How much do we owe others? (and when should we walk away?)

Last January I loaned money to a friend who was in financial crisis: Her vehicle was about to be repossessed. The transaction troubled me for a number of reasons, which I detailed at my personal website in a post called “I'm not a payday lender. But I play one on TV.”

During my trip to the East Coast I spent part of a weekend with “Monica” and her family. (Names have been changed to protect the profligate.)

When we made a Wawa* run, Monica didn't want me to pay for my own Tastykake.** She threw it in with her own order, which totaled a little more than $34 and which included a coffee cake, a box of doughnut holes, and a $2-plus bottle of iced tea.

* The world's best convenience store. Yes, it's a damn silly name. But Wawa rocks.

**The world's best snack cake, bar none. Sure, Little Debbie is cute but she's got nothing on a Butterscotch Krimpet.

I started to feel uneasy. In the next 24 hours, the following additional red flags flew:

  • Monica bought about $100 worth of maternity clothes for her married daughter, who right now is still as thin as a candidate's promise.
  • They have satellite television and DSL. Her kids have cell phones with text packages.
  • She mentioned she was planning to buy a snow blower, which after their military discount would run “only” about $1,000. (This despite the fact that she lives in a state where it doesn't always snow in the winter and the fact that she has three healthy teenagers.)
  • Monica also mentioned that her van was about to hit more than 200,000 miles. Her daily commute is about 50 miles each way.

You know what wasn't mentioned? Paying back my $800.

An Unsustainable Way of Life

This isn't just a cranky post about being a human ATM. I knew when I gave them the money that I stood to lose it. Actually, I don't think I will. It took 18 months for the first loan to come back, one $50 check at a time, but ultimately it was paid in full.

After making the second loan I mailed a personal finance book to Monica and her husband, “Gordon.” I also suggested tracking expenses in order to plug money leaks, and urged them to contact a debt management program through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

My note concluded, “I know it's not easy to take a critical look at your life and to realize that no matter what happened in the past, you are responsible for the present. Change is never easy. But no one will help you except you.”

Monica wrote back, promising they'd work to cut expenses. She said she'd already advocated dumping the TV and cell phones.

Nine months later the television is still on, the teens are still texting, and Monica and Gordon are still living an unsustainable, paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle. Here are a few more details, to show you just how deep their denial runs:

  • Company-wide layoffs are looming at Monica's workplace.
  • Gordon has lower-back issues and is in his early 60s, so there's no telling how much longer he'll be able to keep his job.
  • Neither one has any retirement savings.
  • They don't have an emergency fund. In fact, they have no savings at all.

That's right: no cash is being set aside in case that layoff materializes or for when the vehicle finally dies. But there's money for satellite television, texting and doughnut holes. Maybe a snow blower, too.

Treats Before Necessities?

I'd hoped that the first crisis — nearly losing their home — would force them to wise up. It didn't. Want to know the reason they needed the second loan? They couldn't make the van payment because it had taken all available funds to pay…

…wait for it…

Bounced-check fees and Catholic-school tuition for their youngest.

They had money to buy technology and other treats, sprinkling NSF checks along the way, but not for an essential recurring expense. Without a vehicle, Monica couldn't get to work. But they didn't think about that.

I worry deeply about their future. It's a pretty safe bet that more things will go wrong. When does something not go wrong when you own a home and are raising three teenagers?

And when it does, they'll be right back in oh-shit-now-what mode.

No More Bailouts

In that “payday lender” post, I wrote that I could no longer loan money. But I also admitted that I wasn't really sure what I'd do if she called again, frantic for cash.

Now I'm sure.

Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting you abandon people who through no fault of their own have wound up holding the gooey end of the lollipop. For example, every other week I send $50 to my 88-year-old aunt. She uses the money for medical co-pays.

That biweekly payment is a line item in my budget. What isn't in my budget any longer is bailouts. I'm a freelance writer who funds her own retirement and insurance and makes regular charitable donations. And at nearly 54 years of age, I have finally given myself permission to enjoy some of the fruits of my labors (frugally, of course).

It's important to care about your fellow man. But not if you're enabling rather than helping.

I'm Not the Loan Arranger

If my friends ask for help again, bailing them out won't really help them. It would just allow them to postpone, yet again, the very hard and very necessary work of changing the way they spend.

I'm done. Maybe you should be, too. The next time you write a bail-out check, swearing it will be the absolute last loan? Make it stick. Frame it any way you like, but tell your sister/son/frat buddy that you can no longer afford to do this.

Maybe it's that your own financial stability is at risk. Maybe it's that you've given and given and nothing has changed. Maybe you want to use your money on something for yourself once in a while.

Whatever the reason, state gently but firmly that your career as loan officer is over.

You could find some other way to help, such as:

  • Offering to loan your personal-finance books
  • Helping to create a workable budget
  • Pointing out sites where people can learn smarter spending habits, such as Get Rich Slowly (duh) or MSN Money's Smart Spending blog
  • If need is imminent — not much food in the house, kids need glasses — direct them to my previous GRS piece, “Unemployed? Underemployed? Here's how to get help.”

If a relative or friend is a financial train wreck, you owe it to yourself to get off at the next station. It will be one of the hardest things you ever do — and probably one of the most necessary. For your sake, and for the other person's, close the bank and keep it closed.

Readers: Have you had to cut off a family member or friend who needed rescuing but wouldn't do much to help himself? Was it tough? Did you offer any non-monetary help, and did the person ever wise up?

More about...Debt

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20's Finances
20's Finances
9 years ago

wow, that is quite sad. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t take your advice to heart. Now, it will be a long road ahead of them. I think this happens to someone in all circles of friends/family.

Beth
Beth
9 years ago

I’ve never faced this personally, but my parents’ church has. They’ve had people appeal for monetary help who really need help budgeting and managing their money instead. (I.e. they can’t pay their bills, but aren’t willing to give up luxuries.) The church isn’t supposed to judge, so that makes things really difficult to say no — especially if children are involved.

GJ
GJ
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Our church offers Financial Peace University classes and most of the church members have gone through the program in the past 3 years. It is so awesome to have an entire community of like-minded people around us (both spiritually AND financially) that we can have open and frank financial conversations with.

I’m not sure what the “policy” is on financial assistance, but I believe a partial scholarship for the program is offered.

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  GJ

That’s a great idea! I’ll pass it along. Thanks 🙂

Marsha
Marsha
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth

What I’ve done in situations like this is to give non-cash help. I’ll buy a bag or two of groceries or take the kids shopping for new clothes or shoes. I’ll babysit the kids for free while a parent works a second job to get money to pay off debt. But to get my help, they must prove to me that they are cutting any unnecessary purchases. Sometimes, tough love is the best kind of love.

