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How to thank parents for financial help

Aug 2012

Hi BPN, My partner and I just bought a house, which was made possible by my parents giving us the down payment. We are so grateful and wondering the best way to show our appreciation. I know my parents can afford to do this and feel good about helping us, and I am sure they know how grateful we are (obviously I have thanked them verbally many times!), but we were trying to think of something special we could do or make for them to express our gratitude in a tangible way.

It would feel silly to ''buy them something nice'' because they have quite a bit more money than we do and have all the ''stuff'' they need. We did consider making something special with photos of our young child enjoying the house (since they are doting grandparents too and live far away).

Has anyone ever been in this situation? Any ideas, suggestions, etc. would be great. Thank you! Grateful daughter


I completely understand where you're coming from. My sister told me at one point in a similar situation ''sometimes you have to suck it up and just be grateful''-meaning I could never say thanks enough and to just let go, and allow the other person to enjoy the gift they were giving me. It's intense though! How about a beautiful rose bush or fruit-bearing tree to plant in your garden (or theirs)? As it grows through the years the joy and beauty it gives is enjoyed by all. What a wonderful problem. Enjoy your home! paying it forward
You are very fortunate indeed. I would suggest that you invite them for a home cooked dinner at your new home, perhaps with other family or special friends, and thank them with a toast, but no physical gifts. If you have time, take some photos of your family in your new home and have a book made online, give to them with a handwritten note about how much you appreciate their help. Otherwise, do that over the next few months and give it to them at the holidays. Enjoy your new home!
Are your parents local? If not, one important thing you can do is go to extra trouble to make the house comfortable for them to visit. For example, get them a real bed with a high-quality mattress, not a spine-busting pull-out, even if it means sacrificing space for other things. Make sure there's dresser or closet space that is left empty. Etc. Futons in the living room are harder to endure in your sixties and seventies, and making space for them shows they are an essential part of your lives, not an afterthought to be squeezed in around the edges.

Otherwise, the photo-related gifts, such as hardbound Mac photo books, are indeed nice. Also, kids' artwork made into gift items, like trivets or aprons, can be good. Generally, try to show your gratitude by opening your lives to include them as much as possible, and when an opportunity for doing something special presents itself, take it! Anon


I have made about 12 photo books through Shutterfly. They have many different styles and tons of options. It's a bit tricky at first but grandparents don't care if it does not look perfect. my first book had great pages but the two sides of the pages did not always go well together colorwise or style wise. Now, having done so many, my books are great. I made a brag book for my mother, one picture per page with a few words and then several 8x8 hard covers for all of the 6 grandparents. The more you make, the more discounts you get. My mother in law displays hers on her entertainment center. it was for her 64th birthday with lots of pictures of her and her grandson. Feel free to contact me if you have questions. Faith
I think an honest, sweet, thankful, handwritten letter would be a great gift. They wouldn't want you to spend money on something, seeing as you needed financial help on the house. If they knew they really helped you and you truly appreciated it, that would probably be gift enough. I'd bet they'd even save the letter with other treasures.

Resentful about parents' comfort vs. our financial struggle

Sept 2011

I need some help getting perspective. In the midst of financial struggles, I can't stop myself from feeling resentful about the relative financial comfort of my parents. I am much too old to expect them to help me financially (and they have helped a great deal in the past), and they are retired and thus managing their money while facing the insecurities/fears of getting older. However, I find myself annoyed when hearing the details of their nice vacations etc while I am worrying about which bill I am not going to pay this month. My partner and I both work, and we have two young children, and we live very frugally. We have no security (don't own a home, don't have savings, do have lots of debt). Although I know this is my problem to solve, and I tell myself that I am glad they are able to enjoy their retirement, etc., I am still full of resentment! I would love to get some advice about how to let go of that. Greedy?


