Last year, I loaned my adult son several thousand dollars while he was laid off during the pandemic. Now he has returned to work, gotten a very good raise and received all of his retroactive unemployment benefits.
Meanwhile, we are struggling, unable to do home repairs and even had a cut in pay. While he is aware of all of this, he has not made any attempt or even mentioned his obligation to repay me but spends lavishly.
I am becoming resentful. How can I approach this without hurting my relationship?
Dear Broke Mom,
Your relationship with your son is already hurting. It doesn’t work if he thinks everything is hunky dory, and you are secretly nursing hurt and resentment over thousands of dollars that have yet to be returned. Both parties need to be happy, transparent and honest for a relationship to work.
Generally, you loan money to friends or relatives with the knowledge that you may never see that money again. Ever. It’s like investing in the stock market or gambling. There is no guarantee. However, always sign a notarized loan agreement, especially with a family member, and give the borrower a timeline to return the money.
Your son is operating on the principle of Bob Mankoff’s famous New Yorker cartoon, featuring a man in an office on the phone, telling someone something that many of us have longed to tell people : “How about never — is never good for you?” In this case, never is not good enough.
So where does that leave you? Now might be a good time to say to your son: “It’s great to see you back on your feet, and we’re so happy about your new job. Your father and I think this would be a good time to return the money we loaned you last year.” You don’t need a reason to ask, but tell him about your bills if he balks.
Imagine asking a bank for a loan, and then telling your bank manager, “But you know what I’m like. I get carried away and distracted by life. I know you want it back, but I’ve had a lot on my plate lately.” This was a loan given in good faith — and the longer you say nothing, the more likely your son will treat it as a gift.
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