Money Manners: Showy gift won’t earn siblings’ respect

Jeanne Fleming
San Jose Mercury News correspondents

Q. I’m the youngest of four, and I’m sick of being treated as a happy-go-lucky, irregularly employed goof butt by my older siblings. The fact is, I’m a self-employed social media consultant. But they like to see me as their slightly lost kid brother who’s never been able to hold on to a job. Well, the first of all the nephews and nieces is getting married, and I’m thinking of sending her a super-expensive gift so everyone will understand that I’m not the flake they believe me to be. What do you think?

A. Wouldn’t you be better off buying yourself a Tesla and getting to keep the badge of prosperity you plan to spend so much on?

The truth is, either your siblings don’t want to know how well you’re doing or you’ve been doing a terrible job of signaling your success. Either way, a hyper-extravagant gift is more likely to confirm for them that you don’t know what you’re doing than to change their opinion of you.

Q. My two brothers and I bought a summer house together in 2007, overpaying for it because it had a great deal of sentimental value (our grandparents once owned it). A few years ago, one brother insisted on being bought out for what he’d put into the deal. To gain some peace, I did as he asked.

Now my other brother wants to be bought out at the same, above-market price. But I don’t want to buy him out. I know he will be resentful if I say no, but I will be resentful if I say yes. What’s fair here?

A. Unless you twisted your brother’s arm to get him to buy this property with you, you’re under no obligation to buy him out (though he probably can force you to sell the house if you don’t).

As for the resentment issue: If someone’s going to end up resentful, better it be the person who’s being unreasonable — namely, your brother .

We know: You established a precedent. But that doesn’t mean you’re required to make the same mistake twice.

Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz California-based columnists.