I think there is still something of the child in you, feeling that your parents should see your situation and do something about it. And then I think that your reaction is very normal, very human. There are a couple of factors here, which you probably already understand, but it might not hurt to go over them. First, you are at a very different stage of your life: the struggling stage. My parents had it very tough economically when we were kids; they had to work their tails off and account for every penny. But as we grew up and gained independence and they became more established financially, their worries slowly peeled away. They are by no means well off (they are working-class people), but they are comfortable enough, can do the things they enjoy, have no major financial issues... whew. Thank God. So part of this is the generational difference, and we can hope for that light at the end of the tunnel ourselves. Except for the second part, which is harder to handle from my perspective: the economic crisis we are experiencing, which definitely hits some people harder than others. We are in the thick of it; your parents managed to avoid the train wreck by having their money in the right places, apparently. But I fear we are going to be struggling with it for a long time to come, especially when I look at the rising cost of education and diminishing resources. I think I would speak with my parents about the latter half of this, not with the expectation that they should shell out cash, but just let them know about your worries. My parents, who do not have any resources to share with me, have fantastic advice. They help me make decisions about money matters. So tap your parents for advice and comfort. They must have done some things right, so see if you can emulate them in any way. Good luck to you. daughter of Depression babies
I couldn't read your post without at least commiserating! My parents have both been retired with really fat pensions. They never saved a dime in their lives, and just count on these very generous pensions. I am glad that they have a good life, don't get me wrong, but they are just so out of touch. They complain about their health insurance and having to go to the dentist. I would *love* to go to the dentist, but haven't had health insurance for over 6 years. My parents complain about not seeing their grandchildren enough, but they don't realize the extreme stress that me and my husband are under. My mom flipped out on me when I stated she should enjoy her days, since my husband and I will likely never retire--should thought I was being critical, when all I was stating was the truth, we will likely work until the day we die. Part of it must be generational--and I don't have any great advice about how to deal with these feels. I am not proud of the way I feel, but also am not going to tiptoe around them. Young families are really having it hard these days, and I don't think they realize how hard it is. struggling
Can you spell entitlement? Not to be too hard but you are sounding spoiled. Your parents took care of you when you were young, got you educated (I presume) and have even helped you with your finances recently. They've kept their end of the bargain. To expect them to not enjoy their lives is plain selfish. To put into perspective, I come from a third-world country and my family (and those of most of my fellow-countrymen who came here to study/work) spent money & resources to help us get here & get educated. That took a lot of sacrifices on their part. Now, I (and most of my friends) send money back home to help them (and no, most of us are also struggling in the expensive Bay Area). I think if you're not helping your parents as they get older (as they don't need it), the least you could do is let them enjoy it. Live vicariously through them & enjoy their experiences. Nothing is guaranteed in life, especially in one's retirement years. What if they got terminally sick soon or something horrible like that happened? It would be nice to know they enjoyed a good part of their lives. One day when you're in their shoes, you wouldn't want your kids to begrudge you your hard-earned money?

I agree that it's hard in the Bay Area. Almost all couples I know live pay-check to pay-check. But you're chosing to live here and making other choices about your lifestyle, line of work, etc. Maybe changing one (or all of) that part of the equation will change your standard of living? Not looking to support my kids when they are adults


Since you are an adult, your parents are not obligated to help you out, but maybe they would if you asked. Do you have siblings? Maybe they could give gifts to all of their kids. Maybe if they knew that you are struggling, they would want to help. When they get old and sick and unable to take care of themselves, who is going to take care of them? Will it be you? Maybe giving you money now would make sense if you are going to be burdened by their needs later. It is nice if offspring can provide the love and attention old folks need without being paid, but they can't always do that. Giving you money now could be a way for them to buy ''insurance.'' Anyway, it seems to me that you are doing your part to be responsible. Why shouldn't they help? anon
My parents did not support me during my struggling years, and I am very glad about it now. My father has dementia and is in an assisted living facility. Every penny of his savings will be needed for his care. Thank goodness he was both responsible and fortunate.

I also recognize that although I consider myself to be financially responsible and frugal, my parents NEVER had any of the things I take for granted. We ate out twice a year. Hamburger was a big feature of in-home dining. Clothes were always discount and we shopped for new ones twice a year, total. For the kids. There are lots more things to buy now, and you can sure feel deprived not having them: cable TV, cell phones, internet service. But try to consider them luxuries, not necessities!! Besides not having those things, my parents didn't spend money on water, either, and coffee was Maxwell House in a can. So even though they had a nice home and my dad was able to retire with a good pension, I don't think their lives were really easier than mine.

I'm also a bit on the other side of the fence. My husband has adult children who give us a little attitude every time we take a trip or buy something ("Oooh, that's really nice, I wish I could afford that!") Please don't do that. If you need money for some emergency, ask for your parents for it -- don't go passive-aggressive. I hope this helps and doesn't sound too preachy. You sound like you are honest with yourself and trying to figure out a way not to resent your parents. Maybe a little more time spent with the truly disadvantaged? And try to enjoy your independence, too. Would you really want to be Paris Hilton, who couldn't last for five minutes if she didn't have her parents' wealth to consume? Good luck.


