Dear Friend: Here Are 41 Reasons Why I’m NOT Lending You the Money

Earlier this year, the Huffington Post featured a curious article that attempted to explain why our friends often fail to repay money that they borrow from us. In a nutshell, the piece offered five reasons:

  • You refuse to ask for the money back.
  • You make it too easy for your friends to ignore you.
  • You didn’t get the loan in writing.
  • Your friends assume that their unpaid debt won’t result in a broken friendship.
  • Your friends never planned to give you the money back in the first place.

Strangely enough, the author failed to offer the most logical — not to mention obvious — reason why anyone would ever welch on a loan from a friend or relative: they’re a deadbeat.

Truth be told, I have occasionally loaned money to my financially-pinched friends and relatives. Not often, but I have.

In several cases, I’ve offered the cash with no strings attached because I believed the bind they were in was due to something out of their control.

That being said, if you happen to be a friend of mine who’s been thinking about asking me for a loan, keep in mind that your odds of success will be extremely remote if one or more of the following are true:

  1. You refuse to get a job — any job.
  2. You’ve got a million reasons why you can’t work a second job.
  3. You drive a 2014 Lexus when a 1997 Honda Civic will do.
  4. You insist on living somewhere with a high cost-of-living even though your income (or lack thereof) can’t support it.
  5. You fail to understand that debt is a mortgage on your future.
  6. Your priorities are all screwed up.
  7. You live in a larger home than you can reasonably afford.
  8. You refuse to raise additional cash by selling some of your “toys.”
  9. You prefer to blame others for your poor financial situation.
  10. You’re materialistic.
  11. You fail to comprehend the concept of value.
  12. You’ve got a closet full of $200 designer jeans.
  13. You own a $500 handbag.
  14. You wear $400 Louis Vuitton Millionaire sunglasses.
  15. You play the lottery on a regular basis.
  16. Your teenager drives a brand new car when a beater will do.
  17. You think money grows on trees.
  18. You insist that packing a brown bag lunch is waste of time.
  19. You recently completed an ambitious kitchen remodel even though it didn’t really need it.
  20. You own five dogs, three cats, a cockatoo and an anaconda.
  21. You refuse to quit smoking.
  22. You’re woefully disorganized.
  23. You can’t tell me exactly how much money you earn each month.
  24. You can’t explain — nor have any idea — where your money goes every month.
  25. You refuse to save money by eating leftovers.
  26. You believe it’s all about living in the moment.
  27. You just got back from a 10-day Caribbean cruise.
  28. You have no concept of personal responsibility.
  29. You failed to maintain rainy day and emergency funds.
  30. You own an iPhone.
  31. You eat out too much.
  32. You’re still sending your child to private school.
  33. You’re a big believer in keeping up with the Joneses.
  34. You still have a gardener. (Never mind that his leaf blower wakes me up every Saturday morning.)
  35. You just bought another large screen high definition television.
  36. You seem to think that poor planning on your part constitutes an emergency on mine.
  37. Your spouse refuses to get a job.
  38. You don’t know the difference between a want and a need.
  39. You’ve shown no inclination to change your financially destructive behavior.
  40. You haven’t established a credible plan for digging yourself out of debt.

And if that’s not enough for you, here’s one more: Quite frankly, I’m tired of coddling people who refuse to sacrifice and make the same hard decisions that I do every day in order to ensure I live within my means.

Is that harsh? No — that’s life.

So, now that I’ve made myself perfectly clear … do you still want to ask me for a loan?

Photo Credit: Infrogmation


  1. 3

    Minelly says

    Perfect list to have on hand. My friends don’t ask me for money, but I would lend to just a few. Me encantan tus historias, es la primera vez que comento. Love your blog!!!

  2. 6

    Lynn says

    O.M.G. !! Thank you so much . Very rarely do I respond to an article , but I’m saving this one and printing copies . Well said .

  3. 8

    Olivia says

    People who are willing to make the sacrifices generally don’t ask for money. An elderly friend once told me, “There were times we thought we wouldn’t make it, and we’re still here.”

