≡ Menu

Family Banking Gone Bad

First, your site has helped me so much.  I was raised by a family who loves to step on toes and delights in being nasty to others.  My grandma, rest her beautiful soul, was my one example of etiquette and grace, and she gave me my first Emily Post when I entered high school.  Now that she’s gone, the stories on your site remind me to think of others and to leave an example of grace to anyone who may be watching.

Here’s my story.  About a year ago I began saving for a car.  After a few months of discipline, I had about $3,000 saved up.  My stepdad advised me that I should leave some money in his safe so I had cash in case some severe bank-closing catastrophe left me without money.  I thought about it, and decided to leave $800 in the safe.  I definitely didn’t have a safe place in my apartment where I could stash that much money.  I told him I keep my money there until I bought a car.

My mom started charging me $25 a month for my part of the family cell phone bill per my stepdad’s request several months later.  I didn’t mind paying the money, but it bothered me when she added that she knew $25 was more than my share, but I wasn’t going to find a plan that cheap anywhere else.  I paid $150 in two installments in advance so I wouldn’t have to worry about it for 6 months.

Fast forward to this month, when I moved to the next state with my boyfriend after I lost my job.  I intended to get our new house settled, buy a car with some money I had saved up and the money from the safe, and get a job.  We moved and made plans with my mom to get the money.  I came to my mom’s house on the day and time we agreed upon, but she told me the money was in my stepdad’s savings account now (which really defeats the purpose of having your money in a safe).  She promised to send me a check for several weeks.  Nothing came.  She planned a visit to my house last week.  I reminded her about a half dozen times in the day prior to and the day of her visit, “Please remember to bring a check or cash.  I really need my money.”  She promised she would.

Right before she left my house, she went to dig the check from her purse.  Surprise, no check.  I begged her to mail it when she got home.  She promised she would.

Then she dropped off the face of the earth for 3 days.  Didn’t return my calls, texts, e-mail.  Finally she called me and told me they didn’t have the money.  I forgot to pay my cell phone portion.  So my stepdad took my money and put all of it toward the phone bill.  My mom was incredibly sorry, but she didn’t even have the money to fix what had been done by my stepdad (although she had the money to go across the country on vacation for a week with my little sisters and my stepdad last month).

I was wrong to be late, I know that.  We had just moved, my mom or my stepdad never mentioned it and I completely forgot.  It’s not like other obligations, where you get a notification.  And if he had taken $25 from my money, I wouldn’t have blinked; it would have been convenient.  But $800 isn’t $25.  Even if he had used the money to pay my portion of the cell phone bill until the contract runs out, he would have only spent $450.  But he insists he is justified.  My mom has hurt me financially before, but this one is the one that makes me want to keep my distance for good. I’m heartbroken that my stepdad would do this and that my mom lied to me, and I really needed that money.  Is there any polite way to go about getting my money back?  Or was I wrong to leave cash in someone else’s possession?

You need to reconcile within yourself that you will never see that $800.00 again.  It’s an expensive life lesson that you cannot trust certain family members with anything of value.  I think you can still have a civil relationship with your mom and stepdad but if the subject of money ever comes up, you simply ignore the topic and decline to entertain any thoughts of transferring wealth from you to either of them.   One can smile pleasantly and talk about mundane things with family while inwardly thinking, “No way in Ehell you’ll ever get a cent of my money.”

If in your shoes, I’d be inclined to document the money transfers starting with the $800.00 “deposit” on the specified date followed by each month’s “bill” for phone service and then communicate this statement, in writing, to your parents with a note that says, “Just so we’re all on the same page, this is my understanding of what occurred in regards to my $800.00 I left with stepdad and my payments of my share of the cell phone service.  It appear from my records, that I am completely paid up through the end of the cell phone contract and I am due $350.00 upon termination of that contract.”

Don’t expect you’ll get a civil answer or see a cent of that money, however.