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

I think the church has moved away from monetary assistance after it got burned a couple of times. I know the policy is not to judge, but at some point I think they had to set priorities. They could use the money to help someone who won’t give up the luxuries, or they could use the money to help someone who didn’t have much of anything at all. It’s really complicated.

STRONGside
STRONGside
9 years ago

I have not been asked, nore offered to lend, money to my sister and brother-in-law, but I know that they could use it.

I really want to buy them personal finance books, and maybe even a Dave Ramsey Financial peace seminar but have been hesitant to do so. I think that this coming Christmas, I will forgo any feeling and emotions ans just buy it for them, in the hopes of turning around their situation.

tjdebtfree
tjdebtfree
9 years ago
Reply to  STRONGside

I actually did this for my friend last year (we don’t exchange Christmas presents anymore) so I gave it to her as a Happy New Year’s present (hoping she would READ IT and start her New Year off better than the last!!) I was also afraid that she would take offense but at the same time it was worth it because she needed some “guidance.” Not that it was any of my business, but she is one of my dear friends and I just kept watching her make one foolish mistake after another. Thankfully, because I have been on my… Read more »

tjdebtfree
tjdebtfree
9 years ago
Reply to  tjdebtfree

Sorry I forgot to add… I gave her the DR Total Money Makeover book

Jenifer
Jenifer
9 years ago
Reply to  STRONGside

you can give it to me! 🙂 I think it would be a great gift for anyone trying to get to the ‘other side’! 🙂

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  STRONGside

I agree with tjdebtfree that I’d be nervous about offending by doing this. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea to give but do consider in your decision making process if you are able to handle the situation emotionally if it goes south.

Andrea Travillian
Andrea Travillian
9 years ago

I too have faced a situation just like this. It is heart breaking to watch what is going on and know that it can be fixed. I too decided that my financial help had to end. I offered books, I even took the time to work on a budget with them and review bills. Sadly it did not help and the next time the money was needed, they went to another person. I think the best thing we can do is try to help in the other ways you recommend, and be willing to lend an ear, but lending the… Read more »

louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife
louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife
9 years ago

Something about this post really makes my blood boil – I think it’s because we’ve been in/are in similar situations. We’re not hurting for cash right now but only because we’ve lived carefully, so it rankles to see people who’ve pretty much entirely forgotten they owe us money living frivolously. Our mortgage, our only debt, is a heavy weight on our minds and I think if we had borrowed money from a friend/family member, it would be even heavier – and we would do what we can to pay it back AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I think we imagine our… Read more »

Tom
Tom
9 years ago

I was in a similar situation when I loaned a hefty (at the time) sum to my sister (IIRC, she and her husband used the money to pay their rent). During that period, I was socking away money for school, so felt I could afford it, but years later I was IN school, had used up my savings, and was starting to keep balances on my credit cards to make ends meet. All that time, I had not seen a penny in repayment, saw my sister and her husband spending profligately, and noticed that I was the last thing on… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
9 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Tom, I’m sorry your sister thought that money was more important than family relationships. Watch out when there is an inheritance in the wind!

Tom
Tom
9 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

The debt was finally paid when her father-in-law took over their finances, bought a house for them (with easy payment terms), and paid off all their debts. Having said that, I’m planning as if I’ll never receive any inheritance, so if our parents don’t have their affairs in order, I won’t be overly put off if my sister somehow makes off with the lion’s share of whatever it might be.

Everyday+Tips
Everyday+Tips
9 years ago

I have helped out a friend or two, as someone helped me out when I was around 19, and I appreciated it so much. (My friend gave me his car as he bought a new one, and allowed me to pay for it a few months later. I think it was 600 dollars for a sweet 1979 Sunbird, and it was 1988 I believe). The people I have helped out always paid me back. There is someone else I have helped out over the years, but sometimes you just have no choice because you have to live with yourself, and… Read more »

Samantha
Samantha
9 years ago
Reply to  Everyday+Tips

There was also an Everybody Loves Raymond – Ray gave (his brother) Robert some money because he was having a rough time, then Robert used the money to go on vacation.

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Everyday+Tips

I just saw that episode of Frasier. He did lend Roz money, but the money he thought she was spending turned out to be gift certificates and a friend buying her lunch, etc.

Big Bang Theory also did an episode on lending money to a friend/boyfriend.

Jen
Jen
9 years ago

My younger sister used to ask for money at least once a month, always for ‘groceries’, always framed in a way that made me look like I was personally starving her young daughter if I didn’t pony up with the cash. It didn’t take me long to find out that the money was actually funding booze-fueled karaoke nights with her friends. So for awhile, I switched to picking up groceries for her, or getting her a gift certificate (this was before gift cards) to the grocery store. She resented me SO MUCH for not just giving her the money, but… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
9 years ago

I’ve had a similar situation occur with my dad and stepmom. They’ve asked to borrow tens of thousands of dollars, including asking me to pull money from my retirement accounts in order to help them stay in their house. The really crazy thing is that they live in a house that costs more than double what ours does and they spend money as if they have a pile of it. The most difficult thing I’ve had to do is say no to their requests for money. I make it a point to never mention anything about how we’re doing financially… Read more »

getagrip
getagrip
9 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

Don’t feel bad and don’t give in. I have watched a sibling literally drain close to two hundred thousand (that I actually know about and I suspect much more that I don’t) over many years from an ailing parent. I kept thinking they would learn, but after more than twenty years and all that money, there is no change in the sibling’s behaviour. With no money in the bank, and only a social security check coming in, my diabetic, heart failing, 80 plus year old parent took out a home equity loan to cover this sibling’s debt. I mention this… Read more »

Adam P
Adam P
9 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

I hear you! It’s one thing to say no to a friend or a sibling, and no shortage of advice to be found on lending money to your adult children. However, when it is your OWN parents who gave birth to you (okay plus a step parent occasionally) asking for money then it’s a lot less clear. I’ve lent about $35,000 to my parents in the last 2 months for their business. I shouldn’t have but my stepdad just got diagnosed with cancer, and I don’t want my mother to worry about money when she’s worrying enough about the sickness.… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

No it does not make it easier to do! It makes it harder! I would give a great sum of money to truly help my mother, but after this long, with her addiction and “friends” it would be a black hole. It’s depressing.

