Shortly after turning 21, she had her first meeting with her trustee. In addition to hearing about the terms of her trust, she also had her first glimpse into the allocation process that her parents and grandparents went through. It was an eye-opener to realize that these would be the types of decisions that she, too, would have to make. When financial decisions become personal, such as deciding how to allocate money among family members, the decision becomes all the more difficult. Unless you allocate money equally among the receiving parties, which is the most basic conclusion (and ignores many important factors), and rarely ever happens — someone will be unhappy with the decision, which can leave you feeling bad or guilty … and others angry. So now the question becomes: how much do the circumstances of the recipient matter? And, what role do your values play in these decisions?
Making financial decisions is tough, as there are many random factors that we must consider in our choices. Everyone’s motives are different, and if you give 20 different people the same basic guidelines for a decision, you may find that you get 20 different answers.
Nearly everyone encounters this challenge in their life, regardless of the amount of money that they are dealing with.
Imagine this: You are the middle of three siblings and your parents are deceased. You have $2 million that you need to either allocate among family members, donate to charity, or both, and you are trying to decide what to do. Both of your siblings expect you to give the money to family rather than charity, but now the decision becomes more complicated. Your older sibling has a spouse, two children, and a third on the way. Your younger sibling is single and without kids, however there have been recent medical issues that he or she has been dealing with that have proved to be rather costly. What do you do?
The easy way out would be to donate it all to charity so that one sibling would not feel shorted compared to the other, but that is not necessarily the right decision, or the best decision.
Let’s dive into the situation a little further… The older sibling with the larger family is a doctor that makes a decent living, and the spouse also comes from a well-off family. The younger sibling is an artist and a substitute elementary school teacher, who is not benefiting from a hefty annual salary. You may also want to consider the ages of all relevant parties, including your two siblings, and as well as any nieces, nephews, or potential grandchildren.
The point is: there is no right decision, and many people will handle the situation very differently.
The goal is to understand this concept and gain insight into the non-distinct factors of each situation so that you may make an informed decision, and one that suits your OWN values and beliefs. This will avoid you thinking that you must feel guilty or may have made a mistake. And if you’re really thoughtful, what you want to communicate to the recipients, and the answers behind the “why” of your decisions become very clear.