I’m sure there will be comments on this post encouraging you to file a police report or sue your parents.  People making those kind of suggestions have probably never actually done what they are suggesting you do because if they had, they’d know what a huge pain in the rump it is to pursue legal action and how much money it really costs.   Mentally write off the parents as your personal bank and move on.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • --E September 8, 2011, 5:48 pm

    It’s stories like this that make me want to go home and hug my mom. It would never even occur to me that parents might steal from their kids. I’m very lucky.

  • Lily G September 8, 2011, 6:04 pm

    My dad did this to two of my brothers. Oldest brother paid rent to my dad for 18 months with the understanding (proposed by my dad!) that the money go into escrow and Oldest would then get it back as a nice tidy nest egg. He trusted Dad, but when the time came and he counted on/needed the money, my dad said “What money?” Dad had no memory of any agreement and had spent every cent.
    Later, dad “gave” Youngest a microwave, but decided later it should be paid for. Youngest paid more than the value of an old used microwave and thought that was it. No, dad forgot Y had paid and asked for the sum again. Dad could not be convinced payment had occured, so Youngest bit the bullet and paid again.
    The kicker was when dad forgot and asked for payment a third time and wouldn’t believe the other 6 siblings that Youngest had paid! Twice! Youngest paid a third time (it was cheaper than hearing dad complain for the rest of his life) and never trusted my father again. More of this sort of thing occured and we started joking about Wilton Garber’s Rent-To-Own.
    I will never ever loan money again. I’d rather give it as a gift and not expect it back.

  • Gemma September 8, 2011, 6:20 pm

    I don’t see why the OP should carry on a relationship with them in the first place. Family should treat a person better than they would treat a stranger, not worse. Family should protect you, not take advantage of you. Being family does not give a person the right to steal from them. And that’s exactly what happened here.

  • Catvickie September 8, 2011, 6:45 pm

    My husband had to work since he was 8 years old. His father died when he was seven and for Christmas at age 8 he got work boots. He mowed lawns, shoveled snow, and when older, about 13 or so, a family friend had him work as a farm hand through high school. He lived with his mother, maternal grandparents, and younger sister. He says now that he probably made more than his grandfather, who tested cows, and his mother, who was a school cook.

    After he turned 18, his mother didn’t like the banker anymore, because when she went to the bank to take money from his account, he was no longer a minor and the bank president said she could not have it. Yay!

    He went to college 30 miles away, but had to borrow his mom’s car if he wanted to take me out on a date. I should have seen the red flags, but married him anyway after we both graduated. We lived near his mother for years, one time she whined so long about her car getting old, he tuned it up and bought new tires–she turned around and traded it in. That was just one of the many times he caved in and helped her out. Many years later, she got dementia and had to go to a nursing home. The banker’s wife was now a lawyer, and she helped us get all the paperwork and power of attorney for his mother and did not charge us a dime.

    We figure his family got thousands out of him over the years. He says he must have been making well over $400 -500 per month all during his younger years before age 18 and never had anything in his savings account until after. He even remembers they used his money to pay for his grandfather’s hernia surgery.

    He always dreamed of having a Corvette from the time I knew him–his mom always told him he could have those things when he got old. I told him with what he was making back then, he could have afforded one at that time. Now we are both 62–who can even climb in and out of one of those things at our age?? Plus we still can’t afford one at todays prices. . .

    Anyway, it took me years of pointing out this stuff to him for him to finally get it sunk in how much he was taken advantage of. He was pretty bitter for awhile, but his mom died 11 years ago, and live and learn can come pretty late. Glad the OP got it figured out sooner and takes steps so it will not happen again.

  • starstruck September 8, 2011, 6:59 pm

    i agree. i would cut my losses. and just never leave money with them again. more than likely they didn’t even spend the money on the bill but, for something else.

  • Jen September 8, 2011, 7:33 pm

    $800 is nothing to sneeze at. But even if you did take them to small claims court, you would never get it back.

    Sever ALL financial ties with these people. They can’t be trusted.

  • TheVapors September 8, 2011, 7:39 pm

    Ahead of everything else I’m really sorry this happened. It sucks to learn lessons this way.

