Did He Cheat?

John and his wife recently received $10,000 gift. They agreed to use it to pay off John's student loan debt. John feels guilty about getting to the end of his debt so easily.

QUESTION: John in Milwaukee and his wife recently received a gift of $10,000, and they agreed to use it to pay off John’s student loan debt. However, John feels guilty about cheating to get to the end of his debt so easily. Dave eases John’s guilt over receiving this gift.

ANSWER: You were all bowed up for a fight and the enemy ran! “I wanted to hit somebody!” Now you just go straight through your Baby Steps. Your next Baby Step is finish your emergency fund, three to six months of expenses. As far as your emotions go, what you’re experiencing is very normal. There are two emotions going on here, I suspect, just listening to you because I think we’re kind of cut out of the same cloth. Number one is you feel like you cheated and somehow didn’t pay the price to win. The second thing is it’s a little hard to take a gift from your father-in-law. I think both emotions are probably normal, but it’s also a good idea to just say them out loud and call them for what they are. They’re both wrong. The best way you can honor your father-in-law’s gift is by changing his grandchildren’s lives.

Let’s say your daughter got married to a guy that you really like (someday). You think they’re doing smart things, and you’ve got a pile of money. You’d want to help them get ahead. You wouldn’t give them money if they were being doofuses, but if they’re doing smart stuff and you want to honor the direction of their smart stuff, you’d do that. It is hard to accept a gift, and the only way I’ve ever been able to do that—because I’m a big giver but I’m not a great receiver—is I just have to remember that I love giving, so why can’t I let somebody else love giving? You take that away from them if you don’t enjoy it, if you don’t walk with it.