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Dilemma - MIL choice - money/stepchildren/uni

(12 Posts)
ladydeedy Fri 22-Jul-11 12:49:22


I am very lucky in that I have an absolutely lovely mother in law. However, something has come up which we're just not sure how to handle.

some of you may know my DH has two teenaged boys from previous marriage. the older one lives with his mum, the younger one with us (for the past year and there is no indication at all that he wishes to go back, nor does she want him back). We are happy with the arrangement as it's clear he is much happier and settled with us.

To be very direct about money, EXW works full time and earns around £22K. DSS that lives with her receives the allowance (sorry, not sure what it is called) for being in sixth form. Other son lives with us and although my DH earns slightly more than the EXW, I earn significantly more, and so our household income around is several times that of EXW.

MIL feels that older DSS (living with his mum) is disadvantaged as he doesnt have the same financial support and possibly not the same encouragement in going to uni or aspirations to aim high. In fact he does want to go (although we are not sure given his current grade predictions that he will get a place). EXW places little value on education and he gets little support when it comes to homework, school etc. although we have tried absolutely everything to try and help him.

Younger one with us is more academic and really driven to do well, is conscientious etc so we have no doubts he will further his studies.

To get to the point (sorry!), MIL wants to give older SS financial support to go to uni. We have tried to explain that both of the boys will get student loans, that it's an investment in their future, and that in fact if anything, the older one is actually "better off" than the younger one (currently anyway), as he gets his education allowance throughout sixth form, whereas younger one wont. younger one has paper round, older one doesnt. older one's mum gives him pocket money which keeps him in cigarettes and alcohol. Younger one gets basic pocket money from us.

No child maintenance money changes hands btw as both DH and ExW are NRPs to the other child, iyswim, so the payments are cancelled out in effect (EXW does not agree with this approach btw and thinks she should continue to receive CM for both boys).

So although my MIL can obviously do as she wishes, I think she is mistaken to treat one boy differently. I dont see that one child is "worse off" than the other, and when the older one is with us (several weeks of school holidays, one night during week and every other weekend, his social life permitting) he is treated exactly the same and we take both boys on holidays abroad etc.

Any thoughts or suggestions? I worry that this will create a divide between the two of them. Or maybe I am blind to the difference. So I am keen to get others' views.

thank you for taking the time to read what I realise is a bit of a long post!!

SingingTunelessly Fri 22-Jul-11 15:29:10

Mmmm tricky. Is MIL planning on funding the whole of the cost of University for DS1 or just putting something towards the cost? Are you in a position to match what she is doing for DS1 for DS2? Tbh, the amount of money needed to fund through University is such a chunky amount that I think any offers of help from generous family members should be taken.

This of course depends upon BOTH the DSS's being treated to an equal amount regardless of who gives it.

allnewtaketwo Fri 22-Jul-11 16:08:25

I think it is a disgrace that a grandmother would so blatantly favour one child financially over another. What a way to ensure resentment and bitterness in the family. She should butt out

NanaNina Fri 22-Jul-11 22:29:19

I'm wondering if by the time either of these boys get to Uni, they will have to pay the £9000 tuition fee that this awful govt is bringing in. I think it starts next year but not exactly sure. It is a tricky one, as you admit that your family is much better off than the mother who the oldest boy lives with. Maybe your MIL realises that you are in a better position to support the youngest boy, whereas this isn't the case for the older boy. You say the older boy is better off because he gets EMA for his studies in the 6th form, but this is only £30 per week maximum and the govt is stopping that anyway.

FWIW I think going to uni is going to leave all young people with masses of debt (my gr/dghtr has finished her degree with £25,000 debt and I gather this is about the norm.) When the fees rise to £9000 per year, the debt is going to be astronomical (as that doesn't count student loans) You say they wil gte student loans but this isn't going to cover the cost of tuition, accdt, food etc etc. I think maybe you ought to look into a little further to see exactly what costs are going to be involved for both boys.

I tend to agree with singingtunelsessly, that whilst these issues of higher education should not disadvantage one brother (regardless of which one it is) and that any offers of help should be accepted. Maybe if you looked into the matter more deeply and compared your incomes and what contribution you would be expected to make for the younger boy and whether by the time he goes, the £9000 per year will have kicked in. I suspect both boys are going to be affected by the astronomical rise which I think comes into effect next year (? needs checking out). I think you need the facts and figures and then you can ensure that both boys are treated fairly as far as finances are concerned. Your MIL sounds a reasonable women, so surely she would see this as a good way forward. She may not realise just how high uni costs are and how much higher they will be in the future.

Going off on a slightly different track, as I'm sure you know, many graduates are failing to get a decent job after graduation. My grdghtr got a 2.1 and is working in Sainsburys, and many of her graduate friends are working in call centres, shops etc and that's if they're lucky - many of them are on Jobseekers allowance.

My sons went to uni in the days when the costs were nowhere near what they are now and all 3 got good jobs, but I would not recommend any young person to go to Uni these days, or at least to look into other possible opportunities of apprenticeships or training on the job, as this could well be the better option.