Jennifer
Jennifer
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

Adam, just to clarify…my father was an absentee father when I was growing up. He didn’t understand that paying child support was to help me. He felt it was helping my mom, which he did not want to do. I wouldn’t have a relationship with him today if my mother hadn’t cultivated it over the years. Although he’s been much more involved in my life over the past 15 years, I don’t feel the same commitment to help him that I do my mother. For the record, he has already drained my stepmother of hundreds of thousands of retirement savings,… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

That’s where I am now: If I keep loaning money nothing will change except that my wallet will be lighter and they might end up going down in flames anyway.
I can’t risk going down with them — especially since I have done what I could to get them to plan and spend more responsibly.
Very hard to watch, since there are kids involved. But as I told myself back in January: It is not my responsibility to fix her life.
Still hard, though.

Well Heeled Blog
Well Heeled Blog
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Your first obligation is to your own family, so like you said, you can’t afford to jeopardize your financial situation because of your relatives, no matter how deeply you care for them.

FrugalTexasGal
FrugalTexasGal
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Your first obligation is to you. That said, if you decide to help (especially when kids are involved) I encourage giving that will directly benefit the kids. Harder when you are not there in person I know. In otherwords, I might volunteer to take said kid shoe shopping, or take said kid to the doctor and then the glasses store, as oppposed to sending mom money because they say kid needs x

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  FrugalTexasGal

Agreed. If I get little Johnny new specs mom or dad can’t return them for cash, either.

chloe
chloe
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

I agree, kids in the equation does make it harder. My husband and I have done things specifically for the kids in these kinds of situations. In a couple years these teens will be working full-time and/or in college, maybe on a trip to their area you take them out to dinner or pay for a text book or something. The parents have repeatedly proven that they have no intention of changing their spending habits, but those kids might have a fighting chance once they get out of the house!

Amanda
Amanda
9 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

You’re retirement?!?!?!?!? Don’t back down!

getagrip
getagrip
9 years ago

Folks out there will bleed you dry with all the good intentions and apparent need in the world, then when they can’t bleed you anymore, you cease to be of use to them and they drop you and find someone else to bleed. But they don’t change. Why should they? They are rarely allowed to fail. Somehow for most of them things always seem to work out one way or another at the last minute. This is why they are honestly shocked when they actually do lose the car or the house and they get really mad at everyone else… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  getagrip

I’m afraid that’s true in many cases. In this case, sadly, they have no one else to ask.
But again: As painful as this is to watch, I have the choice of putting my own finances at risk or putting on that oxygen mask.
I cannot be a burden on my own daughter when I get older, since she and her husband both have chronic illnesses and are struggling to save for their own retirements. Thus I need to do what I can for my fellow man while keeping in mind I can’t help everyone.

SB @ One Cent At A Time
SB @ One Cent At A Time
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

As JD ysys often, Only you can take care of your money, this true in all cases, even the person taking money from you doesn’t care it more than you. Now I wonder Donna, that $800 came out of somewhere where you were earning interest, or it might have come from your emergency fund. Either way it is a loss for you. I burnt my hands a couple times and one of them, I later discovered, asks for money from multiple friends. It is good to help out once in a while but , when it repeats it raises alarm.… Read more »

jcbillings
jcbillings
9 years ago
Reply to  getagrip

Sounds like many have had this experience. I had to cut off a friend who used me like an atm machine– she was always just on the verge of getting it together but needed money (usually in a crisis). Finally I realized she wasn’t going to and told her she had to quit asking me for money. She drifted out of my life. It’s been hard.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  jcbillings

It isn’t necessarily just the knowledge that you’ve been “used like an ATM,” either. We may genuinely miss the person’s company.

Chris
Chris
9 years ago

I have had a similar situation with my sister. She was in danger of losing her house so I payed a couple months of her mortgage payment to avoid the foreclosure process. The very next month, my mom tells me her husband bought a new truck and my sister bought a new sewing machine. I never saw a dime of the money that was owed. They ended up losing the house anyway. Recently, I paid over $1000 of my mom’s medical bills that she didn’t take care of for 3 years. In this situation, I don’t expect any money back… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Chris

What a kind gesture for your mother. Also for your sister, but shame on her and her husband for not paying you back. At least you now know not to lend to them again.

CincyCat
CincyCat
9 years ago
Reply to  Chris

I wish I could just flat-out pay for my mom’s medical bills (some of them aren’t really that much). The problem is that she is on partial disability, so if these bills suddenly disappear, then her other benefits may disappear also. The best I can do is give her a little at a time, which she then uses to pay the bills a little at a time… She’s truly in a catch-22 situation.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  CincyCat

Could you do other things to save her money and ease her mind, such as stocking the pantry, giving her a gas or drugstore card, or making sure she has good shoes? (“Good” as in comfortable ones that offer support.)
She’s lucky to have such a caring child.

CincyCat
CincyCat
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Thank you for the kind words! 🙂

Mom is actually very, very careful with her money, and has a spreadsheet system that she uses to keep track of her money. There just simply isn’t enough of it. 🙁

I have taken her to get her hair cut, etc., and my sister does the same when Mom goes to visit her. Recently they helped her with a car repair, and I helped her cover the deposit when she moved to her new apartment. (It’s closer to me, which is good; but more expensive than her old place, which is bad.)

Dan M53
Dan M53
9 years ago

Over almost 25 years of marriage, I calculated a few years ago that a certain in-law has put the touch on my wife and me to an average of $50/month (the total’s over $10,000). We can afford and they can’t. We now actually fund an account for this. If the pattern holds, they’ll be making the tearful call any time now, and we have the money set aside to cover it. There’s always a good reason they need the funds and I decided years ago that it’s the right thing to do to support family. When the post-dated repayment check… Read more »

Brenda Pike
Brenda Pike
9 years ago
Reply to  Dan M53

I like this idea. I serve as the de facto emergency fund for a few of my family members, and I have a line item in my budget for it. The money’s usually repaid, but I make sure to think of it as a gift so I don’t get resentful if it’s not. The way I figure it, my parents and older sisters invested their time and money in me when I was a child, and this is just the compound interest from that. They could have been selfish and perhaps been better off today, but instead they sacrificed for… Read more »

carmie
carmie
9 years ago

Ants and grasshoppers.

getagrip
getagrip
9 years ago
Reply to  carmie

How many times did the ant bail out the grasshopper? Once. end of story.

Milly
Milly
9 years ago
Reply to  carmie

Hah. I mentioned the story of the grasshopper and the ant to my sister once when we were talking about money, and she said the ants were entertained by the grasshopper’s singing and owed the grasshopper for it.

E. Murphy
E. Murphy
9 years ago
Reply to  Milly

Oh My God. Apparently there is nothing that can not be justified.

