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Ask Dave

Time For Coffee and a Chat

Brett father-in-law gave him and his wife $6,000 but didn't want to take it out of the mutual fund. Brett is uncomfortable because it feels like strings attached.

QUESTION: Brett in San Antonio and his wife have been married six months. Her dad gave them $6,000 when they got married but didn’t want to take it out of the mutual fund it was in. He asked Brett and his wife to come to him instead when they need something. Brett is uncomfortable because it feels like strings attached. Dave explains how to handle it.

ANSWER: I would sit down with him over dinner. You need to do this. You need to go to coffee with your father-in-law without his daughter there and without her mom. No drama. Just you two guys. Just say, “I’ve got to tell you I really appreciate you saving this money. I want to share with you the plan that we’re working. We’re doing this Dave Ramsey stuff, and we’re getting out of debt. Your daughter and I have talked about it, and we want to apply the rest of that money toward this debt.” Just see what he says. If he is holding this account with an open hand and is not a controlling guy, he will agree and write you the check and it’ll be over. If he’s a controlling guy and he starts hemming and hawing and all of that, then I would turn it back on him and say, “Apparently this really isn’t a gift, and I’m okay with that too, by the way. It’s not going to affect our relationship, but I would just ask that you take that money that you had earmarked for us and go ahead and put it into your investments because it’s not actually ours after all, and we’re okay with that.” But we’re not going to leave this kind of one foot on the boat and one on the dock thing where we sort of have a gift.

Give him the honor of sharing it with him and asking his input. If he’s asked to borrow the book, take him copies of it. Show it to him and show him what you’re doing. I’m sitting on the other side of that. I have two son-in-laws with daughters in their 20s, and they are both fabulous young men. That’s how one of them would handle it with me, and it would challenge me to honor their household by not interfering were they to approach it that way in a very specific meeting.