Dear Moneyist,

I have lived with my sister in an apartment we rented together for the last three years, and have finally decided that it’s time to move in with my boyfriend.

We are (ahem, he is) buying a house. I was advised to write a document that outlines, should we split, where the ownership lines lie in terms of the down payment and mortgage payments; it will end up being close to a two-thirds (him), one-third (me) split.

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Only his name is on the deed because we have a several hundred points difference in our credit scores. We will get a significantly better interest rate if it’s just his name, as he’s in the 720-plus category.

I have been “adulting” for much longer than her, as I dropped out of college due to trauma and started supporting myself on coffee-shop jobs. I have worked very hard and am now a newly minted software engineer at a notable tech startup.

‘Only his name is on the deed because we have a several hundred points difference in our credit scores. We will get a significantly better interest rate if it’s just his name.’

To that end, when I was starting out my parents gifted me with a lot of their leftover stuff when I got my first apartment, years before I lived with her: pots, pans, dining-room set, couches, etc. They were all given to me when I was getting started. While it might have been a bit of a leg up, I truly needed that stuff at the time.

However, the apartment we got together was her first out of college, so the aforementioned stuff furnished that apartment.

Now that I am leaving, she has decided that I owe her half of the items given to me by our parents. I did not agree to this. The items were gifted to me because I was struggling at the time.

I also am putting a large chunk of money towards down payment and closing costs and don’t want to buy new items because I was guilted into it by my sister. In any other rooming situation, the person leaves with what they brought.

‘My lack of sympathy would change significantly if she was thrown into any sort of financial hardship. But she makes six figures and saves half her income.’

My sister is an economic analyst and makes a ton of money. She saves half of every paycheck. She has never struggled financially. Keeping the things that were given to me will not cause her hardship. Annoyance? Sure.

My lack of sympathy would change significantly if she was thrown into any sort of financial hardship. But she makes six figures and saves half her income. I just got to “comfortable” status, and it was hard won.

Do I owe her half of the “house things” that were gifted to me by my parents or do I leave her with an empty apartment? I don’t think so, but my reasoning is more because she has not struggled in life in any capacity. I have. I know that is not a good reason. What are the reasons for or against?

Pots, pans and Family Politics

Dear Family Politics,

Giving him money without putting your name on the deed sounds like a very bad idea. Make sure you have a real-estate lawyer look over any contract you sign to make sure it’s legal, rock solid and not open to misinterpretation. Some members of the Moneyist Facebook Page are more concerned about this issue than the issue with your sister, and also advise you to look into what rights you would have as a tenant and/or house guest, if that becomes your official status. Please tread carefully.

I’m sorry that you have a trauma that led you to drop out of college. It sounds like you have had an uphill struggle to get to where you are now, and you should take time to appreciate everything you have accomplished. It was kind of your parents to help you out, and nice that you have the kind of relationship with your sister that allows you to share an apartment as friends. Don’t take a match to that now. It’s great that your sister saves half her income. That is something to be applauded.

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I applaud you too. You’re moving in with your boyfriend and, I hope, will have your name on the deed of the house. You have become the person you are today despite what you experienced during your college years. It has made you value success. Those pots and pans and furnishings helped you through a difficult time. They have a monetary value, sure, but also hold an emotional connection. They were, of course, more than just wood and tin. They were also an act of generosity and love.

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Sometimes, the clue is in the question. You are already uncomfortable with leaving her with an empty apartment merely because she earns more money than you. You know that this isn’t all about money or who earns more or who has had to struggle more to get to where they are today. Ask your parents what you should do about your sister and investing in a home with your boyfriend. They sound like good people who will have a reasonably compassionate and objective perspective.

Ultimately, it’s your choice. But let me answer your question with several questions of my own. What would help your happiness in the long-term — to hold onto these belongings or pass them on to someone else who may need (or even like) them too? What would you like to see when you walk out that door for the last time, an empty apartment or an apartment with enough items that will form the building blocks for someone else’s new life? With some careful negotiation, I suspect the latter.

You, more than anyone, have learned that the space between adversity and our response is freedom. It might be nice for your sister for that space to contain a coffee table, pot or pan, or two.

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Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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