Accepting generosity may not always go as expected

baby-in-graduation-hat-640x512Dear Ella,
Many years ago, I established a RESP for my niece as a gift to pay for her university education. Recently, I met her parents to discuss my kindhearted gift, as my niece will soon be entering university. Although they were surprised and thanked me for the loving thought, they refused it, because they wish to pay for her university education themselves.

Being single with no children myself, I am perplexed by their refusal.
Some suggestions have been to wait and see what the future holds for her or to donate the funds to a university. I feel discombobulated, as my good intentions have now gone awry, and my gift may not be used for its intended purpose.
What should I do? Please advise.



Dear Befuddled
Your intentions are noble and generous, and you should feel good about the gesture you made for your niece.

I can’t guess why they refused the gift. Perhaps they’ve been saving for her education and want to be the ones to foot the bill? Maybe they can “suggest” the path they would like her to pursue if the money is coming from them? Perhaps they’re embarrassed to accept your gift? I’m not privy to your family dynamics. The only way to know for sure is to ask, and even then, it may be too personal for them to discuss with you. I do, however, feel your niece should be made aware of your kindness and generosity, and that this information should come from you.

Once you deal with the emotional repercussions, move on to the practical part of this problem. You’re left with a large sum of money, which consists of your contributions and government grants, and has tax implications. You need to speak with a financial adviser and weigh your options.

Perhaps your niece can speak with her parents? Maybe she will want to pursue a post-graduate degree where she can utilize your gift? Otherwise you can transfer some of the money to an RRSP to at least save the tax. This is where advice from a professional will be useful.

You tried to do a gracious thing. Be proud of your intentions.

Neighbour cartoon

Dear Ella,

I just moved into a new neighbourhood. Most of the neighbours are very nice and seem pretty normal, except for one. Melanie started with a daily friendly little note on my door – a happy face or “Have a great day.” We’ve now escalated to a bag between my doors with a small gift. Yesterday I arrived home to a note telling me to drop by and pick up a dozen muffins, because she baked extras just for us.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but the last thing I want to do when I get home from work and need to start dinner is go across the street, make small talk, smile and pick up muffins.
I’m not sure how to set boundaries with this woman without creating hard feelings. Thoughts?


Too Nice for Me

Dear Too Nice for Me
Living with people is one of the hardest things to get right. This falls under the category of personal space. We all need it, both physically and emotionally. You have to be careful not to offend your new neighbour, and she’s really done nothing wrong, but she has pushed you out of your comfort zone.

You need to let her know gently. She may be lonely and happy that you moved into the neighbourhood. It’s best to nip this one in the bud before muffins turn into full dinners, favours or something out of a Stephen King novel.

Tell Melanie that although you appreciate her kind gestures, between work and family you have very little down time and feel uncomfortable accepting these lovely tokens, because you can’t reciprocate. If she’s normal, she’ll understand and back off. If she’s not, it’s better to end this sooner rather than later.

My August 18, 2016 column in The Canadian Jewish News
Ask Ella – Accepting Generosity