Updated on 06.20.08

Review: Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?

Trent Hamm

Each Friday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance book of interest.

isn't it?I’ve always found social issues revolving around money to be infinitely fascinating. Why don’t people talk openly about money? Why do people loan money to friends and family, knowing quite well that if that loan blows up, their friendship is done? Why do some people consider it socially fine to be cheap, while others throw such heavy disdain upon it?

Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check? focuses in like a laser beam on these social money issues. The subtitle really sums it up: Dealing with All of the Trickiest Money Problems Between Family and Friends – from Serial Borrowers to Serious Cheapskates.

The book has a light tone and a lot of advice on handle these uncomfortable situations, but does it offer enough meat to really make it a compelling read?

A Deeper Look at Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?

I’ll confess up front – I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It was a very fun read, loaded with anecdotes and situations that I can easily visualize in my own personal and social life. Most of the book is filled with a series of questions and answers that focus in on specific situations – I’ll pick out one or two from each chapter that piqued my interest.

1. I’ll Take the Flu
Whenever family and friends intersect with money issues, it’s uncomfortable. According to Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?, when asked whether they’d rather have the flu or have a relative ask them for a large loan, more than two thirds prefer the flu – and I don’t blame them. A loan between family members is uncomfortable and often ends in complete disaster.

2. Take My Relatives, Please!
Here, Fleming and Schwarz mostly focus in on how the spending habits of relatives often intrude on our own lifestyle choices. For example, one issue focused on in the chapter is that of a parent who is spending lavishly in her final years, blowing what would be a sizable inheritance that the children had been planning for financially. Their response? It’s not their money, it’s her money to do with what she chooses (unless it makes her financially dependent on them). What about a cheapskate brother? It’s only cheapskate behavior if it’s uneven – if he gives “cheap” gifts, but doesn’t complain when others give him nice gifts, then it’s not cool, but if he gives “cheap” gifts but asks to only receive inexpensive gifts or none at all, then you’re just pushing your own values on him. Interesting advice.

3. Borrowers and Lenders Behaving Badly
What about lending within families? It’s a pretty obvious no-no, but people still tend to do it anyway. Through the questions and answers in this chapter, a pretty clear policy emerges: don’t lend money unless you feel genuinely obligated to (for example, if that person lent you money in the past), but when you do, keep it private and don’t expect repayment, but if you are repaid, accept it graciously. This avoids most of the pitfalls that you might fall into when lending money to family and friends.

4. To Lend or Not to Lend
So, are there ever situations when it’s okay to lend money to family and friends? There are, but they’re rare (at least in my experience). The authors advise that you only lend money to people if you believe they actually need it, believe they’re reliable, are close to them, and if you’re confident they’ll make a serious effort to pay you back. And you don’t have to be consistent, either – because you lend money to one niece doesn’t mean you have to lend money to another, though you should be able to clearly explain why one is fine and the other isn’t. I still think lending money within families is a pretty dodgy idea.

5. That’s Not How I Remember It
Verbal agreements are bad when lending money within the family. That’s the story of this chapter – if you lend money without getting it written down on paper, then it might as well be a gift. Fleming and Schwarz advise writing all of the details down on paper: the total amount, the interest, when it needs to start being repaid, what the repayment plan looks like – then having all parties sign enough copies of the agreement so that everyone can keep a copy. While that’s probably overkill for small loans, it’s a great idea if you’re lending significant cash to a family member.

6. Rich Brother, Poor Brother
Whenever there’s financial inequality in families, it eventually causes some problems. Social circles and customs begin to change, people become jealous, and expectations begin to be altered. The advice here mostly revolves around taking responsibility for your own situation and not worrying about the situation of others. Thus, for example, a rich brother shouldn’t be expected to cover the expenses of a brother who chose a low-paying career (though it’s just fine if the brother chooses to – it just shouldn’t be an expectation). Just keep your eye on your own ball and put it in the best position you can, and assume that your family is doing the same.

7. Rich Friend, Poor Friend
That advice works well for families, but what about for friendships? Fleming and Schwartz mostly believe that if a money difference is starting to become a problem in the friendship, talk about it. That’s why you’re friends, right? However, there’s a hidden problem at work here: it’s not just a resource difference, but a status difference. Almost every social situation is tied into social status, and when income becomes disparate, often status does as well. Don’t be afraid to honestly talk things over, and also don’t be afraid if friendships slowly drift apart over time – if people begin to spend their time in different worlds, it’s bound to happen.