Jux Fri 22-Jul-11 23:04:49

To be honest, these children are different from each other and their circumstances are completely different. One lives with you and gets lots of encouragement educationally, the other doesn't. You can't say they are both treated the same, because even though you might treat them same, in every other way, they are different and their circumstances are different.

I think if their grandmother sees a need in one of them for any sort of support, financial or otherwise, which she would like to rectify then she should go ahead and do it.

It sounds like the other boy needs a lot more help than the one who lives with you. He is as deserving of help as any other child. Why would you stop his grandmother giving that help if she can.

cornsilksy Fri 22-Jul-11 23:08:52

Will the other boy be envious of MIL's help? Could it cause problems within their sibling relationship in the future? Perhaps MIL could find a way to help both of them?

brdgrl Sat 23-Jul-11 01:06:50

I'm not sure!
Sorry, that isn't very helpful.
But maybe your MIL has a point, if there is less 'emotional' or intangible support for uni in the other household, then things aren't "equal", and maybe some financial help would be a way of giving older SS a leg up. You say you and DH earn more and are more supportive of the uni idea in general, so perhaps younger SS doesn't need as much from MIL.

Treating kids fairly doesn't always mean treating them identically, I think.

What would it take away from younger SS? Is there a pot of money that MIL is trying to decide how to divvy up? Are you able to handle the expense of sending younger SS to uni no matter what MIL does? Maybe the "fairest" thing would be for her to make a contribution to each, but of different amounts that take into account the rest of their circumstances. There is no reason at all that the kids need to know just how much is given to the other one, frankly!

[On another note - replying to another poster - I'd love to see every kid to go to uni, or another form of higher education. It is about so much more than bringing home a paycheque. It is so sad to me that the universities themselves are even turning into vocational programs...but, that's another thread, I guess!]

ladydeedy Sat 23-Jul-11 12:17:45

It's a difficult one isnt it?
I am actually supportive of the current uni and funding system.
My feelings regarding uni education in general are that parents needn't necessarily pay/contribute in any case. The (new) system is that students get a student loan for fees and living expenses which they dont begin to pay back (at v low rate of interest) only once they start to earn a decent wage (I think this is going to be £25K under the new rules). So some will never repay, depending on what happens in their life after uni. It's not like true "debt" as such. Whatever is outstanding after 30 years is written off, so there is an end to it at a later point, whether some or all of it has been paid off by then. And whilst at uni they can lessen the amount they need as a loan by working in holidays or part time during the year.
I'm all for MIL being supportive (and she is, in many ways), I am just not sure that giving him cash is necessarily the right route.
But certainly yes, more research required on our part in any case as to the loan system and MIL can obviously do what she feels is right.
thanks for all your views so far, it's been very interesting.

LadyLapsang Sun 24-Jul-11 18:44:15

It's probably not possible to live on a student loan, if parents aren't able to help then the student will need to work or have some other form of funding. I would say don't object to the idea in principle but advise your lovely MIL to wait until there are more details regarding funding and then step in appropriately. As your DH's EXW household income is less than half of yours the child living with her will probably be entitled to grants and help from the university as well as the loan.

Smum99 Sun 24-Jul-11 22:51:49

What I find confusing is that your MIL assumes you will contribute to your DSS's uni fund, rather than both parents earn a similar amount and therefore are in a similar financial position. If the ex had a partner would it then be viewed as acceptable for the ex to pay?

I think it's great that the MIL wants to help but I do think both children should be treated equally - if both go to Uni. It will be very visible to the boys and will cause issues for them. One issue is that the loans aren't often enough to fund the costs - which can be over £4k p.a for rent, then living costs, before you even start to add in tuition fees so parental support is often needed.

ladydeedy Mon 25-Jul-11 10:07:52

Yes smum99 I think this is in part the issue - and in fact it is not entirely out of the question that the exw will meet a new partner and her financial situation will change.
But the situation is that both parents do earn around the same amount of money but exw does not intend to provide anything for older boy. She assumes/expects that we will provide some money for him and for the younger one (although of course this is based on her perception of "us" being financially much better off than she is as our household income is 3 to 4 times hers).
Our intention is to treat each boy equally - i.e. if we provide some money towards living expenses for one, then we will do same for the other. But in likelihood, older one will be eligible for more financial support due to his mum's situation. However I think we would continue to provide money for clothes/shoes etc for "our one" as we do now, and feel that the exw should continue to do same for "hers".
I think you are both right though about waiting to see how things turn out. The reason it's come up now is because lovely MIL wants to tell the older one that she will be there to help provide some financial assistance for him so that he is not put off applying to Uni in the first place, but I think we have managed to dissuade her from that for now. Her heart is definitely in the right place but it's how it's playing out that is giving us cause for concern.

ladydeedy Mon 25-Jul-11 10:11:16

just to go back a bit, for the past 10 years that i've been with DH I've always paid for stuff for both boys including our holidays etc when they both lived with their mum. Money has always been "ours" and I often paid DH's maintenance when he didnt have much work.
Now we're a bit more alert to what we spend since one lives with us - I bought "our" boy a new jacket for his birthday and his mum wanted to know when I was going to buy one (or give cash) for the other boy and accused us of playing favourites! Tricky....

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