- I know a lot of people might say get over this. And it really is something you can't act on or speak to your parents about. I'm sure they had years of struggle too, even if less intense than yours.

I just want to acknowledge that economic times have changed so much and it really is harder for people to raise a family and have any security nowadays. Your parents probably overall did have it easier. And owning a home in the Bay Area? I never could do it and I know I'm not alone but I am alone among my friends who have a far higher level of security than I do. (I was a single parent.) I do know that feeling of envy bordering on despair when someone goes on and on about replacing the gutters on the vacation house. Or, one time, a woman was actually crying at school dropoff becuase HER car died and she had to call her husband and they had to SHARE a car while hers was in the shop. (Hello, you have a partner and a second car.) I was and am happy for my friends' good fortune and I know they wish me the best.

I think it's ok to feel that way privately. Then go back to your own life. Take responsibility for any iffy decisions you made that got you into this. In my case, married wrong guy, wouldn't live with an abuser. Acknowledge the wisdom and stupidity of your decisions.

And it's not over! List all the pluses and advantages you have, maybe a husband, health, the ability to work, the fact that childhood passes. You can create some level of security still. I'm probably older than you and I believe that. Unless you choose suicide, and you can't with kids (can you tell I've ridden this train of thought?), you just can't give up. It comes to some spiritual or philosophical attitude of accepting the unique challenges you have and remembering that everybody has something. It's hard but try not to compare. I compared myself to one of my friends, financially, then she got sick and died. Young!

Maybe it comes down to just not giving up, doing your best, and appreciating all the small things. - i hear you


Wow. I have the opposite problem! My mom is so incredibly unskilled at life that she can't keep a job, she can barely keep a roof over her head, and often doesn't have enough money for food. We don't make nearly enough money to support her too, but we often do end up bailing her out (paying her rent, buying her gift cards to Trader Joe's, etc.) and then I feel so resentful. So we have that in common- the resentment part!

I'm not sure how you can heal/deal with your resentment; it's such a foreign thing to me to have highly functional parents (at least where their finances are concerned). I'm actually jealous of you! I had to raise myself as a kid because my mom is so inept at ''life'' -it felt like I was raising the both of us, frankly. I always wished someone would lend a hand. But it was just the two of us. Now I (once again) wish I had a sibling or someone to help me... It feels like so much. My mom is only 60, but has to work at minimum-wage jobs because she can't handle much more than that. I should shut-up now, I'm depressing myself.

But good luck to you. And when you feel the resentment creep up, think of me. At least you aren't having to take care of them AND yourself and your family. Something small to be grateful for. Mama-to-My-Mama


