ASK WILLIE D
Dear Willie D:
Three years ago I was involved in a major accident that left me partially crippled. Recently I was awarded a large settlement for pain and suffering and to pay for medical expenses. Before I could go to the bank and cash the first check, my relatives and friends came at me with a barrage of requests to borrow money. Some of the people who contacted me for money I hadn't heard from in years.
I live modestly, so the only big purchases I made were repairs to my house, and I bought each of my four siblings a new vehicle. In the first month alone, I wrote so many checks to people borrowing money that I went through two checkbooks. None of the checks was for over $5,000, but I was writing them so fast, I didn't realize I had already loaned out more than $168,000.
That's money I know I'll never get back, but it's okay because it made me feel good to help them out. Even so, once I started telling people no, most of them stopped calling and coming around. I retained a lawyer to set up a trust for my kids and me, so we will have a comfortable future. But I'm wracked with guilt for telling my relatives no whenever they ask for money, because I know they need it. How do I rid myself of feeling culpable for their financial distress?
Wracked With Guilt:
People are in the position they're in for a reason. You rid yourself of culpability by giving yourself permission to say no. It's okay to say no because you didn't put your relatives in the bind they're in. It's your money and you have the right to spend it how you want.
I used to have a problem saying no until I had to file for bankruptcy and couldn't collect on those outstanding family loans. Now I wake up in the morning, look into the mirror and practice saying no just in case somebody calls me begging for money.
If you don't remember anything else, remember this: If the banks won't loan your relatives money and they're in the business of loaning money, it's probably not a good idea for you to do it. Don't confuse love for your family with exploitation.
Ask Willie D appears Thursday mornings on Rocks Off.