Bareheadedwoman
Bareheadedwoman
9 years ago
Reply to  E. Murphy

in Aesop’s fable the grasshopper is the villain; in other –just as old Greek– versions, the ant’s virtue as hardworking is also portrayed as vice, which is where the version comes in that the grasshopper entertains the ants through “the long winter” as in “all work and no play, makes jack a dull boy”. In even older versions, it wasn’t an ant but a dung beetle who needed help because rain had washed away his food. In any case, I find ants who can’t sing to be as dull as grasshoppers who can’t work and anyone who thinks one is… Read more »

Kevin @ Thousandaire.com
Kevin @ Thousandaire.com
9 years ago

I don’t get in the business of lending to friends and family. If they need money I can give them a “loan” and ask to be paid back, but in my mind I’ve given them a gift. If they pay me back, awesome! If not, it was a gift in my mind, so it doesn’t matter that they are spending $1000 on a snow blower.

However, if I know they are the type of people who would spend $1,000 on a snow blower, I wouldn’t give them a loan/gift in the first place.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago

And now that I know that, it reinforces my resolve not to give any more money because it only postpones the inevitable.
Perhaps they will pull themselves together before the next crisis. If not, there is nothing more I will do. As noted, I need to put on my own oxygen mask first — for my daughter’s sake, if not my own.

lawyerette
lawyerette
9 years ago

Ditto. Giving a gift under the guise of a “loan” is the best way. It keeps the asking to a minimum – since you can’t ask me for any more money if you haven’t “paid back” what I already loaned you.

Samantha
Samantha
9 years ago

I really like the substance of this article, but the writing is a little confusing. Mentioning Monica after bringing up the loan made me think that Monica’s story was separate from the loan story. I was confused while reading about Monica’s spending because I didn’t see how it was related to the story (or why we should be concerned about it) and had to go back to figure out that she WAS the person who received the loan money. Same thing when it was noted that Monica’s first loan was necessary because of nearly losing her home – I went… Read more »

Diana
Diana
9 years ago
Reply to  Samantha

Completely disagree. I have never commented before on GRS, though I’ve been reading for a couple years, but Donna’s articles are the most clearly and compellingly written of all the GRS staff writers. Although I read this blog for the quality of its content, not the quality of its prose, the recent addition to Donna as well as JD’s dip into more emotional/personal territory (such as the post on his mother or on his desire to travel and ditch the house) has been satisfying my literary tastes in surprising ways.

Thank you, Donna!

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Diana

Thank YOU, Diana….!

Adam P
Adam P
9 years ago

I already commented above re: Parents who take money from their kids-who-read-personal finance-blogs like us, but just wanted to add that I really liked this post Donna, it was a great read!

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

Thanks, Adam.

CMN
CMN
9 years ago

I find myself in this situation on an ongoing basis. The problem is, I am actually in debt (student loans), I am quite young (24), and the person asking for a bailout is my own mother. I have yet found a way to say no to her. I love her very much and owe her everything in my life. However, she makes very, very poor financial decisions. It’s tough when it’s your own (single) mother who has been at your side and been your biggest advocate your entire life. I will probably keep bailing her out. The fact is, I’m… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  CMN

If you can do this while still funding your own retirement and making other smart financial decisions, do so.
And if you can’t? You will have to find a way to say so. I just did a column about this for MSN Money:
http://money.msn.com/how-to-budget/are-you-your-parents-atm-freedman.aspx
I wish you luck, because I have a feeling you’re going to need it.

Linear Girl
Linear Girl
9 years ago
Reply to  CMN

Have you considered bringing up the subject along the lines of “Mom, did you realize we’ve given you $x,xxx over the last three years? I want to help you learn to budget better because we can’t continue to give you this money indefintely.” It’s a sticky conversation, but one to have now because you’re creating a pattern that could continue for decades. It will be easier to talk now while than it will when/if you reach a breaking point.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Linear Girl

I like this approach: It clarifies how much money has been given (who wouldn’t want to “forget” how much she’d taken?) and also puts her on notice that this cannot continue.
Diplomatic, yet realistic. Nice.

Darla
Darla
9 years ago

I’ve a friend of almost 30 years who is married with four kids and is ALWAYS in financial trouble. The rescuer in me has written many checks, never as loans, just as gifts. I know financial hardship — been there done that. But throughout the years I’ve noticed a pattern with her. It’s ALWAYS someone else’s fault she is in trouble, it is never her bad choices. I’ve always felt fortunate because I made more than she did and my life seemed easier. It wasn’t until lately that I stepped back and started paying attention to the pattern. Even though… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Darla

I did a column on that, too:
http://money.msn.com/family-money/your-best-friends-bank-you-freedman.aspx
For what it’s worth, I think you’re making the right decision. Giving her money won’t help her in the long run (i.e., what will she do when she’s burned all her bridges?) and is causing your own stomach to knot.
Good luck — and don’t be surprised if your friend is cool to you in the future or drops you entirely. Sad to say, some people are friendly only when their needs are being met.

Dr. Jason Cabler (@DrCabler)
Dr. Jason Cabler (@DrCabler)
9 years ago

You are what is called an “enabler”. That’s ok, though, you were trying to be kind to a friend. We pretty much all have been an enabler to someone for some reason. Usually we are trying to help but what ends up happening is that we keep feeding the bad behavior/decisions that got them there in the first place. It gives them the false notion that there will always be someone there to bail them out. Unfortunately, people don’t grow when they are bailed out, and growth is what’s needed here. Eventually these people will have to stand on their… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago

I know that I am, which is why I used the word “enabling” in the post. But no more.

Bareheadedwoman
Bareheadedwoman
9 years ago

okay with the friends and siblings…but although I often see comments about parents with article author commiserations, I rarely (if ever, can’t recall one other than JD’s mother’s stories) see any articles which address PARENTS. Just exactly how do you say no to an 80 year old who was forced into early retirement and then lived much longer than was expected with two bouts with cancer whom cannot pay rent in a rent controlled apartment whom relies on you to make up whatever shortfall in the month (while making other poor, but ultimately small choices–everything is a small choice on… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago

On the face of it, no one should refuse to help his parents. However, things are not always simple. Some of the people I interviewed for the MSN Money column had very good reasons for wanting to stop bailing out Mom and Dad. I’m not talking about paying for Dad’s newspaper because it’s such a treat in a life that’s very difficult. I’m talking about parents who refuse to cut back their lifestyles and expect their kids to make up the difference. I liked the advice given by one expert: To figure out what (if anything) you can offer your… Read more »

CincyCat
CincyCat
9 years ago

What is said above re: “government taking pensions” is true. My mom is on partial disability, and her out-of-pocket medical spend-down is exactly equal to her portion of dad’s pension (they are divorced). I have private insurance and my oop obligation is only a fraction of what the government expects her to pay out of pocket. It’s ridiculous. She’d actually be financially better off letting the pension go and going on full disability – and what sense does that make???

