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Originally published Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 5:02 AM

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Parents can’t match grandparents’ money gifts

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It's astonishing that American women ask Carolyn how to interact with their own best... MORE

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Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

My parents asked us to match their contributions to our children’s savings accounts. While this is well-intentioned advice, we are focusing (in our early 30s) on shoring up our retirement reserves and paying down debt. Not to mention, we both work, and two kids in day care is a significant expense that won’t be there forever.

I started explaining all this, and I think did a decent job doing so, but realize I should have said something more along the lines of “If you want to contribute, that’s great, but our financial decisions are our business.” My parents have a tendency to try to control more than they should in my adult life; we have a decent, albeit distanced, relationship because of this.

Do I revisit and explain that our family’s finances are no longer a topic of discussion or negotiation, or just let it lie unless they bring it up again?

– Not Counting on Social Security

DEAR NOT COUNTING ON SOCIAL SECURITY: Leave it alone, but have a respectful, duly grateful response ready for when the subject comes up again.

Don’t beat yourself up, either, for over-explaining this time. It sounds as if you’re working to break a habit of answering to domineering parents, and exchanges like the one you describe are common — where you reflexively explain yourself instead of kindly insisting they step off. Part of that process is waking up the next day with a forehead slap when you realize what you should have noticed, said or done.

As for the specific issue of the college (right?) savings, if you bring it up again, then you run the risk of alienating people who want to give you money, and no self-respecting pragmatist can encourage that. Even if they’ve decided not to give until you agree to match their contributions, bringing it up again is perilously close to a shakedown.

So revisit only if they renew their request — insistence— that you match them. But instead of “Our finances are our business,” consider this preamble: “There are loans for college but not for retirement.”

If they keep pressing their agenda, then, yes, a kindly phrased “We’re grateful for your help, but we’re sticking to our own financial plan” is an important line to draw. Just know they have as much say in their money as you do in yours, and can decide not to give anything at all. There are loans for college, but not for integrity, alas.

DEAR CAROLYN: A friend is about to have her final attempt at artificial insemination. I’m planning to visit her in a couple of months, when she’ll either be pregnant or not. The thing is, I’m newly pregnant. Do I need to give her a heads-up now? Or can I reasonably wait a few weeks, to see if I stay pregnant?– Announcing a Pregnancy

DEAR ANNOUNCING A PREGNANCY: Wait. Let her get through her procedure without that distraction.

The best time to tell her is when you would have told her anyway. If the trip comes before that point, then tell her about a week before you go — in writing — so she has time to adjust to your news as needed.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living

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