This has bothered me all my life. My father left my family when I was seven years old. I’m not sure how much child support he paid my mom. Shortly after I graduated from college, he visited me for the first time since leaving the family. He told me he wanted to send me money every month to buy a house in the US that would belong to the family. He began sending payments of $1,000 a month to a joint bank account. I felt compelled to inform the rest of my family – my three siblings and my mom.
““It happened in 1992 in Los Angeles, and I can only imagine that a house worth $150,000 back then would be worth a million dollars today.”“
My eldest brother insisted that I divide the monthly installments of $1,000 between us, and that I not tell him, and said I had no right to buy a house on his behalf. I thought it would be unethical for me to continue accepting his $1,000 monthly payments without informing him that I would split it among the family and not go into the mortgage. I informed him of my brother’s demands and he soon stopped sending me payments.
Should I have ignored my brother’s requests, continued to accept $1,000 payments and later purchased a home on behalf of the entire family? Should I have told my family what my father was even doing After, after The house was paid off and became a family asset? I was very young at the time, and I didn’t want to cause any unnecessary family friction, but in hindsight, I guess I should have taken a stand and told my brother that I would continue to collect his payments.
I would buy a house, put the house in everyone’s name. Then, they can all discuss selling the house and splitting the value. By the way, this happened in 1992 in Los Angeles, and I can only imagine that a house worth $150,000 back then would be worth a million dollars today.
A long-standing ethical dilemma
dear long ago,
The agreement was between you and your father. You do not say whether your father is also the biological father of your siblings. Either way, I don’t think you are under any obligation to tell the rest of your family that you were receiving this money, given that the money was to be used for the greater good. But I see why you did it, and the fact that you did it speaks to your sense of duty and your character.
Your father asked you to put that money into a joint account, so there’s no telling what might happen to that money in the future. He may have fallen on hard times, he may have had a change of heart, or he may not have had a long-term follow through on this plan. At best, the nature of the generosity was ill-conceived. At worst, his talent could be viewed by the harshest critics as manipulative and unfair to you.
if it were me? It’s hard to say for sure, but I probably would have done the same. I don’t think anyone should be required to hold a secret like that, and even if you did keep that secret voluntarily, I can imagine the burden you must have felt. Research shows that people don’t keep their financial secrets from their families, but that can be anything from debt and a personal loan to their salary (and who can blame them for that).
Putting the best out of this arrangement: Your father wanted to make amends for being an absentee father, and this was one of his ways of doing it. It was designed to help you and your family, and yes, it also helped your dad do something good, alleviating some of the guilt he might have felt for leaving his family. That said, asking him to do it for you is stressing you out a lot, and he may not have thought about it.
“Your father wanted to make amends for being an absentee father, and this was one of his ways of doing it.“
As for the other part of your question: If your brother didn’t want to be involved in a real estate investment, that was his choice, but telling you to stop receiving the gift from your father might have been crossing a line. In the end, this was – she says – a decision I made. You did not want to go against your brother’s wishes, or perhaps you were afraid of angering him and/or alienating your family.
Therapist and author Susan Fw He speaks of families as “family systems”. Any group of people who have been conditioned to adhere to the group’s values and rules. We often don’t even realize that those threads that pull together our decision-making and behavior exist. It is only when we hold back that we often see the ways in which we have been manipulated or influenced and, helpfully as well, the ways in which we are trying to influence others.
There is no perfect family. “Unhealthy families discourage individual expression,” Forward writes in her book,Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Painful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life. I’m not saying your father was toxic, and I’m not saying your brother’s actions contained any ill intentions, but your father’s gift left you with years of regret and confusion about those $1,000 monthly deposits — and what could have been.
Forward wrote, “Everyone should abide by the thoughts and actions of toxic parents.” “They promote fusion, the blurring of personal boundaries, and the welding of family members together. On a subconscious level, it is difficult for family members to know where one ends and the other begins. In their efforts to be close, they often stifle each other’s individuality.” She is a tough, if insightful, take on family life.
Leave what could have been. You made the best decision for yourself and your family at that time. You do not have the advantage of foresight. You find your individuality, your voice, and you can’t put a price on that. Forgive your brother for interfering in pushing you to end this arrangement, and forgive yourself for this decision 30 years ago.
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