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The Impacts of, and Motivations for, Lifetime Gifts

We saw in Chap. 4 that some families give substantial lifetime gifts to help with things like housing and education. But even a small gift could potentially make a big difference to someone with very little. So how much difference do lifetime gifts make to people, and in what ways? What would people have done if they had not received these gifts? Such hypothetical counter-factuals have their limitations, as it is impossible to know for sure what would have happened if a gift had not been received, but it is interesting nevertheless to see how people responded to this question in our interviews. As well as considering the impact on the recipient, this chapter also explores, quite uniquely in studies of this kind, the impact on the donor of the gift. How difficult was it for the donor to find the money and how did they do so? And, finally in terms of impact, this chapter provides, for the first time in the UK, both quantitative and qualitative evidence of the reported difference gifts (and loans) made to the relationships between the donor and recipient/lender and borrower.

Linked to all of this, we also explore why people give lifetime gifts. We saw, in Chap. 4, the immediate reasons why people give gifts—to help with buying a car or with a social event or with housing or education.

© The Author(s) 2017

K. Rowlingson et al., Inter-generational Financial Giving and Inequality, Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life,

DOI 10.1057/978-1-349-95047-8_5

We also saw some hints in this at what motivates people to give such gifts, including the desire to support younger family members to become more independent and achieve certain social class positions. This chapter explores this issue in more detail. The chapter also explores the role played by altruism, self-interest, reciprocity and duty in relation to notions of ‘family’ as discussed in Chap. 3. In particular, do people give gifts out of a spirit of altruism, wanting to help others even if it means making sacrifices to do so? Or is gift-giving more self-interested? Perhaps people believe that if they help others, they will ultimately get even more help in return? Or is reciprocity the key motivator, the idea that people should help each other, depending on ability to help and need to be helped? This chapter reviews the expressed motivations of the people we interviewed. Clearly, people may not always be completely open about their motivations, particularly if self-interest is a key factor. Also, people may not be completely aware of their ‘underlying’ motivations. Our analysis focuses on the motivations that people expressly talked about but can also touch on ‘underlying’ motivations where we have information that sheds light on these and therefore the nature of ‘family’ and generational relation- ships/contracts in Britain today.

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