When ‘strangers’ come to borrow money
It had been years since I last spoke with a former co-worker, so getting a message from him saying hello was unexpected. Being polite, I had to respond and was surprised that his next message asked to borrow money.
And it was not a small sum. He was trying to get more than a month’s salary for minimum wage workers. My first response was what has become my standard excuse: I no longer work full time, so I don’t have access to a regular salary and I have a limited budget for our household expenses.
But he was persevering, which led me to loan him half of the amount he originally asked for, as he had promised to pay the same week. Of course he didn’t pay in the same week and he also ignored all my messages after I transferred the money to him.
The point is, there were so many red flags that I ignored here that I kept kicking myself for the three weeks before I got my money back. And yes, I got my money back because I decided to take active steps to collect instead of writing it down as a painful life lesson for my wallet.
And just a few days after I got paid, I got another message from a close relative saying hello. You can guess I didn’t respond to this as quickly as I did to the first one. We are going through difficult times so I suspect this will happen more frequently. If you find yourself at the end of such a request, consider the following before parting with your hard-earned cash.
# 1 Explain your current situation.
Most people who borrow money are focused on their needs – so you should tell them about your current situation as well. Are you still working? Maybe your employer cut your hours and you’re paid less now? If you are married, is your spouse working or has lost their job as well? Do you have family who moved in with you because of difficult times? Has a family member fallen ill which has wiped out your savings? All of this will help set the stage for your response, and may also help if you lend money and collect it later.
# 2 Ask why he or she needs the money.
I admit I missed this one, and by the time I asked for it, I had already committed to loaning the money. Worse, even when I asked the question, I did not get a satisfactory answer. All he said is he urgently needs it. Such a response will make it easier for you to refuse. It is another question if there is a family emergency, someone sick or dead and there are hospital bills to pay. Of course, there are those who won’t be telling the 100% truth, but it’s on them and not on you.
# 3 Consider your connection.
In my case, he was practically an outsider. We worked together years ago, but we never knew each other outside of work. I know one of his relatives, and this relative has money, as well as some of his co-workers, but I later realized that neither of them could help me recover his debt. May I add that he asked that we keep this between us? And since I said yes, that meant I was on my own when it came to getting my money back.
# 4 The alien danger is so true in this case.
If you’re practically a stranger, saying no should be easy, right? That was the reason I kept blaming myself. He should look to his family, his friends – and the fact that he came to me made me wonder if he had ever borrowed from all of them. If it did, he would drown in debt and I threw my money so deep. And since we are practically strangers, you would think he would offer to pay interest (he didn’t, I thought I would say no to that too) or leave a collateral (something I would consider a phone or a computer).
# 5 Make him keep his promise to pay.
My debtor promised to pay within the week, but I didn’t hear from him again until I decided to call him the following week. The point is, he used a messaging app to contact me and then disappeared from that app. Luckily I was able to find his cell phone number and called him. He was really surprised when he found out it was me on the other line and then he promised he would pay this week. He still didn’t and it took another two weeks, many prayers from me, more polite requests and two installments before I could get my money back.
Looking back, I should have said no to loaning him the money. If he had given a good reason for his need, I might have offered help without waiting for payment. No one wants to be exploited, which happened to me in this case. If I didn’t have his cell phone number, would he just have disappeared with my money?
When he finally finished his payment, he and I both knew we had gone from near strangers to complete strangers. Unfortunately, he burned down a bridge.
Warning: The opinions on this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.
Aneth Ng Lim, Paying It Forward, featured blog, blogroll, Borrowing Money, Lending Money, Personal Finance Tips, Personal Loan