8. When Gifts Come with Strings
Giving a gift with strings attached is pretty cheesy, as you’re just begging for an extra dollop of resentment on top of that gift. On the other hand, if you choose to accept such a gift with strings attached, don’t fight to break the strings – that makes the person that gave you the gift resent you even more. In other words, gifts with strings attached, particularly ones that make the recipient uncomfortable, aren’t cool, and there’s no such thing as an “implied” string, either. If you want to give your grandson $100 for his college education, start a 529. Don’t just put $100 in a card.

9. Promises, Promises
What about unfulfilled promises? The failure of expectations can be devastating for relationships of all kinds, when something believed to be promised doesn’t appear. Are there situations where this is appropriate? Fleming and Schwarz argue that there are many situations with changed circumstances where it’s appropriate to break a promise. One such example revolves around a person who promised to provide for the care of a younger sibling when their parents passed away, but now that sibling is a reckless adult, bringing negative consequences into the household. In events like these, Schwarz and Fleming encourage the breaking of a promise, because the situation has transformed from when the promise was made. Their key advice is to not make a promise that you know you might be unable to keep, like promising someone that they can live with you as long as they’d like.

10. What Are We Going to Do about Our Wills?
Many people go through a lot of consternation and guilt when deciding who they should leave money and assets to in their will (or trust). I wholly agree with Fleming and Schwarz: it’s your money, do with it what you want, but you should have the moral fiber to be willing to tell everyone involved the decision you made and why to their face – and listen to what they think of it, too. If you’re doing things in a secret fashion or doing things unevenly without telling everyone why, you’re basically writing a guarantee that the people you’re leaving things to won’t get along after you pass on. I strongly agree with this. I’ve witnessed the complete destruction of familial relations between several siblings because their mother, when she passed, left an item that they all treasured solely to one daughter.

11. Beneficiaries and Their Great Expectations
What about the reverse situation, when you’re a beneficiary and you feel there are unethical things going on with the estate? Again, the key is communication – talk about it, don’t let it fester. Remember that the aging person has a right to spend and bequeath their money as they see fit, so you generally don’t have a strong position to stand on if you feel you’re being “ripped off” by that person’s money decisions. The best solution is usually just to ask questions so that you understand what exactly is going on.

12. After the Funeral, Who Gets What?
Most wills usually have an unhappy surprise or two laying in wait for the people expecting to get inheritances, and how these inheritances are handled often can make a big difference in whether hard feelings exist in a family or not. If someone feels like something is unfair, whether unfair to themselves or not, speak up and state your case. Letting stuff fester isn’t going to help anyone. Legally, you have to follow the wishes of the will, but in a healthy family situation, people will make things right.

13. Neighbors from Hell (and Other Places)
How do you handle obnoxious neighbors? I put a pretty large premium on good relations with my neighbors, as I’ve seen time and time again how having a friend next door can be an enormous help in a pinch. But what if they’re just foul people who do things that reduce your property value or cause you to have unnecessary hardship, like parking a car in your driveway or letting their dog poop in your yard. As usual, don’t let it fester. Swallow your feelings, go over there, and talk about the problem. If it doesn’t go away but it’s not a legal problem, then you may have to take matters into your own hands with a privacy fence or something similar, but try to talk through the problem first.

14. You Did What to My Car?
Here, Schwarz and Fleming focus on the implications of lending items to friends and family, or when family members cause damage to your property and just blow it off. In short, any time someone treats your property as though it’s their own and doesn’t step up to the plate to keep it in good shape, there’s a problem. Their advice? Always make it as right as you can if you break or damage something that belongs to a friend, and then you have the right to expect the same from them. If your child, for example, breaks something at a friend’s house and you don’t replace it, you have no right to expect a replacement if they accidentally break one of your items.

15. Let’s Break a Deal
Deals between family are made all the time, and are broken all the time, too. You promise to go on a vacation with friends, they put up the deposit for you, and then you’re unable to go. You’re late paying back a loan, or someone wants you to pay back a loan early. These things happen all the time, and the best way to deal with them is to try to do what you can to make it right, whether you’re the person on the hook or you’re the person with the hook. Recognize that the other person has needs, too, and suggest an equitable arrangement. If your actions are leaving someone hanging (like in the deposit example), do what you can to make it right by paying for at least your half of the deposit if not all of it.

