Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Borrowed Money

I did the worst thing ever, the thing they tell you never to do. I lent money to a friend. Ugh.

Quite a large sum, in fact. It all started with a phone call and a desperate voice on the other end. B had been my best friend in high school, and although our lives went opposite directions (she turned up pregnant as a freshman in college, married her high school sweetheart and did the nuclear family thing way too quickly; I didn't marry for another 13 years beyond that, had a career and no children....), we always managed to stay in touch and enjoy each other despite long periods of absence and very different lives.

Then suddenly, the desperate phone call comes. I knew she had probably struggled with money because she was the family bread winner while her husband seemed to piddle around with nothing jobs (and often no job). But her parents had money (mine didn't), and I knew they'd helped her out over the years, so while I figured she wasn't rolling in cash, I thought she was probably doing okay. She'd never alluded to the fact that she wasn't.

Usually a gregarious presence, this quivering upset voice immediately alerted me that something was amiss. She poured into how tough things had gotten, that she was up to her ears in debt, and if she could just get this little lump paid off, her life would be very different. I asked about her parents, and her answer implied that she could no longer go to them for money...for whatever reason....and it became clear that I was her last resort. My mind ran to the irony of the situation -- as children, I had nothing and she had quite a lot. Now, as adults, our economic positions seemed to be reversed.

We talked ad nauseum about her situation, why she had ended up this way, and if I was able to lend her the money, how could I be sure that this would fix the problem, change her life (as she insisted) and ensure that we all live happily ever after? Or would it just finance and slow down a continued spiral because of issues with the very basics of their finances (too much spending, not enough income). She assured me that if she could just get this one monkey off her back, things would turn around for her. This one thing was something she just couldn't dig herself out of, and if she could just pay that off, she'd be back on track.

After much discussion in my household and against our better judgement, we agreed to lend her the money and on some very attractive terms -- no interest, 3 year payback, and we told her not to start paying us back for the next six months, to give herself a breather and a cushion. It was not a good decision, but we both agreed that God had been good to us, and if we couldn't help our family and friends with it, what good was it anyway. So we did it officially, with paperwork she had to sign, copies for both of us, etc. And the deed was done.

Six months later, like clockwork, the first payment arrived with a note from her. I was happy to think that we'd done some good and life was easier for her now.

The next month, no check. No phone call. No email response. So I let a few weeks go by, and I called her. She was mealy-mouthed, less than forthcoming. She chatted on and on about nothing for a while before she happened upon the 'fact' that oops - she'd "forgotten" to mail me a payment. I raised an eyebrow at that. A check arrived within a few more weeks.

Since then, I should have received six checks total; I've received two. No phone call, no communication. I'm a little perturbed, some at her, but mostly at me for going against my better judgement and lending her the money. Again, it was with good intentions of helping a friend, not a business decision at all. So it is what it is.

While I'm not aching for the money, I am disappointed that my friend seems to have put repayment (and my importance) at the bottom of her priorities. While I'm sure she is still struggling with money and that this didn't "fix" the problem as she pleaded it would, I still feel she at least owes me some form of communication each month to tell me how things are going. I feel like it was okay to call me and share intimate issues when she was desperate and wanted something, but now, when she's not, she doesn't take the time to keep me in the loop. Read: I'm not important now. In addition, I'm certain she probably wants to avoid talking to me, as she'll feel she needs to offer an explanation, and I'm quite sure she doesn't have one, except that her expenses are not in line with her income. Still.

I'm truly not a ruthless person or a bad friend, but I would have a lot more understanding and sympathy if she'd just reach out and tell me that things were still not good (for whatever reason) and that she'll try to make it up later, if that's okay. It would be, by the way. But I'm not hearing from her. At all.

So, I'm going to have to rattle her cage again soon, and I don't like having to do that. 'They' tell you to never lend money to a friend. That's good practice to follow, but it's pretty hard to do when there's a desperate, quivering voice on the other end of the phone, and you know you have the ability to help. 'They' never tell you what to do when that happens, do they?


Girl With The Golden Touch said...

Sorry to hear about this hun. Kinda same sorta thing, I am wanting to move out with a friend but I do not trust her money wise and am scared signing the lease that she will just up and leave one day, dont know what to do, and I was planning on paying her half of the deposit so she can pay it back. After reading this, Im having 2nd thoughts.

Keep us updated X

M said...

I truly believe money and friends don't mix. Having said that, I broke my own rule here. So I can't be too surprised at the result.

Before we made the loan, my hubby and I agreed that we may never see the money again, and we had to be able to live with that or not do it at all. If we actually get paid back, I'll consider it found money.

Regardless, this situation has hurt our friendship. She's put me in a weird situation, from start to finish on this one.

Miss Forthright said...

It's bad that she hasn't even had the curteousy to tell you what's going on, M.

I must admit I owe my ex-boyfriend money, but he knows I am already paying back hundreds in debt each month and I'll give it to him when I'm able.

M said...

That's really all I want is for her to treat this like it's important and keep me updated on what's going on. I can assure you if it was a bank she owed, they would insist on knowing, and she'd be prompt about keeping them updated. But because it's a friend, she's taking advantage, and I thought she'd be the last person on the planet to do that.

Pressure brings out true character, and in this case, it's pretty disappointing.

Caroline said...

This is a situation where there is no other place other than between a rock and a hard place. You can say I won't do it, but how do you tell a friend 'no'??

M said...

True enough. She put me in an bad situation by asking me the way she did. If I'd said 'no', I'd be a bad friend; I've said 'yes', but now I have to chase her down about it, which also puts me in a bad place. It's a no-win situation, really. I wouldn't recommend it.

SandDancer said...

That's an awful situation t be in - I don't know what else you could have done really and I think in your place, I'd probably have done the same.

Whilst it must be hard for her to admit she's messed up again, she was able to swallow her pride enough to ask you for the money in the first place, so really should have the courage and decency to offer you an explanation now.