How To Deal When You Lend Friends Money — & Don't Get It Back

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I lent money to a friend about three months ago and she still hasn’t paid me back. She has a job and it wasn’t a huge amount so I’m not sure why she hasn’t made an effort to at least let me know when I should expect the payment. We’re adults so I don’t feel like I should have to hound her but whenever I see her, it’s uncomfortable for me. This issue doesn’t seem to have the same effect on her however, or any effect at all — she has never once brought it up once since the transaction. She hasn’t even taken me to lunch or anything, it’s like she’s pretending that it never happened! I don’t want her guilt or even her gratitude, I just want my money back. How do I handle this?
Routh Chadwick, Licensed Master Social Worker
It’s true: Friends get funny when it comes to money, and it’s annoying that your gesture of goodwill is being treated as a joke. But, as many rappers have eloquently explained, money equals power and respect so there’s no reason for you to feel as helpless in this situation as you do.
You’re right that you can’t guess what is going through your friend’s mind about this situation. Her silence could mean any number of things, from the possibility that she is poor at managing money, in which case she might feel shame around the fact that she hasn’t repaid you, to the possibility that she has actually forgotten about it (which can be an unconscious form of avoidance if money is a sore subject for her). Whatever the reason, it sounds like your frustration — and resentment — are mounting, so it is definitely time to break the silence.
At this point, I would give her the benefit of the doubt. Opening up communication in a non-accusatory way will give her the opportunity to explain herself. If she actually has forgotten, she will probably be thankful that you reminded her. If there is a larger problem, it will give you some insight into her thought process and might even indicate how much you can really trust her as a friend.
While some experts might tell you that you should never lend money, I take less of a hard line. That said, I do suggest that, due to the complicated nature of money and relationships, you think carefully before you do so in the future. There is always the risk that it can become an issue or that you might not get your money back at all, so treat it less like a friendly favor and more like an iron-clad transaction. Get the IOU in writing and set a date for the funds to be repaid. If you’re really serious and want to avoid any messy conversations in the future, find out when she expects to be able to repay you and ask her to give you signed postdated checks to be cashed monthly. It may seem extreme, but it’s a good way to keep financial obligations separate from feelings. Otherwise, you risk losing a friendship along with your loan.

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