16. The Wedding Bill Blues
So many people get emotionally tied up in weddings and the costs easily spiral way out of control, bruising feelings and relationships. The best way to plan for a wedding is for everyone involved to be clear on what their expectations are, and everyone who is paying a bill should be involved in that decision. So, if mom and dad are paying for all or part of the ceremony, they should be involved in the decision to buy $100 champagne. If you’ve asked bridesmaids to participate, they should be involved in the dress selection process both as a group and individually, so if you’re asking them to spend more than they can afford, they can tell you honestly without creating a social situation. Be aware that there are others who are impacted by your wedding choices, and be considerate of them, but if you’re afraid of being drug along for the ride, just ask what’s entailed in being a bridesmaid (or whatever role you’re filling).

17. Parents and Kids
The relationship between parent and child is often very complicated, and this chapter addresses many such issues. The one that really caught my eye was the advice concerning how to handle expensive lessons for a talented child without fostering sibling jealousy. Their advice was (as usual) spot on: go for the lessons, but not at the expense of denying things that the other child might want. Their example basically said that lessons are fine, but not if the other sibling has to give up the basketball camp they’ve been dreaming about. The key, as usual, is balance, and with your children, you need to balance attention and care, regardless of individual talents.

18. Cheating on the Friendship
Ever had a friend take complete advantage of your friendship by mooching off of you repeatedly, or only calling you out of the blue every once in a while when they want something? It stinks, doesn’t it? My view is a bit harsher than the authors of this book: I take such mooching to be a sign that the friendship is over (or nearly so) and thus I don’t often respond when it becomes clear that I’m just being used for something. The authors mostly just say that you should be up front about any such fairness issues if the friendship is still close, or just quietly let things drop if it’s a long lost friend calling up and asking for something.

19. Living with the Thieves of Kindness
The advice in this chapter really boils down to a catch-all for most situations not covered elsewhere: learn to say no.

Some Thoughts on Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?

I was left with several thoughts while reading Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check? Here are a few of the more interesting ones.

The root cause of most problems that spring up because of money is lack of communication. To me, the real result of society’s unwillingness to talk openly about money issues is a lot of hurt feelings and built-up resentment. I can think of countless times in my life and experience where a good conversation would have solved something that eventually boiled up into a fight or the end of a friendship over a simple money issue. Don’t let it happen – if something’s rubbing you wrong, talk about it and get it straightened out.

Keep a friendship active if it’s important to you. If you’ve ever thought about an old friend and feel regret that you’ve let the relationship start to melt away, take the effort and contact the person. Send them a note just to see what’s up. Don’t wait until you need them for something – just try to keep the friendship alive without being a mooch.

Money does strange things to people. I often think that a money situation reveals a person’s true colors – what their values actually are. If someone’s willing to completely rip you off for $20, what really is the value of that relationship? I’d say not very much.

Is Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check? Worth Reading?

Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check? does a great job of focusing in on the touchy boundary issues between friends/family and money. It addresses a lot of these issues in a very specific fashion, and their selection of specific areas to tackle was quite good. I was easily able to envision similar situations in my own life in many of the examples.

I think it’s because of these examples that this book really worked for me. It became very human and very applicable to my own life, and thus it gave me a lot of pause to think about the money/family mistakes I’ve made in my own life and how I can avoid them in the future – mostly, by talking about things before letting resentment grow.

If you’ve been burned by money issues with friends and family, this is an enjoyable and fairly short book well worth reading. Here’s a good litmus test – if anything in the above review really seemed to strike at a situation you’re familiar with, this is one well worth reading. It definitely applies more to people with large social and family circles than to loner types, though – if many of these issues seem unfamiliar, then this book won’t do much for you at all. For me, though, it was an enjoyable book that made me think about money in new ways – and that’s always a successful book in my eyes.

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  1. Quote: “What about a cheapskate brother? It’s only cheapskate behavior if it’s uneven – if he gives “cheap” gifts, but doesn’t complain when others give him nice gifts, then it’s not cool…”

    Hmm. This seems a little unfair to the cheapskate. Isn’t it your decision to give the expensive gift? If you expect reciprocity in gift giving, then it isn’t really giving as far as I can tell, it’s exchange.

