Inspired by this question: How to avoid being seen as a cash cow by my family?, I wanted to ask how my own situation should be handled.

We are not rich, but also not poor. My sister has two little children, has less money, but still is no way poor. My grandma has only one son, my father, of whom we are the only children, and a lot of savings. She has a really great heart and always gives a little bit money when we're visiting, but she wants to keep her savings, because shes extremely afraid of getting incapable to live on her own. By german law, maids etc.get paid by her savings - and when used up it gets paid by her child, my father. This is extremely expensive. She wants to avoid that at all costs, therefore looking carefully for her money.

I really respect my grandma for this way of thinking. And I think I'm still getting enough of that pie she has saved by all those little givings.

But not so my sister. Whenever we have some family party she starts to complain about financial problems, which, imo, she does not have. Always somethings going wrong for her, it seems. One time it's a broken car, next time the laundry machine, next time whatever. Oh and because of this and that we really can't go to that holiday the children were so happy of.

She never complains like this, when my grandma's not near. She tells about all those broken things, yes, but never ever mentions she's in financial problems because of it. She, too, spends lot of imo senseless things, like tattoos, ever new fishes for the pond (which will die soon enough) or fitness studio, which my grandma would never spend her savings for. But still, when she hears about the children being not able to go to that holiday they were so happy of, she gives her money. It's not that it's riches she's getting. 200 € here, 300 € there. Plus the regular givings for each visit.

Normally I would tell my grandma not to be stupid. But my grandma has always been fair for the two of us. That means, no matter what, I'm getting the exact same amount of money, though I never asked for it. So I take profit of maybe 2000-3000 € per year just for being my sister's sister. Only the money for a new car I don't get - she wants to give it to me as soon as I buy a new one, too. I don't know how much money this will be, as my sister broke so many cars by buying always old, but rather expensive cars and all those gifts to her have summed up. My grandma even urges me to finally buy a new car so she can give me that sum, too. I will certainly not do that, as long as my current car is still able to crawl.

Sometimes when we visit my grandma, my husband jokes before arriving, now we'll see how bad the financial situation of your sister currently is - just on the amount of money we will get.

I feel pretty bad taking all that money I think I have no right on. So how would you proceed? Should I talk to them? Would you react in "public" on such a family happening or rather look for some privacy to talk? Should I tell my sister to stop? What would you tell her? Would you tell my grandma?

Edit: As proposed in the comments, I edited my question. You are right, I should not ask for opinions - people will either way tell me.

And another edit to clarify the role of my father in this little game of my sister's... I know my grandma and my father really well. They would never start to talk about such things to me. But as far as I can interpret their silent communications when my sister starts complaining, is that my father thinks the same way I do and already told her. The way she looks at my father in such situations is like "but how should I tell her?". This is only interpretation, but what I know for sure is that sometimes my father jumps in, preventing my grandma from paying by paying himself. Same point in fairness - he's a second cash cow I'm milking unintentionally.

And no, grandma is definitely not dement. I really know her well. For an old woman of 78 she could not be any fitter.

By the way, also my grandpa is still living. In such situations he simply closes his eyes pretending to sleep - seemingly avoiding any discussions with my grandma.

So, in short, everyone is looking away, pretending not to notice to avoid any discussions.

  • 3
    What are your goals, if you're unwilling to change your ways? Unfortunately, determining whether something is right or wrong will only generate opinion based answers. For that reason, I've voted to close this question. I don't feel there is an interpersonal aspect to this. We either enable your behaviour or tell you off. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 18:16
  • 1
    If you want to improve this question, I would suggest focusing on how to have a conversation about this. If it is morally okay is really opinion based, but there is a great question here if you want to change it to focus more on 'how to act if I don't agree with the situation as it is now'.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 19:12
  • Thank you for helping getting answers - I edited the question! Opinions will come either way, so you're right, I should ask for behaviour, not opinions. Let's see if I can do at least anything to clear my conscience.
    – Jane Doe
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 20:21
  • Would you like for your grandma to know how your sister spends the money she gives her, so she stops giving her money, so that you won't feel bad accepting the money you get as a result? Or do you feel that the way your sister spends that money is unfair to your grandma? Is your father able to tell your grandma what is going on or does he not want to upset her? Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 20:55
  • From your question, it seems that you are ambivalent about this. You like the fact that grandma gives you money but you don't like the how (through sister's behavior which you seem to object to). If you are concerned about your sister's behavior then you could perhaps formulate your question accordingly. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 21:21

1 Answer 1


As you describe the situation, your sister is systematically inducing your grandmother to give her money for luxuries. And then, to be fair, your grandmother gives you an equal amount. Neither your sister nor you need this money for necessities. Your grandmother may or may not be able to afford her generosity in the long run.

If this were the US, and your grandmother eventually needed to move to assisted living or a skilled nursing facility or a memory unit (for Alzheimer's), plan on 50,000 to 100,000 USD per year. Or more. The US Government program Medicaid would pay only after your grandmother's assets went close to zero. Being on Medicaid is not ideal.

Your specific question is:

Is my behavior seen as morally OK?

You are on shaky ground, morally, unless you are certain that your grandmother's savings and income will cover prolonged expenses of the sort I have mentioned above and you are certain that she is managing her money wisely, apart from her susceptibility to your sister's sob-stories. Of course, nothing is 100% certain, but you should know a lot more than you have conveyed to us before you spend 2,000 to 3,000 euros a year in extra money from your grandmother.

I suggest two things, the first of which is entirely up to you; the second requires cooperation from at least your father.

(1) Put all the money you get as a result of your sister's "financial problems" into a separate account that you never touch for yourself. You reserve this account for your grandmother's needs. If, years down the road, she has no need for this money, you will have saved a goodly amount, which you can feel free to use as you wish. Do not reduce the amount you save because of this extra money; the extra money is your grandmother's, not yours.

(2) Discuss your concerns about your grandmother's long-term finances and her susceptibility to sob stories with your father and your sister. Are you certain that she is not giving money to other people with sob-stories; that is, are you certain she does not have dementia?

If eventually the "escrow money" has to go to help your grandmother, you will have done far more for your grandmother than your sister did. Can you and your husband do this?

Finally, there are people for whom 3,000 euros a year every year for decades is peanuts. If your grandmother is one of those lucky people, you can enjoy the money with a clear conscience.

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