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Post: The Moneyist: ‘I call his kids spoiled. He gets mad’: My partner and I each have two children. He gives his kids gifts worth $1,000. I say we should cut that to $100. Who’s right?

Dear Quentin,

My boyfriend and I moved in together four months ago. We each have two children from a previous marriage. His kids are 14 and 10. My kids are 8 and 9. We have been together four years. I own a home, and he sold his house to buy a bigger home for all of us to live in. We have his kids half the time. My house is currently being rented out. 

He is 14 years older than me. Although it seems that we are all getting along just fine, his kids ask their mom about how our being together will change his finances. Of course, I think, “It’s none of the kids’ business.” But I feel that the kid thinks I’m after his dad’s money. 

He has a registered retirement savings plan, and our house. He has a great career that makes six figures per year. I am younger, and I make close to what he makes. We have joint accounts and own our family home jointly. 

For birthdays and Christmas, his kids receive gifts worth $1,000 and up. The parents split those costs 50/50. I do not agree with this, as I raised my kids in a very simple way, so they should be very grateful for everything they have. We have had multiple arguments about this. I call his kids spoiled. He gets mad.

For next Christmas, I told him we should have a budget for each kid: $100 each. Am I being cheap? For me, even $100 is too much. I can already tell that the mom will have a fit when my boyfriend says we have to follow a budget. Also, how can we tell the kids they should not meddle with adult issues, especially when it comes to money?

Mother & Stepmother

Dear M&S,

We need to have a talk about boundaries as they relate to your stepchildren, and as they relate to your joint bank accounts. Pooling all of your resources, especially when you are not married; managing a blended family; and having a complex property ownership could get sticky. I generally advise couples to pool for household expenses, and combine finances gradually.

In fact, it has already gotten sticky, hence the disagreement over the value of his children’s birthday and Christmas gifts. If this money was not coming from a joint account, you may very well have felt less inclined to intervene. This is primarily a conversation for your partner and his former wife. Their children, their decision. Calling his kids spoiled will only make this debate worse.

That said, your boyfriend is among the more generous gifters among his peers. Parents with an income of $100,000 say they give their kids gifts worth $231 or thereabouts, according to a survey released last year by CouponFollow, a search engine. Of course, the amount of money people say they spend and the amount they actually spend may be quite different. 

A separate poll of more than 1,000 adults by LendingTree, an online lending marketplace, concluded that nearly 40% of respondents said they typically spend between $100 and $499 on gifts for other people (friends or family), while 18% said they typically spend between $500 and $999.

Take your pick. There is no right or wrong answer. But you have to manage all four children’s expectations based on previous birthday gifts.

As for your stepchildren asking their mother how you affect their finances, that’s a question for their father. One caveat: I wonder if it’s 100% the stepchildren asking their mother, or whether their mother has prompted them to think about such issues. Stick to a consistent response: “Your financial futures will not be impacted by my relationship. In fact, two incomes provides more financial stability should something happen to one earner.”

Or take another approach: “You have no need to worry about your financial future. My finances are my concern, and your finances are your concern. When you start earning a living and paying your own way, you will learn the importance of privacy. Rest assured, we have made plans for your education. In the meantime, we can talk about budgeting and the importance of investing, and what you would like to do when you leave school.”

Couples need boundaries and so do children. The earlier we all learn these, the better.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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