer to the stunned grandma, I'll let off a little steam. What is it with this sense of entitlement to a parent, grandparent or uncle's "fortune" before they have closed out their lives? If a close family member has a financial emergency, why not make the case for a loan, preferably with a payback schedule? Okay. Steam vented.
Galanes was not sympathetic to the grandson's request."You know it's bad when I'm shocked," he wrote.
"I see two ways of reading your grandson’s nervy request: He may be an entitled young man who has grown too comfortable counting your money as his. Or — and this requires some compassion — freaked out by the pending responsibilities of parenthood, he might have made a silly cash grab.
In either event, you were right to refuse him. Your generous offer to spring for a family vacation does not oblige you to make compensatory payments to those who are unable to attend. I would have a follow-up conversation with your grandson to clear the air.
...Tell him he is not entitled to your money and your invitations do not include an option to collect their cash value instead.
But that's not all Galanes had to say:
Let him know, too, that his behavior was hurtful, and risked making you feel like a walking ATM.
Which is exactly how our cousin felt. And why he's taken his ATM out of service.
painting: Marius van Reymerswaelle