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The Moneyist: My parents gave my sister $75,000 for her student debt, should I also ask for $75,000?

This woman says this money will be worth far less in 20 years from today, and would like her share today. Read More...

Dear Moneyist,

My parents are retired, pretty well-off, living conservatively and comfortably. They enjoy traveling, outdoor activities and are in pretty good health. It’s just my sister and me. I am married, own a little condo with my husband and we’re moving soon and expecting our first baby. We’re financially comfortable and independent; besides our mortgage, we don’t have any debt or loans. My parents paid off $75,000 of my sister’s debt after graduate school. Besides the rest of her grad school loans, she otherwise has no debt/loans. She is independent and quite a high earner.

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‘I could use that $75,000 now towards a larger down payment, a desperately needed new car, start a college fund, or just to invest it myself.’


My parents have said that my sister and I will split their wealth upon their passing. Right now, to accommodate for the $75,000 they gave my sister, they told us that they altered their wills so I will receive $75,000 more. I feel guilty, but I don’t think that’s quite fair: $75,000 will now be worth much less in 20 or 30 years when my parents pass. Also, I could use that $75,000 now towards a larger down payment, a desperately needed new car, start a college fund, or just to invest it myself. It’s worth much more to my sister too since she doesn’t have to pay nearly as much interest on her loans.

Should I ask my parents for the money? They’re not ones to just dole it out without “reason,” but I feel a little shorted. Or am I being too stingy? Of course, it’s their money and they can do with it what they want, but it just feels a little unfair.



Dear Snubbed,

I don’t think you have been snubbed. Your parents are trying to do your good self and your sister a good turn: $75,000 now for your sister’s student debt and $75,000 for you later. Of course, you’re not entitled to anything and nor is your sister. Your parents may have decided that she needed that money more than you and decided to give it to her. So be ready for that answer. It’s their money and they can dish it out as they want to, but they are clearly conscientious about being fair and equitable. Good for them. And that’s nice for you, too.

I see no problem with you asking your parents for that money, if your parents can afford it and you have a purpose.

—The Moneyist

Given that context, I see no problem with you asking your parents for that money now, if they can afford it, as long as you have a specific purpose. Of course, you could tell them it would likely buy a lot less in 20 or 30 years, and I’m sure — as reasonable as they seem from your letter — they would see your point. If you decide to upgrade your home, great. If you want to start a college fund, super. If you buy a car, it will depreciate. If you invest, be aware that we’re in the winter of a nine-year bull market.

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The Moneyist Facebook Group was up in arms over your request. People bring their own experiences to letter writers’ requests, so I don’t blame them for that. One member suggests being direct: “Some families seem to communicate solely on the basis of hints, like WWII submarines using sonar. In other families, ‘you have to ask’ and anything resembling a hint makes parents angry.” Another wrote: “This is what I tell my kids: ‘Life isn’t fair, so stop counting beans!’” I agree with both of those statements, but I’m taking the diplomatic middle ground on your question.

‘Make your points about inflation and your current needs, but leave sibling rivalry out of the conversation.’

—The Moneyist

It doesn’t hurt to ask, as long as you do so nicely and explain your rationale. Preface any parental conversation with your points about inflation and your current needs, and leave any semblance of sibling rivalry out of the conversation. Your parents are trying to do right by both of you. If they say “no,” it may be that they are not comfortable parting with another $75,000 just yet. So take their answer as binding, and don’t argue with them (I’m not suggesting that you would, merely crossing my “t”s and dotting my “i”s, just in case.)

I have received too many letters about inheritance and skulduggery involving warring siblings. So please don’t allow any bad blood over this $75,000 stain your parents’ good intentions.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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