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About one year ago my grandfather died of cancer. Now my grandmother lives alone and got rid of most of his things over time including a model railway.

As a child, I spent many hours at my grandparents, building it together with my grandfather. Some of the parts we used, were gifted to me on birthdays or christmas. As I grew older, I lost interest in it and my grandfather expanded the railway from time to time on his own.

After grandpa died, my grandma told me, she would sell the whole model railway (about 3000€ worth) and would give me the money (or some of it, I don't remember). I took one engine as a memory. Now I haven't heard about it since then. I only saw my uncle posting an advertisement to sell the model railway on facebook about two months ago.

My family has a lot of money because of a firm my grandfather founded, which is now managed by my father and said uncle. I personally don't have any financial problems, but am not living an extra-ordinary live either.

Now, how do I talk to my grandma about the money, she promised me? I don't want to come off as spoiled, as my grandma already gives financial support to me every month and very generous gifts on birthdays and christmas holidays (among other things).

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I lived with my grandma for 3 years, got along well and had plenty of money related conversations over the years (although we were not well off and I was more likely to be giving her financial support than the other way around). Pulling from this experience, I would say the first thing to try is to mention the train but not the fact she owes you money. In all likely-hood this will be enough to remind her, and she will hopefully understand what you are getting at immediately (grandma's can be clue-y like that). Something I would say is:

Ooh yeah, I saw that {uncle} was trying to sell the train set. How is that going?

If all goes well she will pick up on what you are implying and bring up the money conversation herself, saving you from looking spoiled/pushy.

If she does not do this, then it is up to you how you proceed. To some people (at least in Australian culture) collecting money is not something they want to bring up themselves, and would resort to the first technique a few times before either dropping it as they feel it isn't worth the worry, or giving in and directly asking. However I don't think you should worry so much, there is a chance she simply forgot and will even be thankful for the reminder, also keep in mind there is nothing wrong with asking for this money, especially as it was already agreed upon and I can hardly see a scenario where she will see you as spoiled for asking. That being said still make sure you are polite and not demanding. A decent follow up to the first question might be:

I remember talking about how we would share the money we got from the train; Is there anything I can do to help sell it?

Offering to help shows you as supportive rather than spoiled and choosing to say share rather than give to me is important, wanting everything for yourself is associated with spoiled-ness and this does not specify the exact split. Opening up the conversation for her to remind you of the previous agreement or sort out a new one.

  • 4
    This sounds about right for the US, too. My grandmother (who is in her mid-80s) is trying to "clean house"; she had lots of bonds and stuff, and is now gifting her children and grandchildren fair sums of money every year as she liquidates them. She forgot about mine this year, but at some point we were discussing other finances and suddenly she remembered, "oh, did I ever give you your money this year?". Saved me from having to ask, and she did actually want to give it to me, she'd just forgotten! – Doktor J Dec 11 '17 at 20:21
  • Thanks for your important tips! I will talk to my grandmother this weekend. – NotTelling Dec 14 '17 at 13:24
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    In case you are interested: The model railway hasn't been sold yet and my grandmother swiftly reassured me that she has not forgotten our agreement. – NotTelling Feb 16 '18 at 13:32
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Do Nothing

Frankly, your grandmother doesn’t actually owe you anything. You may have considered some of the pieces as your property (no matter how you got them), but the reality is they were yours only in you and your grandfather’s minds. In all reality, he purchased them, stored them, and maintained them — they were his.

What is the true value?

You have real experiences and good memories with your grandfather toying with them for years. Your grandmother still gives generously to you, likely because she loves you. It seems to me that whatever the monetary value of the train is insignificant to that. At the very least, she has already paid you in spades.

Don’t screw it up.

12

First of all it's important that you acknowledge the frame of what is happening. You say that:

I don't want to come off as spoiled, as my grandma already gives financial support to me every month and very generous gifts on birthdays and christmas holidays (among other things).

So your grandma is decidedly not a stickler for money. Your family isn't either, from the sounds of:

My family has a lot of money because of a firm my grandfather founded, which is now managed by my father and said uncle. I personally don't have any financial problems, but am not living an extra-ordinary live either.

And neither are you. That means you have no reason to assume any ill intent and don't need to prepare against that.

In your case, I'd recommend waiting a couple more months and then casually bringing up the train set without mentioning the money. Because your grandma doesn't sound like she's given to be a stickler with money or sneaky with promises, this will work without making you sound like you just want the money.

I suggest something like:

Whatever happened to that train set? Did $uncle ever manage to sell it?

a couple months later.

This will do three things for you:

  • Remind her of the issue
  • Not insinuate that you're impatient for the proceeds
  • Give her an easy way out and an easy way to give you the money without feeling bad

In general, if even that doesn't work (meaning she simply forgot entirely, we're giving the benefit of the doubt here) it may be easier to just not pursue the issue further. From what it sounds like you have a good thing going on and a healthy family situation, there's no need to disrupt that.

I advise against directly bringing up the money issue, even when the first suggested approach does not work.

5

If the grandmother is regularly giving you money, and nobody was caring about the train, I would probably let it go. You might have been promised money, however people also might think they are already paying you.

It does not hurt inquiring casually about the whereabouts of the train, and expressing some slight disappointment of it being sold without you being part of it.

However, often those sets are big, and they might be needing to clear the space. You also say nobody was using/caring for it, which could be a better hint why it was sold.

Additionally, it might be better on the hands of someone that's caring for it, than rusting away abandoned.

Try to learn what happened before going down a lane you might regret.

  • I think you misunderstood my question. I don't have a problem with the set being sold, my grandmother even informed me beforehand. What I was getting at is the promise my grandma made – NotTelling Dec 11 '17 at 13:07
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    Indeed.The situation is a bit grey because you are already being given money. People might have forgot the promise, or thought around and thing they are already giving you enough money. It does not hurt asking, but I would not press it forward if things go wrong. You have more to lose than gain here. – Rui F Ribeiro Dec 11 '17 at 13:11
  • @NotTelling I think the point is trying to make is that your grandma is keeping her promise by giving you money every single month. If she made money from selling the train, and she gives you money, then you can imagine it as coming from whereever you'd like (in this case the train). – spacetyper Dec 11 '17 at 20:49
  • @spacetyper That is exactly what I was trying to convey, thanks. – Rui F Ribeiro Feb 15 '18 at 15:54
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As you make it sound, it isn't even clear that the set has yet been sold: a lot of things in that price category take a lot of time to actually find a buyer. I know that I have things put up well worth the price in a lower category, and they haven't moved for years. And large complete train sets are particularly difficult since they are put together with a goal in mind and are not easy to make part of something else. And we are talking about a total price way beyond what you usually start a hobby with. Selling the whole kaboodle piecemeal would be a whole lot of work: if you are interested in attempting that, it would make sense to offer to invest the considerable work in separating the lot and selling the parts.

Now we are not really talking just about money that you were promised but actually money that you are owed once the set is sold since part of the set was actually yours. I doubt that your grandmother would stiff you on that.

I think the first question you should be asking, if any, is whether the set has already found a buyer. I think everything else would be rather premature.

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