My grandfather gave me $ 150,000 in stock and $ 20,000 to buy a car, but my family is interfering in my life. Should I return it?

The week I received my learner’s permit in the mail. My grandfather gave me a very generous option to take $ 20,000 as a gift for my first car, or save some money and buy one myself. There was one exception though: the $ 20,000 meant I had to pay with a car of his choice.

I have always taken the “safe route” as I have done with most of my financial decisions, relying on my family to help me along the way.

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My family is very traditional. Before COVID, we had weekend dinner once a week and got together for birthdays and sporting events – my grandparents lived in the same house for three decades, and my parents only lived one mile and a half of the road in the first 25 years of my life. life.

We are a very close-knit group. I love my family. But in my experience, money and no limits can lead to a real mix of emotions.

“We are a very close-knit group. I love my family. But in my experience, money and no limits can lead to a real mix of emotions.

When I turned 18, I received a portfolio of stocks. It was worth about $ 150,000 and allowed me to use the money to go to college.

Not all of my decisions were well received. I missed my way to college – got a bachelor’s degree in seven years. I had no sense of direction. I was demotivated. I had hobbies and interests, but they were mostly fruitless endeavors with little return on investment that infuriated my parents.

Eventually, one of our conversations led me to discover that my family had access to my financial account and had viewed my activity for much of my twenties. It was a major break in our relationship, but when conversations normally revolve around money and success, that’s part of the norm. Like I said, I still love them.

Once the account access issues were revealed, I started making my own major financial decisions and desperately trying not to think about the repercussions. I hadn’t been used to or able to make my own choices – unaware that my family provided me with a financial safety net to catch me if and when I fell.

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Then I saved as much as I could and took a risk by zeroing out my investment account, putting the remaining money into real estate, and then into a business a few years later. When it became known that I had quit my job and was living on a checking account and a diet of ramen noodles, worried phone calls and texts were coming in every other day.

I have worked hard for 8 years and consider myself extremely lucky given my circumstances. I sold the business and the property (maybe a little prematurely), but earned enough on my own to generate a healthy portfolio, a modest lifestyle, and enough to cover the cost of what the family gave me. Now I plan to return the money.

“Eventually, one of our conversations led me to discover that my family had access to my financial account and had viewed my business for much of my twenties.”

As you can imagine, returning my early inheritance would be considered a slap in the face. In my family, you don’t do things like move house, don’t show up to meetings, and you sure don’t return gifts unless you’re trying to send a message. It is a decision that I do not take lightly.

It took me years to realize how important financial independence is. It is not something that is simply given. I have learned on my own that whether you win or lose you have to take control of your life, create your own process and stick to it in order to achieve your goals – this is what I consider personal achievement. .

Now, I yearn for my own independence and, without sounding too dramatic, I know in this case it comes with its own set of parameters. I am grateful for their investment in me because it allowed me to learn these valuable lessons which, in my opinion, are yet another reason to give them back.

What would you do?

Independent man

Dear IM,

You have done your grandfather a great service by accepting his generosity. You allowed him to help you.

You wanted to show your family that you are an independent man and that you can live your life free from their influence, however well-meaning their interference may be, and that you can make good and smart financial decisions yourself. build a successful career and life for yourself. The good news is, you did. Embrace your success and what got you to this point.

Returning this legacy will not validate your personal and professional journey, and keeping this legacy will not invalidate this journey. You used the investment to give yourself a start in life. It is part of your history and has helped make you the man you are today. Many people have made millions without starting, and many have lost millions who have inherited far more than you.

You know that many people do not have well-off families to provide a financial safety net or seed capital. It wasn’t a debt, it was a gift. If your grandfather loaned you money, pay it back by all means. But he did not do it. He gave you this to help you, and because he loves you, and giving it back now would negate that goodwill and create more problems with your family for years to come.

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Your family’s interference in your life is a separate issue that will not go away just because you return that money. The solution to this part of your problem does not cost $ 150,000. It’s free. Your only responsibility is to yourself and to tell your family what your needs are. “I need you to allow me to live my life without questions or comments, and to make my own mistakes.”

If you want their advice, you can tell them you’ll ask for it. But until that happens, you NEED them not to offer unsolicited advice or ask questions about your personal or financial life. It’s a very simple equation: you tell them what your needs are, and they choose to meet them or not. If they don’t respect them, you don’t have to answer their calls or texts.

If your family asks you questions about your professional or personal life over dinner and you feel like they are crossing the line, just say, “I understand your interest is in your life. ‘a place of love, but I don’t want to discuss it. The only person you have to prove yourself to is you. And, honestly, you don’t even have to. You just have to do your best.

What’s the use of having all that money if he can’t help you? It was an act of generosity, but it was also an act of love. Don’t give the money back. Set up a $ 529 education savings plan for young family members instead, or a scholarship in your grandfather’s name in his alma mater. There are a lot of things you can do with the money to give it back instead of giving it back.

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group where we seek answers to life’s thorniest money problems. Readers write to me with all kinds of dilemmas.

Quentin Fottrell is the Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can email The Moneyist for any financial and ethical questions at [email protected]. By sending your questions by email, you agree that they will be posted anonymously on MarketWatch.

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