I haven’t told many people this, but my wife decided she wants to go back to grad school and finish off her masters in special ed.
Her plan is to continue working full time as a teacher during the day, plus take on a full schedule of graduate classes at night. Crazy, I know!
But it’s also very inspiring… Because she doesn’t need more schooling (she doesn’t even really need to work anymore if she doesn’t want to) but she’s doing them both anyway because that’s what she enjoys and wants to do in life. Also, this specific master’s degree + special ed credential will unlock even more possibilities and challenges within her field of passion in the future.
Anyway, this post isn’t about how awesome and smart my wife is (there aren’t enough words to describe that), this is about how we are planning to pay for graduate school. Or rather, how *her parents* have offered to pay for her grad school.
Accepting Big Gifts as an Adult Feels Weird …
When we started sharing her plans for grad school late last year, my wife’s parents’ eyes lit up!… They’d been saving for her college education their whole life and proudly put her through undergrad with the intention of paying for more schooling if she wanted.
About 10 years ago (before we were married), my wife started grad school but stopped halfway through to pursue other stuff. So, her parents think it’s only fair that they continue paying for the remainder of her education now because they had planned to and never finished.
But, if I’m being honest, I feel a little uncomfortable accepting their offer. I wasn’t raised with an option of free college (don’t get me wrong, I come from an extremely privileged background – my parents gave me everything *except money*) so it feels strange accepting a gift of this size.
Not to mention, my wife and I are self-sufficient adults now. We have earned and saved our own money to pay for the things we want to pursue in life, whether it be vacations, lifestyle upgrades, or continued education. I feel it’s our responsibility.
Why let someone else pay for our stuff when we can afford it ourselves?
Now you might be thinking… “Joel, this isn’t a gift for YOU, this is a gift for your wife. It’s between her and her parents.” And while yes that’s a valid argument, we actually both benefit financially from this. My wife and I share everything in life – our money, our passions, our successes, struggles… everything. A gift to her is a gift to me. And vice versa.
Why Do I Feel Awkward Accepting Gifts?
I need to grow up and get over this feeling. So I’ve started asking myself WHY I feel weird getting gifts… And most of my reasons are pretty dumb now that I write them out:
- I don’t like feeling “in debt” to other people. I don’t know why, but whenever I get a gift, I feel guilty until I can give back something equal in return. Especially big gifts… Like, if a friend got me a gift worth $500 for my birthday, I kind of feel obligated to spend $500 on their birthday, even though that’s way more than I would regularly spend.
- I have too much pride and ego. These are things I’m learning to swallow more and more as I grow older and get more mature. But I’ll admit, earning and paying for my own stuff myself makes me feel better than just getting things for free.
- Maybe deep down I don’t feel worthy? There are 7 billion other people on this planet who probably deserve gifts more than I do. No matter the gift size, someone out there needs it more than me and my wife.
- I don’t want to be a financial burden on others. Having parents pay for stuff feels like the opposite of financial independence. (Although ironically, receiving money brings us closer to FIRE because we can save more.)
- I’d rather be the giver than the receiver. I’m getting better at this as I grow older… I’m realizing that part of giving IS receiving. Refusing gifts robs the other party of the very feeling that I love.
Whoa, that was a lot of sharing my feelings. I know this is a first world problem and you probably think I’m an ungrateful little shit. Believe me, I know how blessed I am in life and I 100% acknowledge these are good problems to have. I’m just sharing my situation and being honest.
Accepting Gifts and Changing My Mind-Set
Sooooo… long story short, we are accepting the parents’ offer and they will pay for grad school. My wife only has about 12 months of classes left to complete her degree, and she found an online university that’ll cost about $20k all in.
And going forward, I’m releasing my bottled feelings of guilt, embarrassment and discomfort when receiving gifts… Instead, I’m converting all those feelings into gratitude, appreciation, celebration, and respect for the gift givers. Generous parents set amazing examples, and their acts are teaching US how to be more generous.
Ultimately, my wife and I hope to pay forward all the blessings we receive in life. Perhaps we should add some more funds to our nephews’ UGMA gift accounts? Actually, maybe we should start setting aside money for our future adopted kids’ education?
Any of you out there received massive gifts from your parents? Would love to hear your thoughts/feelings if you’re open to sharing.
Joel is a 35 y/o Aussie living in Los Angeles and the guy behind 5amjoel.com. He loves waking up early, finding ways to be more efficient with time and money, and sharing what he learns with others. Rise Early | Retire Early!