    That money is gone. Forever. It’s not the easiest thing to accept, but the moment you give/lend/hand money to someone else you must assume you will never see it again.

    It’s best to just chalk it up to an expensive lesson. Both about never letting your hard-earned cash leave an area where you are the only person with access to it, and about family being no different than strangers when it comes to money.

    In regards to the cell phone bill, a long time ago had they wanted to charge me more than my fair share, I would’ve immediately looked into those non-contract cheap cell phones. Considering that is long past, you can -now- look into those non-contract cheap phones instead of continuing to pay them.

    On their end, I can see how they’d want the money to pay for what you agreed to pay, but why didn’t they just call you to say “Hey, you forgot to pay the cell phone bill this month so we’re going to take some of the cash you left instead.”? It likely would’ve been much smoother than stealing the entirety of the cash you left with them.

    Whether or not you want to talk to them from now on is up to you. At the most I’d write that letter as admin suggests. And keep in mind that you can have an arms length relationship with them if you so choose. If they bring up money in a conversation, listen, nod and don’t give out your own financial information or situation. As admin said, you can always be polite while still thinking to yourself “Never trusting you with money issues ever again. Lesson learned.”

  • Alice September 8, 2011, 7:55 pm

    I’d suggest merely writing off the $800, getting your own phone and severing all ties. Certainly financial ties, personal ties being up to you.

    They probably spent a lot more than $800 raising you in the first place, so I’d just count things as even and never speak to them again.

  • TJ September 8, 2011, 8:35 pm

    OP, i am so sorry this happened to you.

    If you are unable to recover the money that was stolen from you (though I hope you do)– you could anyways send them holiday and birthday cards and make each card a receipt for the money they owe you showing how much you take off the money owed as a gift.

    For instance.. the first card list the total amount and subtract the gift amount:

    – $25 (your gift)
    Now you owe me $775

    happy birthday!

    It would be even more funny if the “cards” are actual receipt slips.

    Your mom is guilty too as she lied about it for a long time so she should get the same thing.

    Dont ever trust them again. don’t ever give them any information of your finances again either.

    At least if you can’t get any of the money back, try your best to get it in writing that they are to pay your phone bills from the $800 they stole. better yet, get off their phone plan and get your own. They have your money to pay the cancellation fee.

  • gramma dishes September 8, 2011, 9:27 pm

    This is one of those cases where your mother and step father have shown you who they are. Believe them.

  • The Other Amber September 8, 2011, 10:02 pm

    OP, first let me say how sorry I am you’ve had to go through this. I went through something similar with my father, who managed to completely drain my bank account when I was a child.

    I’ve read a few comments that have suggested not cutting them out of your life because they’re the only parents you have. I would say that some people don’t understand what it really means to be a parent. The vast majority of parents love their children and would do anything for them. Some “parents”, however, see their children as just another tool to be used. These people continually feel that they’re owed something, or hard done by for one reason or another, and therefore entitled to whatever they can get from or through their children. These people do not have the same emotional bond to their children that other parents do – I’m not sure if they’re not capable of it or if they just never see their children that way. It is extremely unlikely that people like these are ever going to treat their children any differently.

    OP, as others have suggested I would immediately cut all financial ties with them. Get off their cell phone plan. I completely agree with sending them a letter detailing their debt, if you feel that small claims court is a viable option for you then tell them you don’t want to have to take that step but you will if necessary. And if it does become ugly, or you do decide to completely cut ties with them, then remember that this is not your fault, you didn’t cause this mess, nothing you did caused your mother and step-dad to treat you like this or justifies their treatment of you in any way.

  • Noodle September 8, 2011, 10:23 pm

    From the description of the family in OP’s first paragraph, I would consider this to be the last straw and sever personal ties as well as any financial ones. This is especially true since she mentions that her mom has hurt her financially before. I would write them off along with the $800.

    I was in a similar situation as the OP, except my parents drained out a college fund set up for me by grandparents. My father also “kept” my allowance throughout my childhood and my mother was notorious for stealing my birthday/Christmas money so I’d often have to find places to hide it. They were alcoholics and I’m pretty sure that’s where most of the money went. It showed me exactly where their priorities were and I honestly believe my life is better without them. I know it sounds harsh, and maybe it gives me a bit of a bias when posting, but it sounds like the OP has also had a lot of heartache out of her family as well.