  2. Family issues with money are a VERY touchy subject. I completely agree with your thoughts and will neve lend money to a family member again. (I may gift money to a family member, but not lend)
    I recently purchased a condo for my brother who just started a new job and moved to my city. he lasted at the job for 2 months (he did pay me rent)but then took another job in another city leaving me with a condo and no tenant.
    Fortunately, I did my due diligence and was able to profit from the sale of the condo but it did strain our relationship.
    Thanks for the nice review!

  3. Meg says:

    I think I had just started reading your blog when my mother called and asked for some money to buy new tires (which she desparately needed) and you had recently put up an article about lending to family or friends. I had no problems giving her the money and I also didn’t expect any to be repaid.

    My sister has a different experience with taking a car loan from my Dad and Step-mom. They have a repayment schedule (and it’s interest free), and my sister pays on time But the relationship is still strained somewhat.

  4. Ro says:

    This looks like a good one. I’ll try to get it at my library. Several of these issues hit home with me. My former best friend and I have drifted pretty far apart, largely due to money issues. Also, my mom is basically supporting my alcoholic brother and I feel sure that the house will go to him (he already lives rent free in one of her two houses) but I can’t bring myself to talk about it with her because she is one of the types who just doesn’t talk about money. Sigh. So this book will definitely interest me.

  5. Chad @ Sentient Money says:

    @ Ro – Sounds like this book might be a good gift for your mother, and it could be a bigger part of an overall strategy to talk with your mother about money.

  6. Unspending says:

    I’m also fascinated by social implications of money. I’ve never had to lend or asked to borrow money from a family or friend, but I find money and social status among friends to be an interesting issue. We’re in our mid-to-late 20’s and all starting out in our careers so there aren’t any distinct social differences. What I have noticed is that there are differences between those of us who have student debt (me!) and the others who were lucky to have their post-secondary education paid for them. There isn’t great tension, the only “problem” presented is that I can’t eat out at nicer restaurants as often as some others can.

    Thanks for the review, I think I’ll reserve this at the library.

  7. Kate says:

    I had a boyfriend lend me money to buy my first computer. We broke up shortly thereafter and he was all freaked out about the loan, thinking I wouldn’t repay him. (He dumped me.) I had little money and wasn’t particularly frugal at that time in my life. But I paid the loan off in small monthly installments. It took well over a year from the time we broke up. He hadn’t asked for any interest on the loan. I think he was shocked that it never occurred to me to renege on the loan. Makes me wonder if that’s what he would have done in my position. On the other hand, I’m not sure I would have made the loan to him in the first place, had I been in his position.

  8. Marc Rohde says:

    Some simple rules I live by:

    No large loans between family, keep is small and simple.

    Offer gifts rather than loans, it frees you minds of the expectation that you will see it again.

    Never loan money outside of the immediate family (parents/childern/siblings).

    Everybody needs some help and charity starts with the family but consider how you can help in other ways before giving money. Like offering free babysitting so they can pick up extra hours at work or arranging for a temporary job (like painting the neighbors house). It easily frees everybody of obligation to each other.

  9. Shanel Yang says:

    One of the saddest patterns I’ve noticed with some families is the parents promise the kids they’ll take care of them forever as long as the kids help out with the family business, etc. The kids plan their lives around this promise, but then there’s the inevitable falling out. *Sigh!*

    I wish I could tell every kid who hears such lame promises from their parents: “You need to have a Plan B, just in case. Don’t blame them if they change their minds. People do that. Wish for the best, but be prepared for the worst.”

  10. Jean says:

    We have one set of friends when we go out, we each pay our own bills and another set we just split the check. I don’t care either way- things are never even in life, especially with family.
    My sister wasn’t as good off as me in terms of a job and needed extra from my parents, my parents felt guilty about it, but I told them it did’nt matter- she needed it.
    I always knew things come around and even themselves out and I’m so much happier not worrying about it. We have friends of all economic situations and we all do our best to “spread the wealth” whether it be financial, emotional or hands on. I wouldn’t trade any of my friends for money, they by far are my “greatest treasures”.

  11. Sarah Reece says:

    Just curious – do they address the issue in the title: how to handle friends who never seem to pick up the cheque, or pay their way?

