Should I lend money to a friend who’s in financial hardship?

Do you know someone who’s perpetually in financial trouble? Perhaps they’ve moved houses so many times, always has excuses for not turning up somewhere, cos they had “car trouble” or other issues?

Whenever you go out, you always end up paying for the meal, cos they disappear off to the bathroom just when you’re ready to leave the restaurant.? Sound familiar?

Maybe she’s your friend, who’s more like you sister, cos you’ve known her practically all your life. And she seems to be changing her job more often than you wash your hair. You’ve “encouraged” her many times to get a stable job and stick at it, till she finds a better one, but does she listen?

Here we go again….

Nope. You turn around, and she’s quit already. Oh no. Then she asks you “can you lend me some money, I can’t pay the rent, just this once, please please I promise I’ll pay back”. What do you do?

Should you lend money to your friend who’s landed on financial hardship? This is tough, considering you’re so close and, you’ve got the money. It’s not like you don’t. You’ve been diligently squirreling away so much every week, piling it up in your bank account, waiting for that end of year holiday you’ve been dreaming about.

But you’re in a position to help…?

And now ….she asks you to help her, and you’re in a position to help.  Your conscience tugs at you. You feel sorry for her.

(Disclaimer: these scenarios assume the person has made unwise, impatient, uneducated choices. There are many wise, hardworking  people who get thrown into circumstances beyond their control like redundancies, or accidents which can land them in financial hardship – we’re not talking about these here.)

How can you help?

A short term solution:

Firstly,  it’s ok to meet a physical need. Aside from the feelings of pity and maybe frustration, it’s a choice we make, to respond to someone asking for help. The fact is, we all need to eat, or we’ll starve and get weak.

Does she have money for food? (people get thrown out of homes all the time, it’s not that uncommon – and it may be the situation that wakes them up). But the immediate thing is food and water.

So I’d “yes I can help” and offer to buy her a limited $$ amount of groceries; food basics, nothing fancy, for example, bread, fruit, and meat.  I wouldn’t give her cash, cos that’d be too easy and just a shallow fix, as the lack of money in her case, isn’t the root issue.

So don’t feel guilty for not giving or lending her money, she’s survived so far up till now, she won’t die!

A medium term solution:

Secondly, know that what we sow, we’ll reap. What choices did she make to arrive in this situation, how did she get there?  Take the time to not only meet a physical need, now help her to see, by asking her questions.  

This is so she owns the choices she’s made, sees the consequences of her choices and takes responsibility for them.  By doing this you’re empowering her to change some faulty thinking patterns and habits, and to break out of this limiting cycle. Now, she can start sowing differently, to reap differently.

Isn’t it insanity if we keep doing the same things to expect different results?  She should also know that she can’t rely on you, to be her ‘bank account’ or safety net, for every time she makes unwise choices. I

If you let her, she might never see the need to change. She alone is responsible for her choices, but you are there to help, encourage and support her emotionally and mentally.

It’s about knowing that we can, we have the choice, to make intentional choices to live the life we want, thus effecting change. She doesn’t need to feel helpless, ashamed or guilty – if she’s willing to change her perspective.

A long term solution:

Thirdly, knowledge and upskilling – is a must, or she’ll go back to her old ways and get stuck in a financial rut, which ultimately affects her confidence and relationships with others. Of course, the key is her wanting to change and for her to change her thinking and habits.

This is a long term journey, as deeply rooted beliefs and habits don’t change overnight. Its more about a lifestyle change, less about how one robotically earns or spends money.

You can help your friend by keeping her accountable to you, by her being open to you about her struggles and giving you permission to ask, probe, and even rebuke her!

 Importantly, educating herself financially about respecting finances, how they affect your life, and just basic financial skills, would go a long way in establishing new habits. There are many free online or classroom courses, not to mention the plentiful advice on the internet.

Finally, many financial problems have their root in emotional problems. For example, someone who changes their job often or can’t hold down one, (and often it is the same pattern in their relationships) could be that they see themself (wrongly) a certain way, so they feel powerless to overcome difficulties in the job or with the people around them.

Consequently they default to quitting as it’s always the easier option.  

If knowledge and upskilling doesn’t resolve your friend’s financial issues, then look deeper. You may be able help your friend if you’ve got the ability and experience, or try to help her find someone who can. Professional counselling can be expensive, but someone from your church or networks may be able to help. Often, resolving internal conflicts resolves the external issues:)

Do you know someone like this? Or have you been there yourself? Would you lend or give money to a friend in this situation? How easy or difficult is it to get out of a financial rut?

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