Ask Amy: Family has a savings and loan crisis
Dear Amy: A few years ago, a not-so-distant relative, 35 years old, asked for $3,000 to help with credit card debt. She asked me not to tell anyone, especially her mother.
This was supposedly a one-time plea for help with a promise to pay the money back within the year.
She did pay it back (in 18 months).
A year later she asked for $5,000 — same scenario.
A year later, she repaid me $1,500 and asked for more time to pay the rest.
I forgave the loan with the strong suggestion that she seek financial counseling and not ask to borrow again.
She has a decent job, but I think she’s a very poor money manager.
A month ago, she asked for $7,000.
I have not yet responded to her, and frankly, I don’t want to.
Am I wrong to ignore her? I think her mother has helped her out in the past, but doesn’t really have the means at this point. Should I notify her? — Distressed
Dear Distressed: Your generous choice to bail out your relative seems to have been helpful in the short term, but may have simply kicked her financial problem down the road, delaying by years the need for her to face the rational consequences of her money habits.
I don’t quibble with your choice to forgive the more recent loan, as long as you don’t lend further. Smart readers have taught me over the years that if you choose to be a banker for a family member, they need to repay a previous loan in full before receiving another one.
It might be easier for you to ignore than to face this most recent request, but since you don’t seem vulnerable to manipulation, this is an opportunity for you to deliver your answer in a loving (and possibly helpful) way. A simple statement: “I’m worried about you. I believe you need responsible financial advice. Debtors Anonymous might be able to help.” Debtors Anonymous is a 12-step program for people who compulsively drive themselves into debt. Like other 12-step programs, they take a “god-focused” fellowship approach. If this does not appeal to your relative, there are other credit counseling groups.
Depending on the situation, it is not wise to allow a family member to swear you to secrecy. If you think it would ultimately help your adult family member, you should disclose this lending activity to her mother.
Dear Amy: In 1956, my mother had a fling with an airman. Nine months, later I arrived.
Apparently, he was married and within a couple of months of my birth there were court proceedings and he paid my mother $2,500 with the agreement that she would not ever contact him again. We didn’t.
Being a single mother was tough on my mother, but she provided what we needed.
Mom died in 1990, so I thought I would contact my biological father. We corresponded twice that year. Both times he was cordial, but he never acknowledged his part of my existence. He did acknowledge that he knew my mother. His last words to me were, “I live a nice quiet life here.”
Through research on the internet, I’ve learned that he was married in 1955 and had children. His wife died in 2010 and he died in 2012. We never met.
This is my dilemma: In his obit, it mentioned that “he had a long struggle with cancer.”
I need to know what cancer he had. I have a condition that could turn cancerous. Should I contact his family and inquire? I’m pretty sure they know nothing about me. — Related
Dear Related: Yes, you should contact the family. When you do so, you should make sure to convey that you are seeking medical information that could have a very real impact on your life and health. Tell them that you and your biological father corresponded briefly 30 years ago, but never met in person.
If there are court records of the arrangement between him and your mother, it would be helpful for you to have copies, in case they have questions.
Dear Amy: A man who reported that he is “94-Years-Young” and claimed to be sexually active with two women should be applauded for his sexual prowess, rather than lectured about STDs. — Upset
Dear Upset: I responded to this gentleman the way I would any sexually active person juggling multiple relationships: by reminding him (and his partners) to be tested. I made no comment — positive or negative — about his prowess.