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5 Ways To Handle Financial Disparity When One Sibling Has A Lot More
Family Finance

5 Ways To Handle Financial Disparity When One Sibling Has A Lot More

Some attribute financial disparity to choices (good and bad), marriage, luck, privilege etc. and all these could be real factors. Rather than leave it to any explanation, these are the definitions’ of sibling financial disparity, from an economic / financial perspective:- 

#Definition 1: While one sibling is doing exceedingly well, the other is struggling to make ends meet 

#Definition 2: While one sibling is doing reasonably well, the other is not as affluent as their sibling is

Any of these definitions may apply to you; however, how this disparity plays out for siblings largely depends on actions based on positive or negative attitudes towards each other, oneself and about money/wealth. 

So, how should one deal with the financial difference without deteriorating sibling-and-family ties? 

Be cordial. Treat financial/wealth related affairs as a business transaction and consider the pros and cons of entering into such an arrangement

Here Are 5 Common Sources Of Family Wealth-Gap Feuds & How To Handle Each Situation

Scenario 1: The “Selfish Wealthier Sibling” Claim

People have a habit of labelling others as selfish when they disappoint us, especially where one's ego is bruised. “Selfish” is a common word, you’ve probably heard it being used or whispered around at family events – as people volunteer to determine who the “hero and leech” of the event’s success is.

Key Takeaway: 

To avoid the downward spiral of blaming each other as entitled and selfish, have matter-of-fact conversations’ about family-shared activities, shared financial ventures and if you require assistance (after all, everyone needs help in some way). 

For example, the wealthier sibling may require the lesser affluent sibling to volunteer more of their time to check-in on their parent(s) for a real-time assessment and help with updating a budget while the wealthier sibling makes financial contributions to their parent(s) budget.  

  • If you have a strained relationship, have a facilitator (e.g. a pastor, financial planner, other siblings, a grandparent), for honest and meaningful conversations that yield practical solutions
  • If you have a strong relationship, it’s easy to be honest and patient with each other, especially since no one can be the perfect guarantor or be an unlimited source of assistance. For example, the unmarried wealthier sibling can offer to sponsor chip-in to their niece and/or nephews school fees 

Scenario 2: The “Lazy Sibling” Claim

In this scenario there is a perception that the less successful sibling’s work ethic is lacking or not-good-enough. This a sweeping generalisation that will most often not be true of the sibling. Rather than assigning the label ‘lazy’, an understanding of the events that led the sibling into that situation should be sought. 

Key Takeaway: 

Understand what is, what’s required, and how to determine the right resolve - for example is your sibling in need, by no fault of his or her own? Are they lazy about watching their spending? Lazy about saving up? Lazy about earning or growing their earnings? etc.   

  • If you have a sibling who is ‘lazy’, the wealthier sibling should be careful not to enable this behaviour through indiscriminate and unconditional assistance. Rather opt to help more in non-monetary methods (e.g. help them create a budget and guide them on how to stick to it, rather than taking a loan to provide a lump sum solution). For emergencies, that may have severe financial, legal and/or health consequences involve an unbiased financial expert to facilitate solutions that are fair to all parties involved  
  • If you have a sibling whose down-on their luck yet they’re earnestly on-the-grind’ your compassion and a sober mind are the best assets to use, as the wealthier sibling. Remember emotion shouldn’t play a part in any decision-making process - rather have a practical strategy where everyone is accountable. 

For example, if the sibling can comfortably meet their household budget, the wealthier sibling can ease the financial burden by opting to pay their college / training course fees, their medical bills (etc.) 

Scenario 3: The “Family Crisis” Affair

Where sibling disparity goes by definition.2 above, family conflict occurs due to the assumption of financial inequality when the siblings have to take care of their family i.e. parents, other siblings and grandparents.

Here’s how it often plays out - either the wealthier sibling(s) may give generously and not resent it or the wealthier sibling may give and are resentful because it’s not an equal takeaway for / by the less affluent sibling(s). Sometimes, the less successful may refuse help or resentfully contribute to what they believe are drop-in-the bucket costs, for their wealthier sibling(s).

Key Takeaways: 

  • Regarding Expenses For Parents
    You’ve probably noticed that caring for elderly parents has a culturally lop-sided attitude that’s gender-based, where daughters are expected / actually help their parents more than sons. In households of same gender siblings, a common conflict starter is the “pick your/our favourite parent” situation, especially when it comes to paying for medical expenses or taking care of their living costs after retirement. 

To avoid finger-pointing and unfair support-and-distribution; it might be a good idea for the wealthier sibling(s) to contribute the money, and other sibling(s) to pitch in via non-monetary ways, like with their time and providing physical help. 