    • 9

      Len Penzo says

      I love that quote because it is so true. I know lots of people — and get email testimonials from others — who manage to make ends meet even though they earn a relative pittance.

      Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

  4. 10

    Deb says

    My sister-in-law meets 36 of the 41 on the list — even the tongue in cheek ones. We used to just give her money, but no more. She did us a favor and then tried to charge us $300 for her time! She said we OWED her the money and that we cheated her by not paying it.

    We regret our contribution to nothing more than her huge sense of entitlement.

    • 11

      Len Penzo says

      For those folks, tough love is absolutely the best medicine — although it’s hard to administer sometimes. I know. It’s just like punishing your kids. It’s necessary sometimes, but it takes courage to do it.

      (I know my kids still have trouble understanding that — just as I did when I was young — but they will get it eventually.)

  5. 15

    Colleen says

    This list would be helpful to many (note, not all) of those seeking gov’t assistance; unfortnately, that’s not a loan with no promise or obligation of a repayment:/

    • 20

      Len Penzo says

      Thanks for stopping by, Minelly!

      (Good personal finance habits are the same whether you’re from Puerto Rico or California!)

  6. 25

    The Griper says

    Will I ask you for a loan? No Siree. I’d be a sucker to borrow money from you when all I have to do is just go to Obama and co. and he will just take it from you and give it to me. Why should I borrow something from you that I have to pay back with interest when I can get the government to take it from you and just give it to me because I am “entitled” to it? :)

  7. 28

    first gen american says

    LOVE This list., especially #20 because it also makes a very convenient excuse for being too busy to deal with your financial issues.

    Len you animal hater, how dare you treat my rescues as a discretionary expense. I saved their lives!!!!

    • 29

      Len Penzo says

      Hey now … Let the record show I love animals — especially dogs. In fact, I practically worship them!

      (Just ask my faithful pup, Major.)

  8. 30

    first gen american says

    LOVE This list., I know many of these people.

    Somehow earning and saving money isn’t that difficult or life draining when its someone else who’s doing the work. This post hits way too close to home. I could rant for pages on it.

  9. 34

    Joe says

    This is a great reminder, as well, to not make the same mistakes of the past if one of your mistakes is on this list.

    A while back, my wife and borrowed money to pay bills when I had lost my job and was scrambling to find another. If I was more enlightened back then and knew I could suspend some of these monthly obligations rather than keep paying them, I may not have needed to borrow. There’s still a feeling of shame that I did it, as I like to think of myself as self sufficient financially.

  10. 38

    Lisa says

    Excellent & practical! As a Baby-boomer, I was raised by parents who mostly paid cash for everything, so they never made a purchase until they had cash in hand, even for the family car. I can’t have been the only person of my generation who experienced this, yet it’s kind of disheartening that so many people live according to your list. On the upside, I think the present generation of 20-somethings, with student loan debt. & tapped-out parents, are learning some tough, but practical lessons on how to manage their financial lives. Apps & the internet help them search deals. Kinda cool!

  11. 39

    Sarah Sarah Sarah says

    Best list ever. My husband and I used to be friends with another family who were always desperate for extra money. We had three children, they had five. I was constantly buying diapers for them, even paid their water and light bills a few times because I felt so bad for them. We used to hang out socially and I started to hide my nicer things because the wife would always make comments about how “rich” we must be to be able to afford such items, like my KitchenAid mixer or new bikes for the kids. Eventually, they only called when they were short on money and I began to resent the heck out of them. Still, I felt bad for their kids, who would come over to our house when they were hungry. Our last straw was when we were invited to their daughter’s quinceanera and on the way there, they called us to ask us to get the kegs (hubby has a pick up truck) and when we got there to get the kegs, we found out they hadn’t even paid for it yet, and assumed hubby and I would pick up the bill once again! Hubby did pay for it even though I was fuming, and when we got to the party, we were introduced to the entire family as “our rich white friends.” I don’t need to pay for friends, I told the wife that night that I expected to be paid back for the keg money, and I never heard from them again. That was four years ago. Best money I ever spent never to see them again.

