My husband and I have five children: two are mine from a previous marriage and three are his. We raised all the children together and they refer to each other as siblings. I consider them all my children. They are all now in their 50s.
My husband passed away three years ago. I am relatively healthy for my age, financially secure, and have full mental capacity. Lately, one of my daughters (let’s call her Jill) has been chiding me for frivolously spending her inheritance and her siblings’ inheritance. I think none of this is any of her business and, sadly, told her so to her face. Now she won’t speak to me.
Our most heated discussion to date stemmed from her asking me how her sister, Brenda, could afford to send her children to science camp this summer. I explained I was paying for camp because I thought it was a good opportunity for my grandchildren and will be a nice break for my daughter and son-in-law. Brenda is a full-time mom, working part time from home. They both made decisions based on their personalities and lifestyles.
Our previous confrontation regarded our physically disabled son who is no longer able to work at his chosen career. He works less hours now and at a lower pay. Jill wants me to stop enabling him to work from home. She thinks he should be looking for a better paying job.
I do not have many expenses other than my occasional travel with friends. I have Medicare, supplemented through Tricare for Life, and paid up long-term care insurance. My financial adviser assures me that if I live within my current budget (which includes these “frivolous” items) I’ll still have over $1 million in savings at age 100.
What can I do to build bridges with my daughter, Jill, and also make her understand that I take care of my own financial affairs?
Brava! You appear to have done a pretty good job already.
Usually, tense moments such as the one you described with your daughter don’t occur in a vacuum. If your daughter was not upset about how you choose to spend your money, she would likely be concerned about something else. In other words, her belief that she may be left behind in some way or overlooked is probably rooted in deeper resentments that even she may not even be aware of.
Invite her to lunch. Tell her that you know she is coming from a good place and her intentions were good, even if you feel like some of those intentions were based on her own self-interest. Sometimes, it’s nice to write a card, put a stamp on it, go to the post office, and mail it in person, because it shows that you care enough to put time and thought into such a gesture. Keep it short.
You could also call a family meeting to inform your children of your plans for your retirement and say how you appreciate everyone wants to make sure you are both solvent and have long-term care plans in place. You are under no obligation to tell your children how much they might inherit upon your passing. Of course, you can’t spend someone’s inheritance. It’s your money, no one else’s.
During my 40-odd years on this planet, I have discovered that I don’t always need to point out when I feel others have done me wrong, as tempting as that can be. And it is! I try to say what I need to do for me and how a comment or behavior might make me feel, and acknowledge there is not ill-intent. “I know you’re trying to help, but these are decisions I prefer to make. I appreciate you care.”
None of us chooses our words wisely all the time, but we can acknowledge when we might have done a better job. Your daughter’s behavior is hers to own, and you can only show her where your boundaries are if/when she attempts to cross that line again. Pull out a tried and tested stock phrase from your financial boundary tool box, change the subject, and leave it at that.
Please let me know how you get on. Have a great year ahead.
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).
By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.
Would you like to sign up to an email alert when a new Moneyist column has been published? If so, click on this link.