  12. Christopher says:

    I have to agree with the first commenter on “cheapskate brothers”. Certainly if a brother _expects_ a big present from you and doesn’t reciprocate then that would be out of line, but I don’t see what the problem is with him merely not complaining. I would actually find it tacky if someone complained that about a gift I got them because they didn’t want to reciprocate. How much I spend on others is my decision and how much they spend on me is theirs. If I’m not happy about them spending less on me then I should spend less on them in the future or work to somehow politely establish cost guidelines for the family.

  13. Bonnie says:

    As Dave Ramsey says, “Thanksgiving dinner tastes different” when you owe relatives money.

    I once borrowed $500 from my brother, with whom I have a very close and good relationship, to help with paying first and last month’s rent on a new apartment. I had every intention of paying him back within a month or less. Let me just say that he should be a debt collector. He called me almost every day asking when he was going to get the money back and got progressively more irritated each day. You better believe I paid him back in full with my next paycheck and lived on ramen noodles for the rest of the month just to get him off my back.

  14. Johanna says:

    “The root cause of most problems that spring up because of money is lack of communication. To me, the real result of society’s unwillingness to talk openly about money issues is a lot of hurt feelings and built-up resentment.”

    I agree completely, which is why I was puzzled a while back when you lauded the absence of communication (giving $10,000 to a cousin to start a business without even talking about what your expectations are if the business succeeds) as “personal trust.” But maybe I misunderstood you.

  15. Sally says:

    UG! Heavy subject. I will willingly give a small monetary gift to my friend’s children – graduation, going away to start a life in another state, etc. but resent giving to all nine of my nieces/newphews now that they are in their twenties. We just stopped at 16 years old. We don’t see them – we are just expected to give. And then they all graduate from high school, then college, then masters….and they haven’t all started getting married and having children. Why are they MY financial obligation? On the other hand – my friend’s kids – no big deal – because my friends are giving to me – it works both ways. On my husband’s side it’s just take take take.

  16. Onaclov2000 says:

    An individual in our family had to borrow a large sum of money from a close relative, then lost their job, wife etc, and now nearly a year later is beginning to start paying back the loan from that. I don’t know how I feel about Loaning money to family, I guess it depends on the situation, I haven’t ever been asked to lend someone money, but I don’t know if I would or not.

  17. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “Just curious – do they address the issue in the title: how to handle friends who never seem to pick up the cheque, or pay their way?”

    Their advice basically is unless you’ve been consistently insisting on more expensive restaurants against your dinner partner’s wishes, then it’s completely fine to ask to split the check.

  18. Jules says:

    Jules’ Rules:
    When dining out, make sure that everybody’s okay with the menu before going in.

    Drinks (of the alcoholic kind) are paid for by whoever orders them, but sodas and juices are just added to the bill, to be as evenly divided as possible between all participants. The tip is also evenly divided.

    And if there is borrowing to be done, you don’t eat out with them again until after they pay you back.

    Getting money back from a delinquent friend:
    If it’s less than $5, don’t expect to be paid back. It’s okay to remind them that they still owe you for that coffee, but it probably makes life a lot easier if you just ask that they buy you a coffee back.

    If they’ve borrowed more than $10 from you, don’t go out with them again until they’ve paid you back. It’s not punishing them–it’s so that you don’t get shafted with the onorous task of paying for everything all the time.

    Set a low cap on your tolerance for debts, because then if they’re willing to ditch you because you won’t shell out, you’ll probably realize they’re not the kinds of friends you want.

  19. Ann says:

    I agree that lending money within families can lead to difficulties and strained relationships. But I have to ask: isn’t that part of what families are for–to help each other out when circumstances are tight? That’s why I like the idea that we should loan, if we can, to those we love who need help, but do so realizing that we may not be paid back. If you are ok with not being paid back, then it shouldn’t cause strain when you aren’t.

    I would hate to live in a family where no one felt they could come to me if they needed temporary financial help and where I felt I couldn’t turn to them for the same thing. I’d rather deal with potential strain than see my family members suffering when I know I can help. Of course, it always depends on the circumstances…

  20. Cindy says:

    I am a young adult, with young parents. I find that I have helped them out with money more than they help me. Not because they don’t have make it, but they have poor management. I work well with what I have, and it makes me angry that they can’t, and that I feel more like the parent, but I still help because I have a heart.

  21. mjh says:

    In New Zealand, most bars don’t run a tab, so you pay as you go. A group of friends will usually take turns to buy a “round” for everyone. This usually works well, but there’s always that guy that will leave before it’s his turn to buy. I know one guy who was finally ostracized for this behaviour.

