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It’s All Relatives

Richard Connor

MY WIFE AND I JUST returned from our annual Thanksgiving vacation on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. This is a yearly outing for our immediate family, my wife’s four siblings and their families. This year we numbered 43, representing three generations of siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, along with significant others.

I wrote an article about this family tradition three years ago. It started in 1995, and has been held 25 times since. We’ve only missed two years—one because of a family wedding in California and another due to COVID-19.

For the first several years, we rented a seven-bedroom house on the beach for the week. As the family has grown, so has the size of the house we rent. These past two years, we’ve rented a 27-bedroom beachfront home in Kill Devil Hills, N.C.

It’s called an “event house” because it can sleep around 50 and hold a wedding or other special event with up to 100 guests. It has a heated pool, hot tub, kiddie pool, sports bar, theater room, exercise room and a catering-ready kitchen.

The house is three years old and is rented about 50 weeks a year. Prime summer weeks rent for about $40,000—if you can reserve one. The Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s weeks cost about $18,000 each.

These figures may seem pretty pricey, but remember we’re housing 16 families for a week in a luxurious beachfront home. When you consider the number of bedrooms used and for how many nights, it works out to about $100 to $110 per night per bedroom. This compares favorably with a beachfront hotel, plus our rental includes far more amenities.

In the early years, we split the cost six ways among our family, my wife’s parents and my wife’s four siblings. Since my wife’s parents died, we’ve split the costs among what I call the five families—my wife, her three brothers and one sister. The five siblings range in age from the late-50s into the 70s.

Each family has at least two children, most of whom are married or have a significant other. There are also 12 grandchildren spread among the five families.

Our children and their spouses, as well as their nine cousins and their families, represent the next generation of the family. They span Gen-X and millennials, ranging in age from the mid-20s to mid-40s. I know I’m biased, but this group is exceptional. Whenever I hear disparaging remarks about the younger generation, I shake my head in disagreement.

They have strong, stable marriages. They have successful careers, own homes and contribute to their communities. Their personalities, professions and interests are quite varied. Yet all share something precious—a commitment to family.

I give my in-laws tremendous credit for this. They set the tone by always making the effort to show up, and that ethic has been passed down to successive generations. The next generation has been taking on more responsibility each year for cooking, cleaning and event planning. They’ve also volunteered to contribute financially to the future funding of the event.

For the past decade or so, I’ve handled the finances for family week. I take care of the leases, collect family contributions and make the scheduled payments. I have an online savings account to hold the funds until needed, and to try to earn a little interest in the meantime. The process is pretty simple, and it’s something I enjoy.

This year we had a family meeting with the two adult generations to discuss plans. It was heartening to see everybody’s interest and willingness to contribute. They also have some ideas on how to create a more formal structure to accumulate funds for future years.

While we’ve discussed some ideas, we have some work to do to put something in place. I’d be interested to hear from the HumbleDollar community about any ideas or experiences they may have had in structuring a family enterprise.

Money is a challenging subject among families. We have a large and diverse family. The group of adults I’m discussing ranges from five years into their career to five years into retirement. It’s only natural that an individual’s financial circumstances would vary with age and employment.

One of the most important tenets of the family is not to let finances prevent a family member from attending. This has worked well for the past 28 years, and it will guide any funding structure that we put in place.

Richard Connor is a semi-retired aerospace engineer with a keen interest in finance. He enjoys a wide variety of other interests, including chasing grandkids, space, sports, travel, winemaking and reading. Follow Rick on Twitter @RConnor609 and check out his earlier articles.

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