Accept Money from Father-in-Law to Buy a House?

Dear Robin:

My wife and I have been arguing about the same issue for almost a week.  Please settle this for us.

We have been renting for two years and our landlord has decided to sell the house in early 2016.  We are in a position to buy a house and have started looking but housing prices are crazy and we can’t get much for our budget.

My wife Cassie grew up with more money than I did and I guess is used to a certain style of living.  She apparently complained to her father about what we could afford and how crappy the houses and neighborhoods are and he’s offered to give her up to $150,000 towards our house.

This isn’t a loan but it sort of is because he says he will deduct it from what she’ll get when he dies.

I don’t like this at all.  I don’t like how it makes me feel and she doesn’t get it.  Am I being stupid?


Dear Dan:

I have a shit-ton of work to finish on the book by November 1 and appreciate letters I can answer succinctly, so thanks.

Stop laughing.  I am going to be brief!

Dan and I exchanged about a dozen emails in the past two weeks.  Here’s the dealio:

Dan and Mrs. Dan Facts

  • Dan is a major job-hopper who hasn’t been at the same place of employment consecutively for more than two years. It’s never his fault – it’s always his co-workers, his superiors, and the company itself.  Hey Dan, please message me separately about changing careers because yours is in the potty and your heart isn’t in it.
  • Dan’s wife Cassie is an A #1 Princess!  They have one child, no plans for any more, and she has no intention of working again unless you count shopping online as a job.  Poor Dan.  Please message me for instructions on where to buy the anal lubricant you will need should your marriage end in divorce.
  • Cassie’s relationship with her father has been terrible for years, in part because he sent her to boarding school when she was young, a nasty divorce from her mother, and his devotion to his stepchildren.  He is now trying in various ways to buy his way into her good graces.  To say she has “daddy issues” is as understated as saying Trump has foot-in-mouth disease.

Warren Buffett, who I hear is kind of good with money, once said this:

If you buy things you do not need, soon you will have to sell things you need.

I think he should have added “and cannot afford” in the first half of that sentence, but whatever.  He didn’t ask for my advice, unlike poor Dan here, who has more problems than he knows.


Dan, I understand that finding a house you both like and can afford is going to be tough.  Your city is, like many others, is currently experiencing a sellers’ market unseen since 2007.  Prices are going up and buyers are left frustrated with both rising inventory pricing and the rapid sale of suitable homes.

However, and I assure you I speak from experience, buying a home you cannot afford without Cassie’s daddy’s money is a downright stupid-ass idea.  

Why Is Taking the Money a Stupid-Ass Idea, Robin?

  • It’s bad for your marriage.  A decision this big should be entered into happily on both sides, and that is not the case here.
  • It’s bad for you if you end up getting divorced.  Just trust me on this and talk to a lawyer if you’d like to learn more.
  • It’s bad for Cassie, who will continue to believe that love can be purchased, she has no personal responsibility for her life, and that she is entitled to live beyond her means without making a financial contribution to the family. Man, she sounds like a real piece of work.  Please re-read the second bullet point above.
  • It’s bad for Cassie and her father.  Giving and taking money is no answer for a tortured relationship.
  • It’s bad for your relationship with your father-in-law, who will own a piece of you if you take this money.
  • It’s bad for your finances, because buying a home you cannot afford is going to end up biting you in the ass. Talk to a financial advisor for details, because I have a book to finish.

Advice for Dan

  • Purchase a home you can afford without the gift.  Encourage Cassie to get a job if she’d like to increase your household income enough to qualify you for a more expensive house.
  • If Cassie refuses to get a job and continues to pressure you into taking this money, you have a seriously troubled marriage on your hands.  We can talk about that offline or save it for another blog, because I have a feeling you are going to be a return customer.  Regardless, I advise marriage counseling, STAT.
  • Should your home search continue to disappoint your entitled princess, find another rental.  Buying a house is a big decision and you might want to punt for another year, especially since some experts think we may be on the edge of another real estate bubble.  
  • Take a good hard look at your work history.  You remind me of me when I was in a career that didn’t suit me.  Hint: if it’s always someone else’s fault, it’s your fault.  Either you need to rethink your career or you are just plain lousy at your job and a bit of an asshole.
  • Finally, here’s a compromise for you if Cassie and her father insist upon shoveling this guilt money your way:

Accept the money, but only for your kid’s college fund.

Please write me back and let me know what you decide.  I know you have to be out of your rental by the end of January so I’ll be waiting to hear from you!

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. ssirish

    This really hits home. Maybe the father-in-law is offering his daughter money to buy a house bc his wife is controlling of his time and energy and pushes him to focus more on her children. I do think it’s fair that he’s is offering money but will deduct it from her inheritance. However, it sounds like the husband and wife need to compromise so that this issues doesn’t cause resentment.

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