My best friend borrowed $500 from me to take care of an emergency situation. We have been friends for over ten years, so I didn’t hesitate giving him the money, nor did I ask what the emergency was. I had it at the time, and I wanted to help out. But it has been six months now and he still has not paid me back or even mentioned the money. I have been trying to give him the opportunity to bring up the subject. We play basketball together every week and see each other often at social events, but he never mentions the money that he owes me. I too recently had an emergency situation where I needed cash and went to call on my friend to see if he had my $500. When I called I found out that he and his wife were away on a cruise. Now I am trying not to overreact, but I am very upset by this and am now questioning what the emergency loan was for. It seems he has extra cash to pay for a vacation, but he can’t repay a loan. How should I approach my friend about paying me back my money and the six months interest it has accrued? — Loan Shark
Dear Loan Shark:
My mother always told me never to let anyone borrow money that I couldn’t afford to lose. In other words, even though there is an expectation that you are to be paid back, you have to assume that there is some chance that you might not. This risk alone makes many people avoid lending money at all. In addition, you should have solidified the terms of the loan up front and been specific about when you expected to be paid back, or at least asked when your friend would be able to repay the loan.
Lending money can become sticky, especially when you are not sure what the money will be used for. The term “emergency” is relative. What’s an emergency to one person may not be an emergency to someone else. For instance, I know a friend who borrowed money from a mutual friend for a quote-unquote emergency that turned out to be a dress that was on sale at Macy’s. Now to me that is not a real emergency, well unless it was the last one and it was her size (just kidding – LOL). But to me an emergency is a life-threatening or life-altering situation that is out of one’s control. In this case you trusted your friend and didn’t even ask what the emergency was, so even if he used your loan for a down payment for his cruise you really cannot get upset after the fact.
Yes I think it’s wrong that your friend is enjoying a vacation and seems oblivious to the fact that he owes you money, but I also think you were wrong for letting the issue go on for so long. It seems you had plenty of opportunities to address and resolve the issue. You should always be careful lending money to family and friends because relationships can be affected by the terms or breach of the loan agreement. Certainly your 10-year friendship is worth more than $500. Try to keep a cool head and talk with your friend about the money. And make sure you get the money in your hand before you talk too crazy!
Next time, do your friend a favor by not allowing him to be in a position to jeopardize your friendship…don’t lend him any money!
Author of the upcoming book Been There Done That: And Lived to Tell About It (due out Spring 2011),Tamara R. Allen is Your Advice Guru giving REAL advice from REAL experience. Email your questions to [email protected]. You can follow Tamara on twitter @tamararallen or check out her daily column and archives at www.tamararallen.com.