  • PrincessSimmi September 8, 2011, 11:12 pm

    I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through with these piglets, OP.

    When I was 15, and my brother was 13, we had a savings account with $5000 in it paid to us over the years by our family, to eventually use for university. (Neither of us ended up going) our Mother convinced us that if we gave her the $5000 to put onto the mortgage, life would be a lot easier. It never did get any easier, because she used the money to go out and party with older, rich men.

    I can tell you, when I eventually bought my apartment, that money would have come in VERY handy. It’s taken me 8 years to get on-track money-wise, thanks to the examples she set me when I was younger. She’s still living in the house, still with $80000 on the mortgage after living there for 26 years (The house only cost $170000 in the first place!) and has people renting out the lounge room and basement to live in. All in all, there is 8 people and two dogs living in a three-bedroom house! But she can afford trips, expensive cars, expensive jewellery, two dogs, my stupid brother…

    Thank God for my Nan setting me a good example. Love you Nan.

  • ferretrick September 9, 2011, 12:03 am

    CJ, you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty or “awful and vindictive” about. These people stole from you. You are not awful for deciding that that does not deserve to be rewarded with generosity. If you don’t want to cut them out of your life, that’s understandable, and I wish you the best in that. (If you do want to cut them out of your life, I’d totally support that also). But definitely do not waste one second of mental energy feeling guilty about not rewarding them treating you badly. And if you can’t get over those feelings any other way, invest the money you would have spent on the presents on a few sessions with a therapist who can help you work through your anger and guilt. Best wishes.

  • Miss Raven September 9, 2011, 2:20 am

    Sigh. I’m sorry, OP. You sound young and I know it’s so incredibly difficult at your age (our age, really) to not be able to count on the one real safety net you should still have in this world.

    I agree with a couple other commenters: First, you are never going to see that money again. Second, they’re lying about why they took it. They took it because it was there and it’s just convenient that you accidentally ended up owing them $25 or $50. Third, the reason they took all of it without telling you and without asking about your late payment is because it was never about the phone bill.

    My boyfriend’s mother passed away in 2009 after years of what I can only describe as malice cut with sheer insanity… I won’t get into the stories here, but they’re the kind most of us only read about. After she died, we located a scan of a social security card… splicing together his SS# and her name and signature. This led us to check his credit report, and since he’d never had a single account or credit card or debt in his own name, it should have been blank. We found six accounts in his name, dating back to a month after his 18th birthday. Two had been charged off, three were in collections, and his credit was completely destroyed. He had been living with her through his school and her illness, and it came out that she had been hiding the mail… creditors and collectors came calling and mailing on a thrice-daily basis, looking for him and money that he didn’t spend or know anything about.

    Parents don’t always parent. It is so easy to take advantage of your children and see no consequences yourself, but a true parent will never grab that opportunity. I don’t want to say yours are bad people, but I’m sorry to say they are bad parents. This is a difficult time in your life and the most important thing for them to do was to help look after you, and they deliberately blew it. My anger towards his mother was so great after she died that it was near all-consuming. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to look her in the face afterwards. I don’t honestly know how you repair your relationship after a betrayal like this, no matter the sums involved.

  • Aje September 9, 2011, 3:02 am

    Grandma Dishes! Did you get your advice from Aunt. Medina? LOVE! 😀

  • Heidi September 9, 2011, 5:32 am

    Dear OP,
    The most important thing I can tell you is that all major banks in the US are FDIC-insured. That means that the government will guarantee deposits up to $100,000 in the case that the bank fails. Thus, there was no reason for you to entrust $800 to your stepfather.
    I’m really sorry this happened to you.