Ely
Ely
9 years ago

I think your dad’s situation is different. He’s not crying for you to pay his rent while he spends his income on toys or partying. Unlike “Monica,” he is genuinely doing all he can, and it’s not enough. If you can help him, do it.

If you can’t… that’s a whole other problem. Good luck to you and your dad.

Linear Girl
Linear Girl
9 years ago

I think your dad’s situation *seems* like the friend situation, but I don’t see it that way. I think the real question you’re facing is more along the lines of “how entangled am I willing to be in my father’s life?” If you and your dad were just numbers on a page, you could work through various scenarios of where you could each live, separately or together, how adding one person to a household for food, toiletries, etc., would affect the bottom line. Would there be significant changes to transportation budgets? Entertainment? Communication? Then you’d chose the least expensive solution… Read more »

jlg3rd
jlg3rd
9 years ago

NEVER loan money to anyone! It’s a horrible idea and 99% of the time it doesn’t work. The unfortunate truth of the issue is that most people who are in a situation like Monica’s need to fail in order to understand how money works. Sometimes when you lying face in the gutter the only place to look is up.

Pamela
Pamela
9 years ago

Terrific post, Donna, for encapsulating the most important lesson of lending: you can’t change anyone else; you can only take care of yourself. I was building a small business when we determined that my mentally ill mother-in-law needed more financial support than we could provide with me starting a business. I took my current job to build some support for her into our budget. Yes, she made some irresponsible decisions with the money she had control over. And yes, she could have applied some of what she spent on trinkets and presents to her cost of living. But in the… Read more »

Robert+Zaleski
Robert+Zaleski
9 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

I think it’s a bit different helping someone elderly who is struggling with other issues versus people who think they are entitled to more. Love is doing what’s best for the other. That’s not ensuring they can spend money on whatever they want, that rarely leads people to more happiness. So instead of enabling them to fail, you have to be stern most of the time. We cross wire the two way too often, and let ourselves be guilted for not wanting to do something others think we should, simply because we are prepared. It’s true someone may have a… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Robert+Zaleski

Perfect storms do exist, but you’re right that a lot of people blame “bad luck” for situations that stem from poor money habits.

Well Heeled Blog
Well Heeled Blog
9 years ago

I’ve only loaned small amounts to friends (who have since forgotten about the loans and I’ve mentally written off the money). My mom always told me to never lend more than you can lose, which strikes me as an incredibly smart piece of advice. Also, because money is fungible, it doesn’t really matter what your friend do with the money *you* lent them – it’s all into the common pot. I don’t want to feel like I’m judging their every expenditure, so I think if my friends need help, I am going to do my best helping them in non-monetary… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago

I’ve lent/given to family and will continue to do so. But if family members were living the way Monica is, I’d have to change the way I loan/give. I might buy groceries vs. sending a check, or see if I could make a payment against outstanding utility bills. And I would gently but firmly let the family member know that my bailout days would be coming to an end unless I noticed changes in spending habits. I would resent helping make up someone’s rent if that person had gone to a casino or bought courtside tickets at a basketball game… Read more »

Geek
Geek
9 years ago

These types of posts make me shudder – perhaps I’m extremely selfish. I’d take care of my parents or brother and let them move in with me, or I’d help out a child (of mine, if I had any) until they proved undependable. No money-handing-over otherwise. *Shudder*

Tom
Tom
9 years ago

Wawa, Tastykake, people buying snowblowers for snow that comes every 3 years, catholic grade school… sounds like you were in Delaware 🙂

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Close. South Jersey.

cc
cc
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

please, help the hungry- send a wawa junior meatball sub and a butterscotch krimpet up to nyc. i haven’t been near either of those in far too many years 🙁

at least eat some krimpets for me 😀

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  cc

I have a family pack box of krimpets in my dad’s fridge even as we speak.
Well, PART of a box. 😉
Maybe I’ll get a hoagie for dinner. Once I get back to Seattle it’ll be back to frugal lockdown, but today I’ll get a shorti Italian hoagie, by gum.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Dang! I was gonna say Maryland. Close.

I actually miss Utz crab chips, Yuengling beer, and seafood. MMM, SEAFOOD. (I live in the desert. Prices are absurd.)

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Herrs sour cream and onion chips, please. Or maybe Wise onion-garlic chips.
And hoagies (Italian or meatball), cheesesteaks, Italian water ice (“wooder” ice), frozen custard, Silver Queen corn, soft pretzels from the Reading Terminal, “monster” cookies from the Amish bakery at the RT…but I’ll skip the shoo-fly pie and scrapple, thanks.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Ha ha ha– I like scrapple! Great with a couple of eggs after drinking and a show at the Recher Theatre in Towson (there used to have good shows there, once upon a time–maybe they still do).

Anyway, since you didn’t like it, you might enjoy this little website:

http://www.chickenhead.com/stuff/scrapple/index.html

It’s an internet classic. 1998 and still awesome!

(totally unrelated, here’s another gem in that site:
http://chickenhead.com/stuff/outrage/
have fun composing letters!
)

Random+Anonymous
Random+Anonymous
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

I heard someone point out that sCRAPple has a word hidden inside, but that hasn’t stopped me from eating it.

Kevin M
Kevin M
9 years ago

This story hits home for me. We went through a similar experience and also like you have vowed to stop enabling the person. Our “snowblower moment” happened to be an iPhone and an American Girl doll…I don’t even have a freakin’ iPhone!

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin M

It feels like a slap in the face: You risked lending this person money to help out, and the response is to treat himself to an iPhone?
Sigh.

RosaMN
RosaMN
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

I learned, from experience with a friend, that even though it feels like a slap in the face, it’s not. If she could make better decisions, and not have to live with the constant drama – the fear of being evicted, the fear of running out of food, the fear of failing her children, the fear ofher coworkers seeing her credit rejected, the fear of her car being taken away – she totally would. But she can’t. She actually treats her creditors better than herself, by eventually paying the money back when she is always in want herself. Some people… Read more »

Ben
Ben
9 years ago

My sister was like this. She’s almost 40 years old. She would make up some excuse (like owing the taxman money) to hit us up for a loan. Then she would slowly pay it back over a couple of years without interest. A couple of payments bounced. In the meantime, she would be out shopping, buying stuff. Luckily, she has only done that twice. Unfortunately for my parents, she borrow money from them but never paid it back.

