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'I gambled away $7,500 - must I tell Dad?'
A reader worries his father won't give him any more money upon hearing the last gift went toward commodity futures instead of stable mutual funds.
By Jeanne Fleming, PH.D., and Leonard Schwarz

NEW YORK (Money) -- QUESTION: I am twenty-three. Two years ago, to encourage me to start saving and to learn about investing, my father gave me $10,000. He thinks I put the money in the mutual funds he recommended. But actually, I lost all but $2,500 speculating in commodity futures.

I never told Dad what happened because I'm afraid he won't give me any more money if he finds out. I've learned my lesson, though. So if he hands me another check - as I think he's about to - must I tell him?

Money Magazine's ethicists are consultants who advise attorneys on people's ethical beliefs. E-mail them at right_thing@moneymail.com.

ANSWER: Let's see if we understand the situation: Having lost three-quarters of the money your father gave you, you believe you've paid a big enough price for poor judgment, and you shouldn't have to face any further consequences.

Sorry, but your logic doesn't really wash.

Forget about the fact that your father might never have written that first check had he imagined you were going to speculate in commodities; it's your fundamental premise that's off. Because the truth about consequences is that none of us gets a pass on having to live with them just because we think they're too onerous.

Yes, it would be unfortunate for you if your father decided you can't be trusted with the big bucks. But that's his call to make, not yours. And just because he's family doesn't mean you're any less obligated to own up to what you did. On the contrary, who's more deserving of your honesty than your father?

So do tell him - humbly, we suggest - about your losses. Maybe he'll agree with you that you deserve a second chance.


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