  • Aunt Ida September 9, 2011, 6:00 am

    There is a lot of good advice here for OP. She needs to go a step further to financially protect herself from her family. A large percentage of identity theft is perpetrated by family members. You’re entitled to one free credit report per year per credit agency (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion) – that means three credit reports per year. You can get your credit report at http://www.annualcreditreport.com (don’t go to FREEcreditreport – it isn’t free!). There is a lot of information on identity theft prevention at the U.S. Dept of Justice website (www.usdoj.gov). If you don’t know how to read your credit report, ask someone at your bank – or a librarian – to help you out.

  • James September 9, 2011, 7:21 am

    Just to second what others have said – ALWAYS have documentation of your financial dealings & agreements, whether with strangers, friends or your closest family. Even when everyone is trustworthy and acting in good faith, memory can play tricks on you and two people can be left with very different impressions of a verbal agreement.

  • Jen September 9, 2011, 7:24 am

    That justification of “they raised you, it cost money” is probably the justification by why the most common form of ID theft is parents using their children’s SSNs to get credit. It’s just a bad mentality to have.

  • Invalidcharactr September 9, 2011, 9:26 am

    I’ve filed a police report against my mother for something as insignificant as touching my mail. I’ve also cut off all contact from her as a result of her “what’s yours is mine” mentality. She still calls my brother and whines for money or attention, but she knows better than to even contact me for the purposes of interaction. I haven’t seen her in over two years and have no intention of ever speaking to her again.

    Even if you don’t pursue legal action against them, I would suggest never speaking to them again and letting them know why you’re cutting them off entirely. My mother knows full well why she spends Christmas alone.

    There’s no room in life for thieves and liars. $800.00 is worth far more than interacting with a thief.

  • Maitri September 9, 2011, 10:24 am

    I have a similar story =\

    My parents bought some stock for me when I was born, and then when they divorced when I was 15, they cashed the stock in and I got about $6000. I put it in a savings account, but because I was a minor, the credit union required an adult to cosign. My mother said “oh you don’t want your father (that cheating jerk, etc etc) cosigning, I will do it.”

    Two years later, I had not spent a dime; I was saving it for college (as opposed to my sister who used hers to buy a car that wound up repossessed, etc). My dad was going on one last tour of duty overseas and offered to let me come. I had just graduated and wanted to go overseas because I knew it’d be my last chance. My mother apparently took this as an affront against her.

    The following year, while working at the embassy, I switched jobs. It takes a long time for the gov’t to catch up when you switch, so my funds were getting low. I called my mom in the states and asked her to move $1000 from my savings account to my checking account. Her response was, “well, dear, there’s not $1000 left.”

    Color me surprised. Actually, color me devastated and curled up in a ball in bed for three days because my college fund was gone. Mom was a real estate agent but didn’t want to hustle to make money, so she lived off of her daughter for several months. Nice, eh? And no, I never saw a penny back.

  • Wink-n-Smile September 9, 2011, 11:23 am

    EhellDame is right. You’ll never see that money again.

    If you really want to confront your parents, you might ask them why they are in such dire financial straits, and what you can do to help them. Perhaps they need help filling out forms for welfare?

    You might thus be able to shame them into doing what’s right. But it’s a long-shot. They might even agree that they are in dire straits, and ask you for more money!

  • Wink-n-Smile September 9, 2011, 11:40 am

    When it comes to financially helping friends or relatives, my motto is “Make it a gift.” If you loan them money, then that hangs over you both, spoiling the relationship until the money is paid back, and sometimes even longer. If it’s a gift, then you don’t worry about it, they don’t worry about it, and maybe they’ll reciprocate some day.

    The thing about gifts is that you can only give what you can afford to GIVE. With a loan, people will over-extend themselves, sure that they’ll get the money back in time to pay their bills. When that doesn’t happen, and you have to borrow money to pay those bills, and then pay interest on those loans, it really hurts. However, if you say, “I can afford to give you this much, no strings attached,” then if they ask for more, you can truly say, “I don’t have any more to give you.” Knowing that you’ll not see it back any time soon will help with your resolve in that matter.

    People may still fleece you, but at least you’ll know it, and not hope for a return. And after a few gifts, it’s easier to say “No. I can’t do that any more.”

