The thing I don't understand is how parents can be so obtuse with these things. Can they not see the emotional damage they are wreaking? I love what my mom and stepfather have done: with my mom's two and my stepfather's three kids, they have said that they plan to split everything 5 ways. Plain and simple. If one goes before the other, I guess that could potentially change, but given who they are, how they live, and how generous and kind they are, I doubt it. And if so, so what? We are all grown ups and don't "deserve" anything.
I think most people do, but they rationalise it away as one son being emotionally hurt as a lesser evil than their other son actually starving/becoming homeless in retirement. Even when the starvation/homelessness/whatever is entirely self-inflicted.
In the Millionaire Next Door books the author talks about how wealthy parents can inadvertantly 'weaken' one child with what he called 'economic outpatient care'. EOC involved subsidising the child's lifestyle and perversely rewarding their bad behaviour.
This is it right here. People are irrational, but want to sound rational.
My mom was the same way. You know, I have an older sis and a younger brother. We chose different paths. We are a blue collar family. Sister got a job out of HS for an insurance company, and is the office manager. Her husband was in manual labor. Her son is a diesel truck mechanic (he's early 20s).
My brother spent a few years in the Air Force out of HS, then worked at the same manual labor job as my BIL, then drove trucks for awhile (went to school for free but didn't like the company that paid for it, quit, and had to pay them back). Now he's a prison guard. His wife has a degree, sold cell phones for 20 years, and now works at a bank.
I went to college on ROTC scholarship (mostly) and am an engineer. First in the family to go to college out of HS.
Mom/ step-dad's will splits everything 3 ways. Mom never had much money after the divorce, but step-dad is frugal and is worth about $0.5M, a lot in my dinky home town. He also has SS and a pension. (Mom died 4 years ago.)
However, there has been a lot of economic outpatient care. For my sister, it's emergencies only, and only once or twice. They bought a mobile home, put it on land given to them as a wedding gift, and paid it off in 11 years. For my brother, well, they like to spend money. SIL spends on clothing and toys for the girls. A LOT of them. She was driving 20k miles a year to work and to shop, easily. She ate out constantly. And don't get me started on the 9 cars in 5 years (mostly used, but still). My mother was guilted (you know, the divorce and all, she abandoned her baby...he was 14) into paying for all these "things" they couldn't afford. (My SIL was making $65k per year and the mortgage payment was $500 a month).
My mom had a home equity loan that my brother used. Then my niece needed braces. Guess who paid for that. When brother asked for $5000 for central air, mom laughed and said "if I had money for central air I'd put it in my own house!"
Now that mom is gone, step dad is mostly ignored by that family, unless they need emergency babysitting. Nevermind bringing him dinner (he has had many surgeries). Or saying hi. Just "here are the girls" and half the time they don't feed them before they get dropped off. My sister and her husband do a lot for him. I'm 3000 miles away.
For awhile, my mom would write me a check if she gave money to the others. She really wanted to be "fair", even if it wasn't "fair". She once bragged about how she gave everyone the same amount of money for their weddings. I said "mom, seriously, you paid for my sister and my brother's hotel room at my wedding. That is NOT paying for my wedding!" I didn't care, but she rationalized it all the same.
Thing is, it REALLY bothered my sister. A lot. My sister and her hubby probably made $60k combined. My brother and his wife were probably at $90k for awhile, though they are probably a bit higher now. We make at least 2x that and I DON'T CARE. I don't need the money. Sis was especially upset that my mom started college funds for all 3 grandchildren...but not my kid. Because "you don't need it".
My step-dad definitely prefers to be more fair. And I tell him I don't care. In fact, I tell him to spend it!
Sorry that was long, but people WANT to be fair and rational, so they tell themselves many things...