It has been my experience that there are generally two groups of people in this world — spenders and savers. If you don’t know which one you are, just ask your parents or your inlaws. They know.
If you ever expect to receive a gift during the lifetime of your parents, you better hope that you are perceived as being a saver. If you’re perceived as a spender, you may be out of luck. You might be perceived as a spender, for example, if you buy a new car every couple of years, while your parents only trade up their vehicles every 10 years.
In many families, making gifts to children does not come naturally. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, parents may be concerned that if they give too much away, they won’t have enough to live on. The second reason is that parents don’t want to see money wasted right before their eyes. It’s one thing if I leave you something in my will and you waste it. I’m not around to know about it. But if I make a gift to you during my lifetime and you blow my hard-earned money, it’s not going to make me happy.
My advice if you do receive a gift from a parent or an in-law? Don’t spend it! Ask your parents or the in-laws for their thoughts on a good investment for the money. Let them be involved in how you invest their gift. It may seem counter-productive to take money that your parents or in-laws want you to spend and then not spend it. Your parents or in-laws may even say that they think it’s fine for you to spend it. Pay down debt or make an investment, but don’t spend it on “stuff.”
If you are a parent who is trying to decide whether to make a gift to your children, I would encourage you to make gifts if you can afford to do so. Make them in small blocks, however. Make the gifts in such a fashion that if your kids do blow the money, there is still plenty of time to stop the gifting and thus stop the spending.
If my clients plan to make a fairly substantial gift, I may have them make the gift into a trust for the benefit of the child, then immediately invest some or all of the assets that were “gifted” into the trust in a single-member LLC owned by the trust. If you set up the trust so that you can be your own trustee, you ultimately control the LLC that is 100% owned by the trust.
The trustee can appoint the manager of the LLC, so you can then name your son or daughter as that manager. Transfer the amount of assets that you are willing to let your son or daughter handle into the trust. If the child makes bad decisions, you as trustee can always remove the child as manager. If the child manages the money well, and additional assets remain in the trust, those assets can then be pushed (funded) into the LLC.
This approach is a good way to gauge how your children will handle the responsibility of managing assets. It’s also a good opportunity for you guide them in what, for many children, will be a learning process.
Every family is different when it comes to sharing wealth with children, whether they are spenders or savers. Proper planning can ensure that your gifts don’t go to waste.