Hannah
Hannah
9 years ago

I don’t lend money to family, I outright give it. I’m not exactly happy about it, but when they have medical bills and live in the middle of nowhere and need gas money I just can’t say no. I do have concerns about their choices, a phone that could cost them a lot less a month if they gave up the packages, cigarettes that are only making their health worse, etc. But I decided a while ago that the extra line in my budget to get them what they need was worth them being able to feel like they have… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Hannah

You’re a kind person, Hannah. You say you can afford it now. I assume you’re looking out for your retirement et al.?
If not, then pull back the donations and put that oxygen mask ON, lady.
P.S. I like to send a gift card or a little cash to another relative, an about-to-be-single mom, “just because.” It gives her one night that week when she won’t have to cook and clean up after a long day of teaching. That makes me happy.

Andrea
Andrea
9 years ago

I had a friend who made more money than my husband and I did combined. She was always in financial trouble- spent money like water- for things she “needed”- weekly massage, most meals out, trips and then retired early! I had lent her money in the past- and never saw it again. Now when she says she has no money and says (in a disaparging way)”you are so careful with your money” – she hasn’t changed her habits – and hints she could use money- I would never help her. in the past, I talked to her about cooking in… Read more »

Janice Salomon
Janice Salomon
9 years ago

Because of the emotional nature surrounding money added to the emotional nature of relationships, I make it a practice not to borrow or lend money. It’s easy not to lend money as it’s well known among my circle of family/friends that I don’t have any, so no one asks…LOL. And while I have been in situations where I could have borrowed money to make things easier for myself, I have not succumbed to that for the same reason. Easier meaning it could make sense to take a low interest loan from a friend rather than delay paying something and have… Read more »

Jacq
Jacq
9 years ago

I have a friend that used to ask me for money all the time, but spends far more than I do going out to eat and buying electronics and whatnot. They usually paid me back over time, but it still bothers me to be treated by a friend like a credit card if not an ATM (mid-40’s and their own CC’s are constantly maxed out). I finally said that I couldn’t because everything is tied up in stocks and I’d trigger tax implications if I pulled anything out. So I lied. I also get a little tired of all the… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

It’s frustrating to be put in that situation. You worked two jobs for a reason and now it’s assumed that “luck” put you where you are now.
Or how about this one: “It must be nice…”
Gah.

Jason
Jason
9 years ago

Out of college I found myself in a financial bind on a couple of occasions with a bill looming and no idea how to pay for it. Luckily I did have a relative who bailed me out, but in these cases (in addition to this relative helping me take a long hard look at why I was living beyond my means) my aunt insisted that I decide how much I could REALISTICALLY afford to pay her back each pay period, and then she asked that I set up a direct deposit from my payroll to her savings account. She commented… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Jason

Smart lady: She insisted on terms up-front, and stayed with them despite her trepidations on your spending habits.
And now you have a new habit: Making a budget that includes regular payments on an obligation. This will come in handy if you have student loans. (I hope you don’t. They stink.)

Brent
Brent
9 years ago
Reply to  Jason

Yes! Setting up terms is critical to establish how money will be paid back.

Sydney
Sydney
9 years ago
Reply to  Jason

The same thing happened with me, i needed help with buying a car to get to work and a computer for school, so i got two loans, one from each of my grandparents for both things, and over time i pay them each a fixed amount every month, and i’ll probably add a extra payment or two as interest. My question is, if im paying off these debts as i go along, is still alright to spend money on fun things?
thanks
sydney

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Sydney

I would budget for fun — but if it were me (and it isn’t), I would make it a SMALL budget. You owe two different loans and it sounds as though they were decent-sized. Take care of your obligations so that they won’t be hanging over your head. Make extra payments if possible, since in this economy who knows whether a job will last — and wouldn’t it bother you if you became temporarily unemployed and couldn’t make any payments at all? (And if not, WHY not?) And yeah, it might bug your grandparents if they see you living large… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago

Donna–great post, as usual.

However, you weren’t hard enough on Little Debbie. For those of us with (ahem!) weight “issues,” Little Debbie is truly the devil’s spawn.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Tastykakes are Satan’s preferred snack. Dang, they’re good. Probably not as good as I think they are; it’s just that they’re associated with my childhood, when getting a package of krimpets was a Really Big Deal.
To test that theory, I had a couple of cream-filled chocolate cupcakes after my oatmeal this morning.
Nope. They really ARE that good. But of course I will continue to test that theory — all in the interest of science.

Andrea
Andrea
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Seriously, How can anyone compare Little Debbie’s to Tastycakes!!

Lee
Lee
9 years ago

I am the primary lender at the local bank of parental bailouts. I have a little different twist on the story though. My mom is terminally ill and her heathcare is very expensive. I know she can’t work (she did all of her life and now physically can’t), and I know my father’s job covers the house and groceries. I have been paying the electric and other expenses for about a year now and I have to say, I would rather do that than add more stress to my mom’s life. It’s not a loan, I’m not expecting any inheritance.… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Lee

I’m so sorry to hear of your mother’s illness. Cancer took my mom eight years ago last month. Treasure every moment you have.
You are not an enabler. You’re doing what, as you say, is the right thing to do.

Erika
Erika
9 years ago
Reply to  Lee

Lee – it doesn’t sound like you’re an enabler to me, unless your parents are consistently mismanaging money. Sounds like they have what they have, and you are helping them. I think budgeting for helping people, especially family, with a limited income is very different than lending money to people who clearly wouldn’t need it if they managed their finances better.

SEinSF
SEinSF
9 years ago
Reply to  Lee

Lee, I think your situation is quite different and that you are not an enabler at all. I think you’re doing the honorable thing in this situation by helping out your parents. Your parents are not wasting the money you give them on bad food or booze or cell phones and then turning around ot ask for more. Your situation is very different so please don’t feel any guilt or doubt about helping your parents. You’re not helping them dig themselves into a deeper hole, you’re providing comfort and support to people who deserve it. Good luck! Please take care!

Holly
Holly
9 years ago

I’ve never seen anyone turn around their financial life , sadly. Based upon the habits of some family members I expect to be asked for help at some point in the future when misfortune hits. My approach is to budget for it, with regular small automatic deposits to a passbook savings account.

Catherine
Catherine
9 years ago

I hope it was Butterscotch Krimpet.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Catherine

All other varieties of krimpets are pretenders to the throne.

E. Murphy
E. Murphy
9 years ago

What makes you hair-pulling crazy is that the reason we HAVE money to lend is self denial. The more years of self denial, the more money. When some family members realize you actually have money in the bank, miracle of miracles, they assume it fell out of the sky and should be shared.