    • 41

      Len Penzo says

      Nope. But if you’d like, Jeff, simply copy the link and paste it into your Facebook status! I’d appreciate it! :-)

  12. 42

    Little Tex says

    Great post Len!

    I think you should write a post of “2 Things No One Told Me About Getting My Finances Straight”

    1. People will ask you for money advice (fine)
    2. People will ask you for personal loans (eh)

    Like you, I base my decisions on lend or not to lend on financial maturity.

    - Friend A just graduated from school. He doesn’t have a full-time job yet but he has been diligently hitting the streets every day to apply for jobs and is working a part-time job in the meantime and eats ramen to save on cash. (Approved)

    - Friend B just graduated from school, is not working but blames the economy on his lack of a job and isn’t really trying to find one. He just crashed his car and bought a new one, and eats at semi-nice restaurants every night. (denied)

    I am all for generosity to others but frankly, generosity is usually lost on the habitually immature. When I lend, it is a gift and I understand there is a possibility I won’t get it back but if the borrower is fiscally mature, I probably will.

  13. 44

    Adam Hathaway says

    This one hits a bit close to home. I cosigned(I know, I Know bad idea) for a close relative of mine. They can check off a few of your list items and I could check them off for them. They ended up missing a payment early on which almost got me a credit negative (I cleaned it up and they paid me back). After this I explained I cant hold this debt because of near future investment interests. Unfortunately they are not as eager to refinance with someone else than they were to ask. :(

  14. 48

    Judy says

    Wow, been there done that. Did not realize this is such a common problem. Was working as a professional, saving lives & supporting myself (no 1 else was going 2 do it :)). After a childhood of deprivation, I bought what I wanted. My father called me selfish. Suddenly everyone was asking me for “loans.” Thank you Daddy Dearest. After losing so much money, that is the end! No more lending money. Now I say, “Have you tried Citibank? & why not?”

  15. 49

    Stevek says

    When someone asks for money, I ask them how many hours they work each week. I then tell them that I work 70-75. When they put in 75 hrs per week, then I will talk with them about loaning them money. Always, the comment back is: I can’t do that, I have to be with my family….I then say that I am not staying away from my family so that they can stay with theirs.
    This really defines who is willing to work for their present and future.

  16. 50

    Angel says

    I have never loaned money to Family. I juts prefer to adjust their $500.00 loan request to a $300.00 gift, or their $300.00 loan into a $150.00 gift, or their $1,000.00 bail money loan into “are you kidding me?, Let him cool his heels there”. If I can’t give the money away, then the answer is simply “NO”. We both know I’ll never see the money back anyway, so they have to accept my answer. So far, no one has ever even offered to “gift me back” any money- but at least they have stopped asking for more. My phone barely rings anymore, and I’m cool with that.

  17. 52

    Sharon Beasley says

    This is so timely. I loaned to two relatives in the two years and both situations got very irksome that neither was paying at the same time. ONe finally paid me off, but for the past 18 months I kept saying, just send even $5, just so I know you haven’t forgotten and I don’t have to be put in the awkward spot of asking you, still no monthly payment. Then the other person simply is one of those not planning their life well, being irrational in choices, quits a job with no other one likely to be found within a month and has the attitude, I am not poor, therefore, no need for her to find a way to give up her cigs to pay me anything back. To add to your advice, if they needed a loan and you give it to them, they are now even more in debt as a result and you will be the last to be paid back if ever.

  18. 53

    Sharon Beasley says

    Oh yes, and I posted this to my FB page in hopes certain people referenced will read it. I made sure to give you credits Mr. Penzo.

