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Ask Dave

Resenting the Family Loan

Christine borrowed some money to buy a condo. She sold the condo and lost both her $30,000 and her aunt's $30,000. She's resentful that she has to pay back the money, but Dave explains an unpleasant fact to her.

QUESTION: Christine in New York borrowed some money from her aunt to buy a condo eight years ago. Now she sold the condo and lost both her $30,000 and her aunt’s $30,000 as well. Christine is resentful that she has to pay her aunt back the money that was lost, but Dave explains an unpleasant fact to her.

ANSWER: It’s the deal you signed up for. You knew going in. She didn’t mislead you, right? She didn’t do anything wrong, honey. All she did was give you $30,000, and now she dares to want it back.

If I were in her shoes and it was my kid, I might have some mercy. I might do some things if she were calling, but as far as you’re calling, I’m going to challenge your right to be resentful here. If the agreement was that she loaned you $30,000 and you pay it back and she gets a piece of profit—that was the agreement—there was no profit, so now you owe her $30,000. You don’t really have a reason to be resentful. She might, but you don’t.

Please, God, just pay this back quickly and get it out of your life. I don’t want to be mean or anything, but you’re completely wrong.

Let me help you with how I deal with that sometimes. Sometimes it helps me. I don’t always get through it. Everybody has the feeling. She’s got plenty of money. She’s kind of like your mom. Why doesn’t she just forgive the debt and forget it? It was a bad deal. It wasn’t like you made any money. You lost your shirt and your shoes. You lost everything. I get how mercy would be in order toward you, so I can kind of go where you are. Sometimes in these things, I can switch shoes with the other person and walk a mile in their moccasins and then I know what I’m supposed to do. In other words, if the roles were reversed, you or I might grant mercy and just say forget it. I’ve got plenty of money. I don’t need it back.

The good news is you don’t have any debt except this, and you’ve got a great income. Honestly, I think this is causing you more angst than the math—if you told me you make $32,000 a year, I might say go have a cup of coffee with her and beg for mercy. You make enough money. Just knock it out and be done with it. Forget it. I wouldn’t put the relationship at risk.

Just say out loud what you’ve been thinking. If you want to call that kicking your butt, that’s fine. We’ll call it kicking your butt. You were already thinking part of that, and then there’s a little girl part of you that goes, “Oh, come on! Just let me go.” The grownup part says, “Yeah, I know what I need to do.”