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‘We did not place blame or offer advice’: Are we flaunting our wealth if we give our friends and family money?

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Dear Quentin,

How can one best give sizable cash gifts to family & friends without being seen as, “flaunting wealth”?

We have some family and friends who are struggling to make ends meet, particularly as result of the pandemic. Having means, we chose to help them financially and sent sizable checks. So as not to highlight family members who were struggling, we gave an identical amount to each.

There were no “strings” attached to their subsequent spending. We also did not comment on their financial situation, place blame, or offer advice. It was purely to help, no-strings, no-judgment.


‘But one recipient subtly indicated we were flaunting our wealth. We were taken aback.’

But one recipient subtly indicated we were flaunting our wealth.

We were taken aback. Our full intent was to help ease financial burdens. They were struggling to live; we had extra. Pretty simple. But that comment had us reconsidering how our actions were being interpreted.

We also give to well-known charities and local assistance organizations, but our strong preference is to target our giving directly, to help our family, our friends and our causes. We feel giving back and helping those in need is a moral responsibility, particularly when it concerns family. There but for the grace of God…

But what if that giving is working against our relationships? Does “giving” now require a statement of intent?

To Do Good

The Moneyist:‘Change can happen without us noticing’: COVID brought us a year of epic uncertainty — but here’s what I know for sure

Dear Do Gooder,

If you’re giving money to your adult children, writing a check with the same amount of money for each party can be the easiest way to avoid allegations of favoritism. If you’re writing a check to extended family members and friends, however, it can get slightly dicy. In those circumstances, it’s better to make discrete enquiries and ask, “How can I help?” That way, you are giving the potential giftee the opportunity to say, “Yes, it’s OK to have this conversation.” And you are also giving them agency in this decision rather than passive recipients.

It’s also better not to give people fair warning about your intentions. Receiving a check out of the blue will make people feel awkward and, even though you say there were no strings attached, they may not be aware of that. What’s more, they could feel beholden to you either way. Money has a destabilizing effect on relationships: it can disturb the delicate equilibrium of a relationship that is based on other factors such as mutual respect, love, loyalty and likability. If the receiver of the gift believes there’s a chance there are strings now or in the future, that’s a problem.

There are lots of ways you can tailor gifts to a loved one’s individual needs. MarketWatch has run a series, “Gifts that Pay Off,” on gifts that bring value to a person’s life financially rather than depreciate over time. But the main clause here is a good one: You are attempting to do a good thing and spread your good fortune. For every half-dozen close family members you give a monetary gift to, there will be one who finds a problem with that. While it’s always good to take stock of your actions, I don’t believe you should let one offended person spoil it for everyone.

There are likely five other people who are glad of the financial reprieve and, if one family member or friend believes you are flaunting your wealth, they can always give it back.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

The Moneyist: ‘My husband told me that my $1,400 stimulus check will be spent on aluminum siding on our home.’ What can I do?

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S.E.C. Commissioner Hester Peirce on the outlook for crypto regulation, and whether this will finally be the year we see a Bitcoin ETF.





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My husband doesn’t get along with my son. I brought most of the wealth into our marriage. How do I split my estate?

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Dear Quentin,

How do couples typically handle their estates in a second marriage? My husband and I have been married for seven years, and it is the second marriage for both of us. I have one adult child from my previous marriage; he has no children.

I brought the majority of our wealth to our marriage, including almost $1 million in my 401(k) and a nice home that is almost paid off; otherwise, we have no debt. My husband and I bought a second home together. We work hard to fund our new 401(k)s, and own a successful business together.

I am turning 65 this year, so estate planning is long overdue. My husband is five years younger than me, and we are both in very good health. We have two issues facing us: I see our retirement as living very comfortably on the monthly income generated by our 401(k)s, pension, Social Security, etc., and leaving whatever may be left to my son.


‘The other issue is that my husband no longer gets along with my dear son at all, and feels no obligation to get along with him.’

I am not interested in scrimping, but I want to be able to have enough money to last us until age 90 (or beyond) by not touching the principal. My husband is more interested in dipping deep into our savings, and living it up in retirement while we are young enough to enjoy it.

The other issue is that my husband no longer gets along with my dear son at all, and feels no obligation to get along with him, to the point that neither one wants anything to do with the other. As far as he is concerned, my son doesn’t meet his expectations, and so deserves nothing from me and certainly nothing from him.

I want my estate planning to be fair to both my new husband and my son. How do people typically handle this type of quandary? I think that I need to create some type of trust to pass on my share of our estate to my son. My pre-marriage assets involved my son as I pursued my graduate degree through night school and worked long hours throughout his childhood.

Second Wife

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

Dear Second Wife,

Don’t allow your husband’s feelings toward your son to influence your estate planning.

Your relationships with your husband and your son and your own plans for retirement are all fair game when making decisions about your estate, but your husband and son’s fractured relationship is their business, not yours. You worked hard for this money, and your son is your legal heir. Any effort by your husband to spend all of your savings and fritter away any inheritance that you intended to leave to your son should be resisted at all costs.

You have worked too hard your entire life to compromise your plans for a comfortable retirement where you have money set aside for long-term medical care insurance, unforeseen emergencies and/or your son. If you jointly own your home, you can leave your half to your son in your will, and specify it can only be sold after your husband passes away.

If you own the home, you can give your husband a life estate. Your son would pay capital-gains tax on the value of your home when he sells it, and not when you bought it. You could also make your son the beneficiary on your life-insurance policy, and/or gift him a certain amount of money per year to see how he manages and spends that money.

Figure out what is fair to yourself first before moving on to what is fair to your husband and your son. It’s OK to put your needs first. I caution against your dipping into savings at a rate that is beyond your own risk tolerance.

Ultimately, you are entitled to leave all other separate property to your son when you die — and, along with a financial adviser, set up a trust with that in mind for you, your husband and your son. Not necessarily in that order.

The Moneyist: ‘I cut his hair because he won’t pay for a haircut’: My multimillionaire husband is 90. I’ve looked after him for 41 years, but he won’t help my son

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These money and investing tips can help you make a place for crypto in your portfolio

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Don’t miss these top money and investing features:

These money and investing stories, popular with MarketWatch readers over the past week, can give you a better understanding of bitcoin and other cyrptocurrency, and help you figure out if digital currency has a place in your portfolio alongside stocks, bonds and other traditional assets.

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