  19. 54

    Randy says

    Great list, you really think like I do.
    I had a friend who drives a $40,000 car ask me for $100 after only knowing him for 3 months. He lied about why he needed the money then tried to badger me into giving it. “It’s a Yes or No question” so I said “No”. I explained to him that I’ve only had problems in the past with loaning friends money. We had planned on hanging out that day – but he got angry and cancelled. Later he admitted that he had lied to me and only wanted cash to gamble with – but never even apologized. He has not called me since.. good riddins.
    I’ve end 3 friendships in the past 2 years for this type of issue. Who needs friends like these anyway?

  20. 55

    L S says

    I’m copying that list and hanging it up! Love it!
    More thoughts. When I was poor, I lived for ten years in my landlady’s basement. It did not occur to me to ask the eight millionaires in my family for help. I simply worked a lot of OT. Now, I have some money, and, well, other people want it. I am teaching them, “Love me or not as you please but my relationships are not going to be about money. Don’t ask.” Why? Asking alters the family/relationship dynamic, usually negatively. If you say, “No,” they gonna hate ya. If you say, “Yes,” you will become an ATM because why would you disapprove a second request after paying the first? And, they WILL ask. By all means, give money, help out if you can and want to, but do not make asking a permitted part of the relationship. Good folks will value you for YOU.

  21. 56

    carl says

    I would never want a friend like you. You have all these reasons not to help me. Well, you are not worth my time if I cannot turn to you in my time of need. You are not a true friend. And what goes around comes around. I recently asked a friend to borrow me money. She said she didn’t have any. She also is a compulsive liar. Well I took her out of my phone and will no longer allow her into my life. Done

    • 57

      Len Penzo says

      What a lucky girl. If only all the “friends” who ever dared to ask me for cash after they’ve violated any of the rules I listed above would remove me from their phone list too! Just sayin’.

    • 58

      Joel says

      Friends are not ATMs. Your temporary financial worry has nothing to do with your friend. If it is a valid loan need there are businesses for that.

  22. 59

    Ann says

    I agree fully with your list, I never loan anything that I can not afford to lose. Family are the worst offenders and I know that I have only a 25% chance of seeing the money back, no matter what they promise even in writing.
    Funny enough my friends have always paid me back, but of course the sum loaned is usually less than $50.

  23. 60

    Douglas says

    That’s a great list. Number twenty-eight “You have no concept of personal responsibility” pretty much sums it all up. Sometimes things happen that are just beyond people’s control, but there are so many financial problems that could be prevented with a little foresight and some self-discipline.

  24. 61

    David says

    Great article. I thought I would qualify for a loan from you if I were your friend and really needed one, but you got me on number 30. I have an iphone I got free from Verizon.

  25. 63

    Ragnar says

    Don’t give money to friends. It ruins friendships. Don’t ask for money unless it’s an emergency. If you do, don’t lie and say it’s a loan. It’s charity. If you can’t accept charity, then you don’t need a loan.

    Money ruins friendships and family relations.

  26. 64

    Nana Ama says

    Great message. I wish i had read this earlier but it is never too late. This an eye-opener for me. thanks a lot.

  27. 66

    blondie says

    What a great list. I love this blog–found it when I was Google-ing “lending money to friends.”

    Four years ago, I made the mistake of helping a co-worker. She was in a really bad situation: the Feds raided her house in the middle of the night and arrested her husband for dealing drugs. Of course, he was guilty as Cain and she professed to know nothing of his dealings. (The Feds found $70,000 in her house that she didn’t know was there.)

    Anyway, she was really struggling after he left and I paid her $900 mortgage payment. I told her I would help with her mortgage ONCE. I didn’t want to see her kids and her two pit bull dogs get evicted. Since then I’ve periodically helped her with gas or groceries.

    I never was sure how much she made but I eventually found out. Her base salary is about $48,000 a year. (Since this happened our boss is allowing her to regularly work overtime, so she makes more.)

    The other day she came to me and said her power had been cut off and she needed $500 to get it turned back on. I told her this is the last time I’m helping her and I gave her $50. (At the time, I thought, “you need to have your power cut off because you are an idiot. Perhaps a few 100 degree days with no power will snap you out of it.”) Later I found out that her child support payment was a few days late and this messed her up.

