Q. Last August I invited my parents and their significant others to a friends’ house for dinner. Unfortunately, my mother wanted to buy a car and my dad decided that it was too expensive, so we never did purchase the vehicle. Is it not appropriate for my mother to spend money from the allowance we have put into her account? In addition, they rarely buy me anything. Any suggestions?
A. You are right that even when you are able to provide your parents with financial support financially, it is still really hard for you to have any sense of power over your parent’s money. If you want to challenge their spending, it is going to take very little work to ask them to justify their expenditures.
To do so without destroying family relationships, you will have to be extremely careful about using language that, in an effort to maximize understanding, is insensitive or misleading to your parents. That being said, as long as they act responsibly with your money, you have every right to challenge them and voice your views. Of course, it is best to have this discussion when you are in a more neutral environment that includes all of the other family members as well as members of your non-financial support.
At the same time, you need to remember that their spending decisions will not only affect you, but also their spouse and children, who have put in a great deal of their own money into the household. So if you are going to support them financially and make the most of your spending, the total amount they are spending needs to be your own — not yours plus their mortgage, property taxes, utility bills, other bills or loan payments.
–P. Beck, B.S., CFP, LDC, is a wealth advisor with Withers Bergman Financial Advisors in Santa Monica, California.