‘They don’t have a clue about money.’ My daughter has a spending problem, and her husband, who has a trust fund until he’s 30, says yes to everything she wants. But what happens when the money runs out? Do they need professional help?

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Question: I just went through six weeks of trying to help my daughter and son-in-law buy a house. They don’t have a clue about money and it is a bad combination: My daughter is aware she has a “spending” problem, which she admitted to her husband before they married.  Conversely, my new son-in-law is saying yes to everything she wants and is a beneficiary of a trust which ends on his 30th birthday this year, but was told by a cousin that there will be more when he is 35. He has no idea of how to handle money and is estranged from his parents (who could shed some light on his future finances), because he married my daughter. Long story short, they fell out of escrow the day before close because of a glitch that the underwriters could not overlook. Who do my children need to hire to find out what he has or will have and how to manage it? (Looking for a financial adviser too? This tool can help match you with an adviser who might meet your needs.)

Answer: First of all, these kids are lucky to have you looking out for them and their financial future. There seem to be two issues here: First, the couple has a spending problem and doesn’t seem to know how to budget and manage money, and second, they don’t know what’s in the trust and how it works.

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Let’s start with the first issue. To deal with their spending, budgeting and other financial issues, you may want to hire a financial adviser for them. A financial adviser will be able to uncover what is meaningful to your children and develop a plan to determine how to accomplish their goals. “Depending on the adviser, services may include understanding their trust documents, determining how to manage their money and calculating their tax liability. Based on the information provided, it will be helpful to find an adviser who is a financial therapist or is willing to collaborate with one,” says certified financial planner Danielle Miura of Spark Financials. A financial adviser without this designation will be able to create a financial plan, but will unlikely solve the initial spending issue. “A financial therapist will be able to uncover financial issues that are prohibiting them from living the life they desire,” says Miura.

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Certified financial planner Blaine Thiederman of Progress Wealth Management says the person you should hire to help them is likely a financial planner that specializes in behavior change and counseling clients to practice better financial behaviors. “I’m sure they recognize that they’re not kids anymore and money doesn’t grow on trees, but it’s a tough transition to slowly recognize that as adults no one will save you if you make bad decisions,” says Thiederman. Indeed, educating your children on how to make smart financial decisions, make their own income, live within their means and not rely on a trust would be extremely helpful. “I worked at a trust office and saw many times where children who knew they had a financial bailout made all kinds of terrible decisions so this is quite common unfortunately,” says certified financial planner Lauren Lindsay of Beacon Financial Planning. 

An advice-only certified financial planner might also be worth considering, as they charge a fixed hourly rate or fixed project rate to advise, without seeking to manage an investment portfolio or sell products or investment management services.

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One simple step you can do now — with or without the help of a professional — is help the couple make a budget. Thiederman recommends that your daughter put together a budget like the one “because it’s a simple system and it works,” says Thiederman. It may also help to encourage them to take personal finance classes and read financial publications and blogs by acclaimed finance experts.

The second issue is what is going on with the trust, and a financial planner won’t be able to help them figure out how much your son-in-law should expect from the trust; that’s a conversation they’ll have to have with your son-in-law’s family. He may have what’s called a spendthrift trust — a trust designed so that a beneficiary isn’t able to sell or give away their equitable interest in a trust property — which is common for people to do who want to leave money to someone who they feel cannot manage it, says Lindsay.

“A trust will have a trustee which may be a person or a corporate trustee, but it’s very hard to get information about a trust if the trustee is not willing to share the information and often a trust is created so that the beneficiaries don’t rely on the trust for their livelihood,” says Lindsay. It will be helpful to have your son-in-law talk to his family and depending on what state they live in, as a beneficiary, he’s likely entitled to a copy of the trust document, which may help him better understand the finances behind it

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