    Since the money arrived, of course, she feels no obligation to pay me back. Yes, I make twice what she makes, but for the past 20 years I’ve been socking away 20% of my salary; I buy everything on sale, and I drive an eight year old car that I meticulously maintain. I live a frugal lifestyle but she does not. God Willing, I’m going to have a good retirement, but it’s no accident. Why should frugal self-denying me give money to support the likes of her?

    The moral of this story is, bad things can happen, but in her case it was her behavior BEFORE and AFTER the bad thing happened that hurt her finances and is continuing to hurt her today.

    When her husband was arrested she had THREE cars and owned three time shares. (The two cars with payments have since been repossessed.)

    The went on lavish vacations. She has sets of jewelry that are amazing: heavy gold and silver necklaces, earrings and bracelets. She’s a clothes horse and dresses better than I do. She pulled out a home equity loan so her (equally worthless financially) 22 year old son could have “a house of his own.” If he wants his own house, why shouldn’t he have to pay for it? He lost his job and didn’t tell her he wasn’t making payments and his house was foreclosed on.

    She declared bankruptcy (of course–I found out much later this was her second time) but still continues to struggle financially. She was on the verge of losing her house again about 15 months ago but weathered that crisis, probably because she found another fool to help her, since she is incapable of helping herself.

    Here’s just a sample of the behavior I’ve seen:

    1. Her 26 year old, able-bodied son lives with her and does not pay rent.
    2. Around the time I helped her with her mortgage payment, she had professional photographs taken of her daughter for her birthday. She explained to me that although she was in trouble, the pictures “only” cost $90.
    3. She has a fancy phone and an Ipad.
    4. She recently went away for the weekend with her daughter and another friend. She told me she delayed her house payment to do this but that was okay because the trip “only” cost $250. There’s no explaining to an idiot like this that WHEN YOU CAN’T MAKE YOUR HOUSE PAYMENT, YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO SPEND MONEY ON ANYTHING ELSE.
    5. All the jewelry is still there of course. She told me she was going to sell it but couldn’t get what it was worth. See note above about losing your house.
    6. She recently went to Ross’s and bought EIGHT dresses. She said they were deeply discounted and it “only” cost her $90. Why did she have to buy eight? Pick the one or two you like best and you’ve still spend very little money. This is how I live.

    Anyway thanks for letting me rant. I’m not a generally stupid person but I did a very stupid thing giving her money. Interestingly I had another good friend who was going through a divorce who was on the verge of losing her house. I wrote her a check for $1,000 on the spot and she paid me back with interest. She was a very rare person.

    There is no excuse for Ms. Spendthrift to be in trouble four years after this “crisis.” She has a steady salary. Unfortunately she has no desire to live on a budget and accumulate an emergency fund. She is constantly saying “every time I try to get ahead, something comes up.” Welcome to Life, Honey, that’s why smart people get an emergency fund and they don’t spend every dollar they earn.

    We probably aren’t going to be friends much longer. I’ve told her the money is out of our relationship and I’m no longer a source of funds, only financial advice. Before it’s all over I predict she will lose her house. This lady is 50 years old and doesn’t have anything to show for it.

    One thing I’ve learned in my 50+ years is that everyone faces the same financial issues and it’s not really all that hard: we have unlimited wants on limited budgets. I once read a survey where people of all walks of life were asked how much more money they needed. People making $15,000 a year and those making $300,000 a year all had the same answer: about 10 percent more. Pay yourself first, tame the spending beast and life is much more sane. Oh yes, and don’t help people who are idiots–put that money right back in your pocket.

    Note: I’m not talking about people who have genuine hardships befall them, such as illness and death.

    Thanks for listening. Glad I found this blog and I’m looking forward being a regular.

    • 67

      Len Penzo says

      Welcome aboard, Blondie! I’m glad you found me here.

      And thanks for sharing your frustrating story. Feel free to rant anytime.

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