Honestly, I can’t believe I’m writing this but here we go.
My wife and I are in our 30s and have two young children. She is a stay-at-home mom. I am a resident physician who currently makes about $60,000 per year, but this will markedly increase next year. We have always been frugal.
Five years ago, she and her sister inherited a substantial amount of money, split equally between them. Think low six figures. I have always done 100% of the finances for our family and have invested the inheritance diligently and been able to multiply this amount to quite a reasonable sum. We always mentioned this is for the future (retirement and to help our kids when they grow up).
Her sister is a young professional and just got engaged to a blue-collar worker. Both my wife’s parents passed away when they were young. All of a sudden, my wife wants to pay for her sister’s wedding ($25,000) since her parents are not around. She phrases it as a “gift” from her parents.
I find this to be completely unreasonable and doesn’t make a lick of sense to me. Both my wife and her sister inherited equal amounts of money and, on top of this, her sister and her fiancé make about double my current salary. I haven’t even mentioned that they constantly vacation, and have much more free time than I do.
Should I keep the peace and acquiesce? Just writing this makes me upset. In the seven years we have been married, I’ve never had concerns about our financial decisions but now I am questioning everything.
About To Be $25,000 Poorer
Dear About To Be,
You have my full support. It is a kind gesture, but one you can’t afford, and one that seems wholly unnecessary. I understand that your wife inherited this money, and I see the argument that might say it’s her inheritance, but you are supporting your family, and I agree that you should put your family’s security and your children’s education first. How you approach this is key, and it must be done firmly and delicately, without rancor and judgment of your sister-in-law’s lifestyle. Emotional decisions and financial decisions are often unhappy bedfellows.
It’s best to diligently stick to one clear message and gently repeat it. Otherwise, you risk getting drawn into a messier conversation about who deserves what, and that is something best avoided at all costs. It’s not about what they are (adults who are perfectly able to pay for their own wedding). It’s about how you feel and why (stick to this). What’s more, it’s unwise to commit to or plan a $25,000 wedding during a pandemic. Given this money has been invested long term, taking $25,000 could ultimately cost you $100,000, or more.
Here’s a suggestion: “It’s kind and generous, but I’m not sure whether it’s wise to pay for their wedding. I believe we should stick to our financial plans for the family, and put this money toward our children’s education and invest it for their future. They may, one day, need help buying a home. Separately, it may create awkwardness in our relationship with them, particularly your sister’s fiancé, who may not welcome such an offer.”
Perhaps there is a compromise where you could offer a honeymoon as a wedding gift. It is simpler, cheaper and avoids stepping on either of their toes.
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