  • Regarding Family Events / Family Plans 

Most families have traditions that require every family member to attend and participate (birthdays, religious holidays, graduations etc.) Ensure that all planning is prompt and agreeable to all parties involved: there should be an understanding about the roles the wealthier sibling(s) and less affluent sibling(s) have. 

For example, if two of four siblings want to host a family event or trip, the two should be willing to equally divide and financially cover the less affluent sibling(s), parent(s) and all who are invited / tagging along.

Remember, smart money moves start with smart decisions. Consider each person’s availability and financial goals. 

Do not assume that one person’s financial need is a financial want for everyone (and vice-versa)

Scenario 4: The “Inheritance” Affair

Inheritance disputes have made many rich throughout the decades and remains one of the top sources of conflict across humanity.

This scenario is a tentacle-like situation that just keeps wrapping, tagging and twisting when you ignore and/or poorly handle the planning stages

Inheritance is a source-of-conflict that can arise between parent(s) and children, mistresses, sibling(s) and their spouses / in laws, sibling(s) and sibling(s), grandchildren and grandparent(s), aunt(s)  / uncle(s) and their niece(s) and nephew(s), step families (etc.)

Key Takeaway: 

Inheritance is an issue when the parent(s) or a family member does not have a legal agreement / will, which formally addresses how their property or possessions are to be distributed and/or custodianship terms. 

  • The standard solution is to divide the inheritance, equally.

Inspite of any sibling(s) financial status, the division of assets and custodianship must be legally divided and not by the parties involved in the dispute; even if the parents or the person looking to setup a will / division of assets is alive

  • This verified option is very effective and stomps out any chance of ego, class and status bias
  • Keep your inheritance private and if by legal ruling the information is made public, be a good sport about it (don’t brag about it)
  • Remain or improve on being financially responsible, especially if an inheritance is a windfall that significantly increases your funds. Continue to contribute according to your set budget and adjust accordingly at the right time 

Scenario 5: The “Other Half” Affair

Yes, Dear, No Dear, Maybe Dear, I Don’t Know Dear,” can easily be default phrases when your spouse is involved or questions your relationship with your family (aka. their in-laws), while under the illusion that you’re keeping the peace at your own home.

When you’re married, “we” quickly replaces “you” and that includes financial decisions. 

  • Let’s break it down, if you’re the wealthier sibling and you choose to contribute financially you’re obligated to discuss your intent not the decision (you arrive at the decision, with your spouse!)

Key Takeaway: 

  • Make sure you and your spouse have your financial plans sorted out (i.e. will, budget, insurance, investments, savings etc.) 

You’re able to get your house in order, as well know, exactly how much you can contribute and your availability to help   

  • Where there is a financial imbalance and either sibling has the same or a different marital status; both the wealthier and less affluent sibling(s) should consider their financial goals in relation to their marital status before committing to any financial obligations to each other, parent(s), projects / ventures etc.

For example, if the less affluent sibling and their spouse are paying off their car loan – the wealthier sibling, (who’s also married), may take on a less strenuous financial contribution to their parents, without financially disrupting their family’s financial future.

  • A bonus of having your spouse involved is they take the role of confidant and mediator (in some instances)

Your spouse is more likely to know your blind-spots and can encourage or warn you when you’re holding back and/or when you’re going overboard with your financial plans, contributions etc.

For example, if talking to your sibling(s) is a daunting task - your spouse may be better suited to step-in without undermining your ego.

For those who are too quick to say “no” or be dismissive: this undesirable trait encourages conflict. By involving your spouse, he/she can appeal to your compassion by saying, for example, “You were harsh with your sister / brother. Why not help them set up an account to save up for a new laptop and they can learn how to save for future larger purchases too, and you can check-in weekly to see if your sister / brother is making headway”. 

On the flipside, if saying “no” is a problem for you, your spouse can cut-off enabling behaviour by saying, for example, “You can’t keep giving your sister / brother money, she / he is spending it on gambling.” 

By being considerate and rational, you can quickly resolve existing and potential hurdles that destroy families due to financial disparity.

Balance Your Best Interests. Grow Together & Learn Together 

Whether this article applies to you or someone else you know, you’re better off understanding that life circumstances play a huge role in your sibling and/or family relationship and your financial status.

To resolve the challenges of “sibling financial disparity” often leads to questions like; Are you comfortable reaching out and asking your sibling for help? Should you take a loan from your younger sister / brother?  What sort of help are you comfortable asking for? How much and how often? Do you have collateral to repay the help? (etc.)

Don’t stress out, every family is different. Each has its own set of problems and solutions to match, no matter the cause(s) of conflict.

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Gathoni is a skilled content developer with over 5 years of experience in content development as a graphic design and copywriter, in different industry sectors. Her passion to nurture positive, stronger, communication impact continues. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

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