  22. Onaclov2000 says:

    I think what drives me crazy is that I’m trying to save money and get a really cheap meal and have a water, and everyone else has a big meal and soda and dessert, but they want to break the check up into 1/n parts, (n being the number of people), My now wife, is accustomed to that so when we go out with her friends that is typically how it goes, but it irritates me cause I end up spending more on my meal then i even bought just so everyone can evenly pay it out, but I usually have a pretty good idea how much it costs in my head so I do a quick addition and if it’s nowhere near the number they call, I just say, how much mine was and say I’ll leave that + tip, and leave it at that.

    Drives me crazy…sorry I had to rant about it.

  23. harmzie says:

    Something I can’t get my head around is if two friends or acquaintances are in a business deal (say, one selling a car to another), why does the seller have to give the “deal”? If you’re buying from a friend, is it not worth a PREMIUM to have the peace of mind that you’re not getting screwed over?? (especially in a car!)

  24. M says:

    I was taught a long time ago that those who do not enrich your life should be eliminated from it. People who are leaches, borrowing money not paying it back, borrowing things not returning them in the condition you loaned it in if at all, breaking things in you home and not offering to replace it, yes I had a “clumsy friend” who always seems to break something new, I seldom bought things and many things were gifts, but what I bought was always nice not junk. She would go right to it pick it up and chip it, drop it, knock it off when she was putting on her coat and I never went out of my way to show her anything, she could just zone in on it and bam. But she was so sorry that was great coffee, nice talking to you, got to go.
    Also people who only call when they have a problem, money, boyfriend, job, family and then would have the nerve to tell me about people she had over for dinner, she went to a movie, I felt more like a counselor then friend.
    So every now and then I clean house, those who only want something or I don’t feel are treating me fairly, I stop calling, when they call I’m busy, when they need something I don’t have it, when they needed a ride I was unavailable, eventually they get the idea. I don’t look for these kinds of people, I just give everyone the benefit of the doubt until they show me otherwise. By doing this over the years I have made a close network of friends, we do anything for each other, but as the old song goes “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch”. So when the author mentions “the check”, I compare it to my life. I’ve tried the talking about it thing, but these types of people feel they are being punished, or don’t understand where I’m coming from. In a short time they latch onto someone else and take over their lives for a while.

  25. MouthyGirl says:

    I work in a law firm, the wills that we do usually have a clause that states that if anyone opposes the will and loses their case, they’re out of the will and lose all rights to anything left for them. This is becoming common practice in Estate planning due to discord between decedents in the past.

    We’ve also had clients who have been in the situation where a bride or groom comes into the picture when the children are grown and wills are changed and children are written out and the will is opposed by our firm. Death and what happens after is one of the most difficult issues to deal with, but absolutely must be dealt with.

  26. Kris says:

    I have a very simple ironclad rule when it comes to lending family money: If I can’t afford to never see it again, I just say no. I’m in a situation where my parents divorced and they went from being well off to struggling, not only because of the expense of the divorce, but because both decided they needed a new fancy car, money to go out all the time, etc. But for some reason they both needed to come to me to buy food! Ridiculous. Both have since largely gotten over their “midlife crisises” and the fancy cars are gone now, but I’m glad I stuck to my guns and didn’t lend them money at the time. It was hard, though. The guilt was intense – I was doing well with money, I could afford it, they took care of me all those year, etc. But if I had lent them money, I think they’d both be in the same place. Our relationship is good now, thank goodness.

  27. Maggie Shaw says:

    I so agree with you on keeping up friendships. I recently googled a very old friend from a trip to England in 1995 and found him in North Carolina. We’ve struck up a correspondence again and I could not be happier.

  28. Margaret says:

    I think lending money to family depends on your relationship. My mom has loaned me money, but it was always with a promissory note signed, and were I to default, it would not surprise me if she took me to small claims court. She might not, but she is very business like when she deals with money matters. That is fine, because I pay interest and make the payments as agreed. She gets a slightly better return on her money, and I get a better interest rate. I am pretty sure she has loaned money to each of my brothers in the same way, but I’m hazy on the details because she also keeps private matters private. I know, however, that there are many people in the family to whom she would not lend money.

