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Ask Dave

Not Feeling the Love

Marie made a bad money move with her sister, and now she is worried about the relationship.

QUESTION: Marie allowed her sister to use her credit card. She ran up $5,500 and isn't paying the bill. This leaves Marie feeling unloved by her sister. What words of advice does Dave have for her?

Dave's ANSWER: I don't have anything that's going to make your sister grow character. We know that she has a breakdown in her integrity. You really can't replace that; Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall. I used to tell my kids when they were growing up to not bust the trust, because it's hard to put it back together.

It won't make it hurt that much less, except that you're kind of obsessing over this, and I don't blame you because I'd be pretty upset too, but I would take an extra job or two and pay off this card in the next few months. Go crazy. Pretend it was your credit card, which it is, and pay it off as fast as you can.

Then somewhere in that process, call your sister and leave her a voicemail that says you know she can't pay this, so you are going to pay it, and everything's forgiven. She'll call you and say that she's going to pay it, but she's lying.

When I do something stupid and have to pay money for it, I call it stupid tax. You are writing a stupid tax check for $5,500. You'll learn two or three valuable lessons here; one of them is that you can ruin relationships by loaning people money.

This is actually even worse than co-signing, because she's not even on the loan. Co-signing is where it's her loan and you sign for it. This is just you borrowing money to loan her money. Once the loan is paid off, I don't know if she'll talk to you again; that's up to her. I can't fix her. But if you release this and forget it, and you acknowledge that you did something stupid that cost you money, over time she'll probably come back around.

If nothing else, she'll come back around wanting money, but you won't do that. But we are done with her and money. We are not the bank anymore.