I know some people have had hard lives, I’VE had a hard life. I still managed to put some money in the bank for bad times.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  E. Murphy

Agreed. It’s what help balance out the guilt I felt, i.e., “But I have the money and they don’t” was ultimately overridden by, “And WHY do I have the money to lend? Because I’m careful about how I spend.”

Angie
Angie
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Goes back to what you said earlier in the comments, “it must be nice.”

I second the Gah! on that :/

Shawn G
Shawn G
9 years ago

I’m one of the successful family lending stories. My parents lent my wife and I a good amount of money. We didn’t ask, they offered. We paid them back in less than a year with interest because we felt it was the right thing to do. Owing my parents money was not a good feeling though, and I wanted to make sure we got it paid back as soon as feasible. While we definitely benefited from their loan, I will never borrow money from anyone again. Not all people feel this way, and that’s when problems arise. Not to mention,… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Shawn G

I’ve got nothing against loans per se. I recently made one to my daughter and son-in-law so they could put a bigger down payment on a replacement car after theirs was totaled in an accident. (Not their fault; someone coming out of a parking lot without looking slammed into them.)
Not all loans are created equal.

Caterina63
Caterina63
9 years ago

My husband and I had a situation with our son who was in his 30’s and was at the time still living at home. We both loaned him a money for various situations he had got himself into. We co-signed on his car loans at least 3 times. Thousands. Car loans, Car Repairs, tickets, etc. He finally moved out and is living with yet another woman. He still maintains he does not owe us anything. We still pay for his cell phone which is on our family plan till 11-12. He quit or was fired from his job and is… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Caterina63

Oh, boy. I’m so sorry that you and your husband are in this situation. Here’s my two cents, and you’re probably not going to like hearing it: “Time to move on. But how can we?” By closing the bank. By changing the locks. By taking his extension off your family plan. By saying, when he shows up hungry, “Well, we’re just fixing dinner. It should be ready by the time you finish mowing the lawn.” Somehow he’s picked up quite a sense of entitlement. As long as you keep going along with him, he’ll continue to use you. Why not?… Read more »

Bareheadedwoman
Bareheadedwoman
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

can’t deal with an aged parent’s “sense of entitlement” the same way as a wayward son’s…even if it manifests the same. In a sense, their entitlement is justified put in a “I took care of you your whole life, and bailed you out at specific times when you are in trouble…now it is your turn until I die simply because while I am not fatally sick, I am too old and frail to help myself in the recognized means–and am disinclined to try and help myself because I am old and frail and that’s why I had kids…. It’s a… Read more »

FrugalTexasGal
FrugalTexasGal
9 years ago
Reply to  Caterina63

Ill jump in here…you can separate the contract and make him take care of his portion of the phone. Tell him he hs to do that (you release it from the phone co, he calls and takes it on). Tell him if he cannot, then youll eat the cost of cancelling it early and do so. My life is far from perfect at the moment (she says as she counts pennies and waits for the finnancial aid to be desposited to her account). However, I have a 32 year old living with me temporarily before going overseas, and a 22… Read more »

Linear Girl
Linear Girl
9 years ago
Reply to  Caterina63

The only thing your son owes you is any money he promised to pay but hasn’t, though I wouldn’t expect you’ll ever get it. The only thing you owe your son is – nothing. Working on the assumption that you love your son, I’d recommend the following suggestions: 1. Give him 30 days notice that you’re cancelling his phone service, then follow through. 2. Make every arrangement with him explicit. If he’s invited for dinner, then feed him. If he’s offered to mow the lawn, than that’s all that will happen. If he wants to earn money, he does the… Read more »

Laura
Laura
9 years ago

I go with the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Unless it’s painfully obvious at the outset that the debtor is going to squander my money (e.g., drinkin’ & whorin’), everyone gets one chance to prove they can borrow then repay. If I’ve been screwed once, that’s enough. As for how to approach it, perhaps this is just me, but I think you can enable someone not only with your money but with an overkind approach to refusing. Depending on my past history with the debtor and my mood, I will either respond,… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I bet it doesn’t.

Laura
Laura
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

True, but OTOH I realize that all the deadbeats in my life have faded away, probably as a result of my bluntness. My family (who are just as blunt as I am) respect my financial boundaries and my friends now are wonderful people who don’t test them.

If someone would break off a friendship because you won’t loan them more money, they’re not really a friend. Most businesses already see me not as a person but as a wallet filled with money to transfer to them; I prefer that my friends don’t do the same.

Tracy W
Tracy W
9 years ago
Reply to  Laura

What’s the saying? If you lend someone $20 and you never see them again, you got a good deal.

Ana
Ana
9 years ago

Money was always a problem between my mother and I after I married and moved out. It got to the point where she’d ask me for money to cover her bills and I’d physically get the bills, pay them but not give her cash. Money was one of the reasons we’ve stopped talking (she continues to support my deadbeat, unemployed, constantly in trouble brother – always a source of tension) and it became a nightmare.

Michele
Michele
9 years ago

My husband and I had a mess of finances for years. We just didn’t know how to budget and my parents saw us foundering.We actually ended up in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. They loaned us money to get our act together, helped us to set up a budget, and although it took a while, we paid back every penny to my parents and through the Trustee. It was one of the worst times in my life, because I felt so inadequate. My parents were so kind to us and supportive during that time. They still treated us as beloved children, but… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Michele

I never said it was a bad thing to lend to family members. As noted above, I’ve made loans to family members.
I simply questioned when it’s time to STOP lending. The answer will vary, because every case is different, whether the money is for family or friends.
Your parents gave you a lasting gift by helping you but also insisting that you help yourselves.

Adam P
Adam P
9 years ago
Reply to  Michele

I hope you paid your parents back! And if they wouldn’t accept it, then buy them a cruise with the money or something!

Samantha
Samantha
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

They did pay back her parents: “although it took a while, we paid back every penny to my parents and through the Trustee”

the other Tammy
the other Tammy
9 years ago

An elderly lady I know gives HALF her monthly Social Security income to her deadbeat son every single month. The son and his wife do not work, get $500 per month in food stamps, plus SSI money, then $850 from his elderly mother. Last month, they used this money to rent a car, drove to a rock concert, boozed the night away, and came home with four of those pricey concert T-shirts. Meanwhile, his mother can’t pay her bills and goes to the local senior center to eat because she can’t afford groceries. She knows she is enabling her son,… Read more »

william
william
9 years ago

Wow, this post hits home on so many points, from the loan/gift/family standpoint to a relocated New Jersian missing Wawa/Tastykake (hard to either find in Appalachia). I recently lost my father who as I learned after he passed had hid debt from my mother who is now bankrupt. I send her what I can monthly whilst saving for my retirement and thrifty lifestyle on a 30K/yr take home salary( small business is small…). She is highly independent and constantly tells me to not worry about her but I am her eldest son and I feel it necessary. BTW she lives… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  william

Bless your heart. You’re doing the right thing. Hope your sib steps up, and soon.