  • --Lia September 9, 2011, 12:02 pm

    Parents using their children’s social security numbers to get credit does happen, but it is by no means the most common form of identity theft. From what I could tell with some web research, the most common victim of credit card fraud is an adult single or divorced woman who is making a good salary.

  • Gina September 9, 2011, 12:05 pm

    Family stuff aside, I hope that in the future you’ll remember that cash is dangerous for this reason. “Severe bank-closing catastrophies” just don’t happen. How many branches does your bank have? Probably tons.

  • Wink-n-Smile September 9, 2011, 12:19 pm

    If anybody’s parent uses “I raised you and it cost so much money” as an excuse to steal from them, simply point out that your parents CHOSE to raise you, and that it was their responsibility to spend that money doing so.

    Stories like the ones here, about parents stealing from their minor children’s bank accounts, make me wish we could change the laws and give minors FULL access to their bank accounts, without an adult on record, at all. If the court can appoint a guardian ad litem, can’t the banks do something similar? Provide a disinterested third-pary legal entity (i.e., bank), as the “guardian” of the money? Really, why should there be an adult listed on a child’s saving’s account, anyway? It makes no sense to me.

    My parents, thank God, taught me early to use a bank for a savings account. They were up and up with me on financial dealings. When I became an adult, I paid rent, and the understanding was that it was to help the family finances – NOT to be used to save money for when I would eventually move out. Saving was my own responsibility. Rent was an adult responsibility, and I’d either pay them or I’d pay rent elsewhere. It was more convenient to pay them, as it included utilities and food. It was a lesson worth learning, and they were honest about it.

    The OP’s mother is pathetic. She freely admits fleecing you for the phone bill, charging you more than your share, and then has the gall to charge you $800 for “late” phone bill? Ridiculous. You’re paid till the end of the contract, plus some.

    If it were me (being gainfully employed), I’d send them back the phone, get my own new phone contract, and not tell them the number. If they want a relationship with you, make them work for it. I’m not saying cut them out of your life forever. However, they will not value what comes too easily. So make them work for it!

  • ferretrick September 9, 2011, 7:43 pm

    “Really, why should there be an adult listed on a child’s saving’s account, anyway?”

    Because minors cannot sign contracts or any other legal document.

  • chechina September 9, 2011, 8:34 pm

    I’m very sorry this happened to you, OP.

    But your stepdad is not just a thief, he’s a conman. He took advantage of your naivete (I don’t mean that is descriptive of you in general, just in this situation), your generous nature and your reluctance to deal with his temper to steal your money. That was his plan all along. He convinced you to give him in the money (taking advantage of your naivete on how banks work) and then made your mom ask you to pay the cell phone bill (taking advantage of your soft spot towards your mom) so that he would have a way to manipulate you into thinking this was somehow a misunderstanding when he stole your money.

    I definitely think you should stay away from him. He knows how to manipulate your soft spots too well. This is not your fault, but it’s a danger to you.

  • Decius September 9, 2011, 10:18 pm

    As has been commented already – your parents conned you out of the money. It’s clear that’s what they did based on what they told you about banks. FDIC insurance means your deposits are secure; if you are concerned about one bank branch closing, the better solution would have been to put the 800 into a different bank. But any catastrophe large enough to close all the banks would have also wiped out the value of US currency entirely, so just keeping cash is useless. Keeping a small amount of cash on hand can be useful in the event (say) there’s a temporary incident like a blackout.

    DO get your free annual credit report. Your parents may not have committed credit fraud, but you’re better off knowing. And from now on, document ALL your cash transfers. Lend a friend more than $20? Make them sign an IOU. Even if you never need to sue over it, having the documents is useful if issues do arise.

  • Gilraen September 10, 2011, 5:35 am

    My mother’s ex-husband (my spermdonor) took all money out of my savings account when my parents divorced when I was 4-years old. Most of the money was a gift from my maternal grandparents to me when I was born.
    Never did my mother or grandparents tell me or let on how hurt they were about it. It was not until in my teens that I found out by accident. Even then my grandmother found the grace to say, “he probably needed it more than we did”

    I would suggest following the OP’s suggestion. Cut your losses and emotionally distance yourself from these people. As it is your mother it will be hard, but it will ensure less heartache in the end

  • Cordelia September 10, 2011, 10:28 am

    Step one: Get your own cell phone.