    I loaned money to a relative once, and it was a disaster. She signed a promissory note, but there was always a reason why she couldn’t even pay back ten bucks a month (but she could buy CDs and clothes). After I started getting harsh about it, she finally paid me back. The relationship has definitely changed, though. I think we were becoming more distant anyway, but I am quite sure I will never be close to her again. I should not have loaned the money to begin with — not because we were related, but because I have credit card debt, and I only charged the interest rate of the lowest rate debt I had, not the highest, which was stupid of me, but I felt sorry for her. When I think about it now, I figure I should have charged 18% because it was money that could have gone on credit cards, plus another 5 or 10% because if you are desperate enough for that kind of loan, you are high risk to not pay it back! Thankfully, I already knew about not cosigning, because we have also been asked to do that (although joke’s on them — we would probably have hurt their chances with our credit scores).

  29. Merlin says:

    My favorite saying about lending money to friends:

    “If you lend $50 to a friend and you never see him again – – it was worth it…”

  30. T says:

    It sounds somewhat like this book may have been centered more or less in middle or upper-middle class morarys. Did the book in any way address cultural issues, or how these issues vary in different social groups?

    I feel like the expectations are very, very different on different sides of my own family (one far less well off than the other, and with the lower income side both expecting and providing significantly more financial support between family members as who’s currently in harder times shifts) as well as in my family compared to my husband’s (an immigrant from south asia, where particularly males are very, very strongly expected to share financially in costs necessary for the education and weddings etc of their younger relatives).

    It’s much harder to insist “you have no obligation to support your cousin’s educational career… just don’t do it” if you yourself were the product of such a cultural system, with your own education having been assisted by other older relatives – and those at the borders of different cultural / socioeconomic groups can be left in pretty difficult situations, I think….

  31. kellykelly says:

    I don’t understand this part of the review:

    “Rich Friend, Poor Friend” …

    Almost every social situation is tied into social status, and when income becomes disparate, often status does as well.

    Don’t be afraid to honestly talk things over, and also don’t be afraid if friendships slowly drift apart over time – if people begin to spend their time in different worlds, it’s bound to happen … ”

    What does this mean? If my friends advance to a different income level, I should just cross their names off the list and stick with my own kind?

    Would these authors make the same assumption about siblings? “Don’t be afraid to let your relatinship with your brother drift away. If he makes a lot more money than you, it’s bound to happen.”

    Or would they offer suggestions for bridging the social gap?

    I get so frustrated with this type of thinking. I have relationships that I’ve built over 15-20-25 years that are far closer than those I have with my siblings. The word “friend” is so nondescriptive … it’s used to describe the relationhip I have with the former work buddy I talk to once a year and the person I talk to every day.

    “Family” conjures up something equally inaccurate … I know so many kids who grow up and move hundreds or thousands of miles away from their parents and siblings, with zero involvment or investment in their daily or weekly lives. Yet “family” is elevated to some precious position of guaranteed intimacy and support, while “friendship” is treated as something to dispose of at the first hint of conflict.


    No wonder so many people rush into another marriage as soon as they get divorced. (And second marriages have a very high failure rate).

    This culture doesn’t teach the value of investing in and leaning on people outside of your own living room. The langues reflects it.

  32. kellykelly says:

    I meant to write “The LANGUAGE reflects it.”

  33. Lola says:

    I’ve been having HUGE problems with some of my neighbors. They just want to hear music in the loudest volume, no matter how many people they bother. It’s not once in a while. It’s every week, sometimes several times a week, any time during the day or night. Actually, a few men from two houses (one in front of mine, the other to the left of my house) get together, put their sound boxes on the street, turn on the volume, and drink beer the whole time, usually with minors involved. We tried everything, from talking to them to signing a petition to going to the police. Nothing works. This is the biggest problem in our lives – by far. I don’t think there’s anything left for us to do but sell our house and move.

  34. Every Man for Himself says:

    One situation not covered is the ‘Bum Brother-in-Law’, nearly always in need of cash, by situations of his own making, who leans on elderly parents. They feel a false sense of ‘obligation’ and are willing to pay, but at a hardship to their fixed income. The ‘bleeding heart’ siblings seem to feel they have to help out because they don’t want to see the parents in financial stress. What a racket! Of course they will all play the ‘family’ card, the ‘kids’ card, and the ‘Jesus’ card, just like Johnny Coceran did for OJ.

  35. Every Man for Himself says:

    Best advice for single people:

    Marry an orphan

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