Martin
Martin
9 years ago
Reply to  william

Sounds like you’re waiting for your brother to step up when he may not honestly know it’s expected of him. My mother kept her finances from me for a long time and kept telling me things were fine even as things got tighter and tighter for her. She looked fine, food was in the fridge, lights were on, there was heat in the house, nothing looked out of repair, why should I doubt her? She shared far more in many matters, financially, healthwise, etc. with my eldest sibling than with the rest of us. It wasn’t until he let the… Read more »

Kathryn
Kathryn
9 years ago

Yikes! Familiar story, with the primary difference being *I* was Monica a few years ago! Even down to the lack of emergency fund, catholic grade school and bounced checks. That was as little as four years ago, and today I have zero debt, growing retirement and emergency funds. This is just to say that if anyone is reading today, and hearing about Monica is like hearing about themselves… It is possible to turn it around. And this website has been a big part of my course correction. Many thanks to J.D., all past and present staff writers, behind-the-scenes elves, and… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Kathryn

Hear, hear!

Anonymous
Anonymous
9 years ago

There’s a flip side to this as well – the use of money to control people. I think it may be possible that some people who complain about supporting their offspring/relatives etc. might have an underlying desire to have more control over the lives of these people (of course, not the contributors to this list…8^) I learned the hard way that borrowing can be tough. Many years ago my ex and I borrowed money from his mother for part of a down payment on our first home. We verbally agreed to a payment plan and paid her back the agreed… Read more »

CincyCat
CincyCat
9 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

This is a little off-topic, but yours isn’t the first story I’ve read about an adult child of divorce being a lawyer, and one parent expecting the child to choose sides by being their attorney. Just unbelievable! I’m an adult child of divorce (although not an attorney) and I made it clear upfront that I would not choose sides. Eventually it sunk in that I didn’t want to hear one blessed thing about their divorce proceedings, and they stopped putting me in the middle. It was bliss. (My sister, on the other hand, chose to “be a shoulder” and had… Read more »

Sydney
Sydney
9 years ago

I hate the fact that when my husband lent money to his sister and then she turns around and makes us out to be the bad guys when we ask for some payment back to pay our medical bills. From the start she promised to pay it back the very next month. I knew it was too good to be true. It’s been 3 years since and we have not seen one single cent of payback. The last couple of years we really needed the money back to pay our medical bills and tried to ask for it back nicely,… Read more »

Anne Cross
Anne Cross
9 years ago

I think that if you feel like you have to justify saying “no” to someone (especially someone who isn’t related to you) who’s asking you for money, maybe you need a self-help book yourself on co-dependency.

“No” is a complete sentence — no need to send them books, prevaricate, or explain. When they’re ready to take a different approach to their finances, they will.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

I wasn’t justifying. I was explaining why I’m closing the bank, in the hope that the facts of the matter will help others realize what they’re potentially giving up by making excessive loans.

Tightwad
Tightwad
9 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

Well said Anne. I couldn’t agree more. My family & friends don’t ask me for money because they know I loan money for a living & the interrogation of why they want it & when I’ll be paid back just isn’t worth the hassle. So they don’t even bother to ask.

Angie
Angie
9 years ago
Reply to  Tightwad

Maybe *Anne* and *Tightwad* should’ve written the article.

Ben David
Ben David
9 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

Very important point – especially when dealing with manipulative people.

Miss Manners mentions the “Kafka Romance Dissolver” technique – refusing to give reasons for a breakup, and repeating various wordings of a general “I can’t right now”. It works.

There is no need to justify your decision to these people.

Jeremy Streich
Jeremy Streich
9 years ago

If I have the money, I give it (but I don’t lend it). I will attach requirements for their benefit. I have no problem when someone comes to me asking for help saying something like “I’ll give you the money, for a book report on this personal finance book.”

Erika
Erika
9 years ago

I can defintiely relate with this article. Because my husband & I have gone through DR Total Money Makeover and have established some savings, it seems to me other family members view as human ATM’s. I’ve had both parents and both brothers ask for me and have been mostly repaid, but we loaned my hubby’s dad and wife $6500 to avoid eviction a few years ago– and have only seen $500 of that repaid. It boiled my blood that we loaned $6 out of our retirement but now we just accept it that they aren’t going to pay us back… Read more »

cherie
cherie
9 years ago

Great article and great comments. There is a huge difference between the grasshoppers of the world and people who have TRULY been dealt a bad hand – health issues etc. For the grasshoppers you’ve got it down – it doesn’t help them if you say yes. If you say no it might hurt a bit but you’ll both be better off in the long run. My best friend is always on the ‘edge’ – I’ve lent money – as a gift – I stopped that ages ago – I’ve helped set up budgets on request – still would but they… Read more »

AnnieA
AnnieA
9 years ago

Many years ago I made investments for my two nieces, after my sister took the money I had given her for an RESP spent it on car repairs instead. My older niece was accepted to university, and I told her I had the money for tuition, and that I just needed the information to do an electronic payment to the univesity. “Cool!” said she. The tuition date came and went without my getting the information from the niece. I then got a snippy email from my sister that she and her husband paid the late tuition on their line of… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
9 years ago
Reply to  AnnieA

Did you respond to her? I’d have said, “I’m sorry you were inconvenienced, especially since I told Dear Niece that I would pay the tuition once I had the payment information. If she is willing to send that information to me on time, I’ll apply the funds to next semester’s tuition.”
This is NOT your fault. You offered an incredibly generous gift.

AnnieA
AnnieA
9 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Thanks for the kind words, Donna. Yes, I have sent a note that I am willing to consider paying the next round of tuition. I might ask to see Dear Niece’s marks as well — sad to say, I can’t tell whether her (in)action was the result of Teenage Brain, or no brain at all…

Alyssa
Alyssa
9 years ago
Reply to  AnnieA

Another incidence of parents babying their kids and not readying them for the real world. They’ve got to learn to take care of themselves. I’m 25 and it shocks me the helplessness of some kids in college. Some I know don’t even bother to look up deadlines for applications, then gripe when their apps are late. No Entitlements Allowed At All.

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