Wednesday, April 2, 2008

what's yours is mine

There are a few advice columns that I read periodically, mostly for entertainment value. Sometimes, the situations in there are so incredibly outrageous that it's hard to imagine they're not made up. But then I think about people I've heard about with similar opinions, and I realize that unfortunately, there are people with opinions in this world that I cannot even begin to fathom.

This particular question was from a 40-something single woman who bought a house, and her parents lent her the down payment, which she was supposed to pay back with interest. Her position was that since her parents paid for her siblings' weddings and won't have to pay for one for her (she doesn't foresee getting married anytime soon), she thinks the down payment should be the equivalent of the money her parents spent for her siblings' weddings, and therefore, she should not have to pay it back. She wanted to know what the columnist thought.

My first reaction would be to send a letter to the parents to say how sorry I am that they apparently ended up raising at least one entitled bitch. I can't imagine knowing someone like this who would bring that particular complaint to me - you know I'd be unable to contain myself when they asked for my opinion.

First of all, I think the expectation that the parents would pay for her wedding is one thing. As far as I'm concerned, if you're in your 30s or 40s and both parties have decent jobs, you really should be paying for your own wedding. If the parents offer some assistance, that's one thing, but to expect it is another thing entirely. To me, the concept that parents are "required" to pay for a wedding is back from ages ago when people got married really young and didn't have the money for it. Heck, even if parents are paying for a wedding nowadays, it makes me cringe when I hear the bride and/or groom demand exorbitant amounts of money, so the parents even have to take out a huge loan, sometimes a second mortgage, to pay for the wedding. Umm, yeah, ok, whatever.

Second of all, if the parents agree to pay for a wedding, that's one thing, but to then transfer that money to something else? What if she was a drug addict? Since her parents didn't have to pay for a wedding, should she be entitled to have that money to buy cocaine or crack?

So if a friend invites me to dinner for which the friend is paying, I can feel free to decline the dinner but say that since the friend probably would have spent X amount of dollars on my dinner, the friend can just give me that money outright instead?

The entitlement issue is one that I think about often, because it comes up all the time in many different topics. You can expect more rantings about that in a future entry.

But a particular situation came up recently that brought back something I'd been thinking about anyway. I was talking to a friend before our recent trip to Las Vegas, and of course, we speculated on how it would be possible to win a huge jackpot, one big enough to be able to quit. The friend made a comment about me giving the friend some of the money. I was really surprised by the comment, as this was someone who really should have known better. I responded that I wasn't sure why I would have to share the jackpot with the friend, and the friend said that if I didn't have to work, that way, the friend wouldn't have to either.

I can't remember what I said, but I think I made it pretty clear that I wasn't going to feel obligated to share if we won any kind of significant money. It was pretty amazing to me that the friend even broached the subject, and I don't think it was meant to be a joke. But it went along with something I'd thought about anyway when it came to money.

In previously fantasizing about winning the lottery when it's some huge bazillionish number, I've thought about what I'd want to do with the money. But then it also comes to - who would you share the money with? And who would expect you to share some of the money with them? I'm not sure that my parents would exactly "expect" some of it, but I'm sure they would be terribly hurt if I didn't do something nice for them with some of the money I'd won. And in their case, there are a few things I'd be more than happy to do for them. There is some family that I'd want to share with, but not all family. I'm presuming the family I wouldn't share with would be pretty angry about that. Would I have some kind of obligation to share with anyone who is family? Would I be looked upon horribly if I didn't? I could see if someone was homeless or in a really bad situation, but when it just comes to having nicer things and not having to work, I don't feel I'm obligated.

There are also friends I'd be inclined to share with for various reasons, but obviously, not all friends. Would those who don't get anything (or much less) be angry and refuse to be friends with me anymore? Is this a kindergarten thing where if you're going to share, you have to share with EVERYONE? I suppose I could see how someone would be mad if they saw me sharing the money with some friends but not them, and in the same situation, I'll admit that I'd probably feel jealous, but I can't imagine actually confronting them with it or refusing to be friends with them anymore. Now, if they were flaunting it - "I'm giving X friend $1,000,000 and I'm not giving you a thing" - that would be different. But I honestly can't think of anyone, family or friends, where I'd really *expect* them to share any of their winnings with me.

But heck, I've already run into this entitlement situation, and it wasn't a matter of a lot of money or winnings. After I got out of college and had been working for a while, I was happy to start having some semblance of savings. I don't usually discuss money with friends, but I happened to be talking to a male friend that I thought I could trust, and I mentioned how happy I was that I'd been able to put a little away - $2,000. Now, that's not a lot of money, but when you've been living with pretty much nothing in the bank, it was a big deal to me and something I was proud of. His reaction was to say that it was a lot of money, and we could do a lot with it. I was taken aback at the "we" comment. First of all, we're just friends, and you're not entitled to my money. Second, even if we were dating (which was not ever a possibility in either of our minds), you still wouldn't be entitled to my money. He and another mutual (female) friend and I used to hang out quite a bit, going to movies and dinner and such. He didn't have much money, so when we'd go out, she and I would sometimes pay for the friend so he could go. Well, after a while, we got tired of it - we had enough to pay our own way, but not necessarily enough to pay for another person, so she and I started going out on our own, which he didn't like. Ummm, ok, so since you don't have any money, that means we can't go out either? The last straw in the friendship was when he and I were at the L.A County Fair one year, and he saw something he really wanted. It was a type of collectible, so it wasn't something he needed, and I was stupid enough to lend him $50 to buy it. Now, I'm not one to talk about buying things you want and don't need, but I also only spend money I have. $50 wasn't a huge amount of money, but it was something he said he'd pay me back. And time went by and nothing. I would ask him, and he was noncommittal. Even if I said something about $5 or $10 a week or a month until it was paid off, he never agreed to it. It became clear that he had no intention of ever paying me back, and coupled with other things, I was done with him as a friend.

So as much as I'd love to win the lottery, there's a part of me that would also dread the hassles that would come with it and the hurt feelings that would inevitably arise from friends and family who don't feel they got enough of it. (There was a television show on a few years ago called "Windfall" that followed a group of friends who collectively won a humongous lottery - about $20 million each - and the problems that arose after the winnings. I loved that show. Cancelled after a few episodes. *sigh*)

Money can solve a lot of problems but it can also create many others.


Sherry said...

This is why a lot of people that win the lottery get really depressed and their lives are ruined. Their "friends" and "family" expect stuff from them.

Therefore, when I win the lottery, I'm probably not going to tell anyone. Of course, you'll all probably be able to figure it out when I have a private Rockapella concert for my family and friends to attend, the monthly chartered jet excursions, and the fact that my parents would suddenly be able to afford their own bank of slot machines at the Vegas house. :)

Cindy said...

OK, I'm amending what I said. If you win the lottery, I do *expect* to be invited to the Rockapella concert.