As a lawyer, estate planning consultant, and writer, I talk to a lot of parents about planning for their family’s financial future. And I’ve noticed that certain questions come up over and over again, regardless of how many children you have, how much you make, or where you live. With that in mind, I’m excited to share some of them with Mainstream Mom readers over the next few months. I hope that they will help inspire you to think and talk about these important issues, because the Happiest Parent is the one who plans for their child’s long-term well-being, no matter how hard it may seem today.
My parents are so generous and give us a check every Christmas “for the children’s college fund.” But sometimes we need to use it on immediate expenses like childcare and preschool. Is that alright?
I get asked this all the time and here’s my advice: try talking to your parents first.
When it comes to families and money, I find that you can never over-communicate or over-clarify. And the more quickly everybody gets comfortable talking about finances with one another, the easier so many other long-term planning issues will be.
So how about asking your mom and dad if they’re okay with you guys using the money for the children’s present day expenses?
Explain where you’re coming from: that you very much appreciate their support, that you could really use the help now, that raising two kids is always pricey, but all the more so in today’s economic climate. This way, everyone is on the same page – no misunderstandings.
And of course, relatives always have the option of depositing their money directly into a child’s college savings plan.
If you don’t feel you can ask them outright, look at the checks and think about how stringent the “requirements” of acceptance are. If your kiddos’ names are right there and your parents are super clear about the strings attached – “this is for college and nothing else” or “we’ve been scrimping and saving to pay for some of our grandchildren’s college tuition” – then yes, you should follow their wishes.
While money is fungible, you do want to honor the spirit with which your parents’ gift was given.
What have you done in this situation?
Jacoba Urist is a treasured guest writer here at MainstreamMom. Jacoba spent the last year researching (almost) every aspect of parenting and planning for the future for her book, The Happiest Parent. Jacoba is a lawyer, mother and Huffington Post Parents blogger in New York. She has a JD and LL.M in Taxation from New York University. Follow her on Twitter.