    Step two: Don’t give them the number.

    I would just like to mention that even if a bank is FDIC-insured, there can still be cash flow issues if the bank fails, so it is actually smart to have some spare cash available for an emergency.

    However, you should always keep that money in your own home, in a safe or at least hidden somewhere. Storing it elsewhere is not a good idea. It would be better off in the bottom of a cereal box in one’s own house than in someone else’s safe, because let’s face it, unless one lives in a dangerous neighborhood, it’s much more likely that your money will be stolen by whomever you leave it with than by a burglar. Safes are a wise investment as long as you have a way to anchor it to a heavy piece of furniture. If you have just a tiny one that a burglar can walk away with, your valuables are no safer than if you left them on your kitchen table.

    I wouldn’t bother deducting money from the $800 for presents. I would send them a note saying they will not be receiving any more gifts because of their thievery, letting the $800 debt stand and that I am done sharing any financial assets whatsoever with them. Their only gift is that maybe the harsh treatment will make them realize what they have done was horrible and wrong.

  • Cat September 10, 2011, 11:52 am

    Be glad that you did not give him the whole amount, and welcome to the club. I had an older brother who stole my entire college savings from my parents. Mother said, “Since he steals, it’s better that he steals from the family so he doesn’t have to go to jail.” Going to jail would have stopped him, at least for the time he was in there. He got arrested for shoplifting anyway and still went to jail.

    They paid for his college, but not for mine. He went four years and didn’t get past his sophomore year. I got out in debt and lived in poverty while in college and for three years thereafter while I paid back my loans.

    Dad made him executor of their estate and he stole all of their savings/checking accounts since his name was on there and mine was not. He was supposed to pay for Dad’s funeral. He didn’t; I did-or Dad would never have been buried.

    Sorry, but I believe that no family is better than a family who sees you as a personal piggy bank. If you feel you must see them, do what TJ says and send them a receipt for whatever amount you would have given them for Christmas, birthdays, and anniversaries. And keep them out of your finances.

  • Yorba September 10, 2011, 1:05 pm

    As soon as it was suggested that the step-father hold some of the money in the safe the plan was hatch to use it for his own gain. If it was a real concern he would have had you buy a safe or lock box of your very own. This is what is known as “stupid tax”. It hurts (possibly double because its your own family) but you’ll never make the same mistake again.

  • CaffeineKatie September 10, 2011, 5:09 pm

    I don’t know the exact procedure, but I worked with a man who was also a landlord. When his tenants skipped out owing money, he would submit a 1099 form with the IRS. This is for non-wage income; his reasoning was that they had received something of value and should therefore declare it. I don’t know if any of them every had to pay, but it sure rattled their caboose. You might consider looking into this? And then RUN away from relatives no matter how close who are willing to behave in such a despicable manner!

  • Nathan September 10, 2011, 10:44 pm

    In what state do your parents live?

  • ciotog September 11, 2011, 11:22 am

    My father is a dear man in many ways, but he has a food addiction and a problem with compulsive spending. I did a year abroad in college, which actually cost them less in terms of tuition (because European universities are cheaper), and I went to the country that later became the focus of my career. I worked in a supermarket that summer and saved enough money to travel, or so I thought. When I wanted to travel over Spring Break, my parents told me all the money was gone, which was perplexing because I hadn’t touched any of it. When I returned home I found a pile of cancelled checks, made out to CASH by my father, the co-signer of my bank account, all for $5 or $10. He’d been taking small amounts of money out regularly, probably to go and get food. It added up to thousands of dollars.

  • sj September 11, 2011, 11:23 am

    That’s terrible.
    Get your own cell phone plan, and never, ever again, give or take money from your mom or step dad.
    You can continue asking for your money, but it’s obvious they will never give it back.

