Do the Right Thing
Is It Okay to Hide a Recent Windfall from My Siblings?
(MONEY Magazine) – Q When the company I work for was acquired recently, my stock options were suddenly worth more than $1 million. Is it okay to say nothing about this to my siblings? My brothers have good jobs, but neither has this kind of money. I'm worried they'll think of me differently if they find out. I'm also concerned, since they tend to be extravagant guys, that they will turn to me for a loan every time they want a new car or even the latest mountain bike.
ANSWER Do you think your brothers tell you all their secrets? There's nothing unethical about keeping your financial status private. The truth is, it's not obligatory--or even necessarily desirable--to tell everything to everyone, including family. And the idea that honesty requires us to keep nothing to ourselves mistakes prudence for a lack of integrity. While your brothers might well be very interested in learning your net worth, they have no right to know it.
So there's no need to feel guilty if you choose to keep your home run to yourself. What would be wrong, however, is if you started pretending to your family that you're actually short on money. That's crossing an ethical line.
Be forewarned, though, that money has a way of making its presence known. Take a trip to Paris when you usually vacation in the Poconos or buy a new Lexus to replace your old Hyundai, and your relatives are going to get the picture. So rather than relying on discretion alone, follow the advice Charles Barkley gave LeBron James when James signed that big NBA contract: Learn to say no.
Questions about money and ethics? Our ethicists are consultants who advise attorneys on people's ethical beliefs. E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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