  • finecabernet September 11, 2011, 12:18 pm

    My heart breaks for you. You’ve been betrayed in every possible way. Send them their cell phone back, and cut ties beyond a polite Christmas Card (card, not gift) each year. Your mother is a weak woman who allowed this to happen. You deserve much better.

  • kelly September 12, 2011, 10:22 am

    I think the reason why they could take the holiday was because the used the $800. If I was really evil I would be tempted to ask to store moeny in their safe again, telling them it was $5000 worth. I would then wrap up a load of newspaper cut into dollar size, in a big enveloped, and put it in the safe making sure to tell them not to open it. No doubt they will act as if it is theirs an have more or less spent it by the time they open it and find a pile of newspaper cuttings.

  • Enna September 12, 2011, 10:55 am

    @ Jen I like your statement. Just because it costs money to raise a child is no excuse to finacially exploit that child later on. That’s a good way to alienate the child so when the parent really DOES need help the child may say no.

  • Enna September 12, 2011, 11:01 am

    P.S OP it is DISGUSTING for what your mum and step dad considering he is wealthy. If he looses his job he’s not going to be in a position to ask you for help – if he does have the cheek to do that then as he’s already stolen money from you and lied, he clearly can’t be trusted, same goes for your mother. Now it’s one thing if they were starving and they had no option to use the money, but they should ask your permission first – it would have to be a dire emergancy like life and death if they couldn’t wait for your permission first.

    You mention that your mother made blunders when she was a single mother – yes we all make mistakes and it is a different sitaution but at the same time, if money is tight then don’t make blunders – it’s one thing if she was ripped off and they were different scams. My b.f got ripped off by falling for two employment scams, I wasn’t too impressed and did make that known as he is a business graduate but these criminals to pray on those who are desprate to work.

  • Maryann September 14, 2011, 1:16 am

    Always pay attention to red flags when dealing with money!

    I saw two big ones in the letter. Her mom has hurt her financially before, and her stepfather’s suggestion of leaving money with them was completely nonsensical. Banks are federally insured, that’s why we don’t have “runs” on them anymore. If a bank fails, your money is insured up to $500,000. There is absolutely no reason to squirrel away large amounts of cash (only small amounts for emergencies in which you can’t get to a bank). It’s never safer than in a bank.

    A smaller flag was present in the form of her mom over-charging her for her portion of the cell phone plan in the first place. It’s a little ungenerous to a young person trying to establish herself to ask her to pay more than her fair share, and it’s indicative that Mom and Stepdad weren’t exactly sensitive to her financial strains. (Including her lost job and out-of-state move!)

    The moment Mom started “forgetting” and stalling, Daughter should’ve kissed that money good-bye.

  • Ash Kilday May 7, 2012, 4:36 pm

    Way late to comment on this one, but it is so precisely like my husband’s situation, it’s not even funny. His mom kicked their dad out when my husband was about 8, and he never paid child support (…) after their divorce. While my husband lived under her roof from age 8 to age 19, he was the recipient of constant verbal and emotional abuse. She tied all her kids to her apron strings with a wet double knot, convincing them they couldn’t survive without her constant supervision. She had complete control of his cell phone, which is about the only understandable part of this story, and would take it away from him for imaginary infractions or “disrespect.” He slept on a couch infused with cigarette and pet stench after his old bed broke because she wouldn’t get a new one for him. When he went off to university and met me, he was already starting to detach himself, thankfully, but when we became pregnant and got engaged, she started charging him “rent” at 25% of his minimum-wage, part-time paycheck, claiming that it was to help out the house and it was “his share”–even though he was already the one primarily responsible for cooking and keeping up with the household chores. Do you want to know what she did the week after he moved out? Bought all new nice furniture and a brand new flat screen TV for her bedroom.


    She still does his taxes for him, despite the multitude of free sites out there. And he wonders why I won’t let her touch my financial information–I just straight up hate her and what she did to him. He’s still a kicked puppy in many ways, though, and goes to see her 2-3 times a week. Disgusting.