After reading some of the responses, I had to write in. Obviously the writers' own experiences are driving their perspectives. Those who are better off than their parents seem to think you are being a spoiled brat. I disagree. The reality in America is that, overall, we've passed the peak. For many, especially the young, but even many in middle age, they are simply never going to achieve the level of prosperity that their parents had, no matter what economic circumstances they grew up in. In addition, the communal benefits that their parents currently enjoy (Soc. Sec. and Medicare)will not be there for us. Acknowledging that is not spoiled; it's realistic. It may not be true yet for some individuals whose parents had no education who themselves got an education and have a completely different kind of job, but for many of us it is the case. Real incomes in many (most?) fields have declined since I was a kid (the 60s and 70s). I have the same education level and quality and am in a similar field as my father, but our lifestyles have no relation to each other. My mother stayed home, and we lived a really privileged life on his one scientist's income. I am a scientist AND my husband works full time, and there is no way in hell we could buy the house I grew up in, go on the vacations we went on, pay the tuition for the private school I attended, have the new cars or anything that my parents were able to do on one professor's income. That's just a fact. It's NOT because I pay for cable and they didn't (I don't have cable, since we can't afford it). The fact that you don't have the nice life your parents had or even now are enjoying in their retirement and the fact that you will likely not have anywhere near as comfortable a retirement yourself (if you even get to retire), probably has NOTHING to do with you buying more luxuries than they did. It's just the ugly reality of 21st century America in which wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of very few and almost ALL the rest of us are losing ground. It's only going to get worse, by all indications. (continued below) Part of the dying middle class
(continued from above) So, your reality is mine and many others' as well. I don't resent my mother having her comforts, but I do get extremely irritated when she complains about the expenses of her second home in Tahoe, the single supplement she has to pay to have a private room on her guided luxury trips to Africa/India/Morocco/France, the cost of the bathroom remodel, etc. Or when she complains about how little her Social Security increase is, or how annoying it is that Medicare won't pay for something or other. Or when she mentions, somewhat petulantly, that my sister's and my families don't come travel to her enough (seven people traveling vs. one - what makes financial sense?). Or when she comments that we should have bought a nicer house like the one next door (which we couldn't afford in a million years) or should replace our furniture or I should buy a new outfit for some event. She has no concept of the reality in which her children live and how even in our prime earning years we have nothing like what she had in my childhood or has now in retirement. No, I don't begrudge her her good fortune - she was lucky enough to hit the peak of prosperity combined with high public support in America - but I do NOT want to hear her complain. So, I can relate to you frustration, and you are not being unreasonable. That being said, you should probably keep it to yourself; saying something won't change the reality, and might just put an unnecessary damper on their happiness. Just try not compare, and think of what you DO have. It's hard, but it helps. Of course, some day I might just scream at my mother if she complains again about some luxury I could never EVER afford...... Part of the dying middle class
I read your post with bemusement - I wish I had such a problem! My parents have always handled their money badly. Decades ago they expected their own parents to give them a down payment on a house - and it never happened, and they are still renting. My father has been in and out of more jobs than I can count. He is now 65 and unemployed - laid off two years ago, and unlikely to ever work again. My mother works two jobs and will never be able to retire. I literally lie awake at night worrying about how I will manage to put my own children through college and simultaneously help my own parents as their health continues to decline. And I do own a house - my husband and I scraped and saved for many years. No one helped us. The catch is that I can never, ever discuss my finances with my parents because my situation is the exact opposite of yours: my parents are envious of me. And not a day goes by that I don't feel guilty for what I have. anonymous
I know very well what the original posting is all about. I also have to agree with the two-part response a couple of newsletters ago. You are not alone in this. I unfortunately have to tell my parents that some comments they make around my spouse and I, or our friends are based on assumptions they make that are completely wrong, and as a result they might hurt people. Thankfully, they can take a hint and have been very measured, but I think in large part it helps that they live on very little and are far from comfortable at retirement.

This is not true of a few of our friends though who are comfortably retired. Their comments and assumptions have been rather unfortunate in the past, and we have to manage our contact time with them. We know they like to come visit the kids, or to generally hand around with our friends but it is too much stress. Their own kids have to publicly admonish them for making remarks that are misplaced, or whining to people who they don't realize have far more economic uncertainty and challenges galore to deal with (to say nothing of the strong ideological views they so willingly share with everyone regardless of context or venue).

It's particularly hard that my peers (in mid-30s to mid-40s) despite their advanced education, capabilities and most of them being new parents, they are having enormous difficulties and fairly uncertain economic prospects at what should be the prime of their working lives. No-one wants to ''brag'' about how tough things are for them, so it's probably really tricky for someone to appreciate that the ''problems'' they have are nothing compared to many younger families.

This is not entirely generational though. We have some friends who regardless of how they are doing at retirement (and some are struggling) they are great to be with, insightful, lively, wise, and calm, regardless of what goes on in their lives.

That said, it is really weird to see some of our friends having to take their parents aside for ''a chat''. My uncle sometimes jokes that some in his generation are acting as if their kids are the adults in the room.

I think you need to at least communicate to your parents about how their words have an impact. I think you have the acumen necessary to convey to them that you both love them and appreciate them for how much they have done for you, and that their complaints are sometimes distracting to you, or that it is hard to relate to them about all that. You know that it won't make things instantly better, but you are their child, and you ought to give them a heads-up about what this impacts your relationship with them.


My dad expects me to provide him with money

August 2008

I'm having a very difficult time with my father and would like to seek some advice from those with wisdom/experience. My father was a good father to me; he did everything he could to bring my mom and his three children to the US; support us during our early days in the US. On the down side, he was very self righteous; authoritative; and was not open to open communication with his children. I basically entered my first marriage out of the desire to escape the traditional family dynamics. Since then, I went through a divorce; went to law school on my own; remarried and now practice law in the city.

Now my father's retired from a great position. He lives in a condo which I helped buy; drives a SUV Lexus; occasionally travels to the old country or out of town; basically leads a very decent life for a retiree on a fixed budget. However, having the old Asian values of expecting children to support the parents financially in the parents' old age, he has driven me completely crazy. He expects me to provide him with money. Honestly, I have failed to do so simply because I have my family obligations myself: mortgage; my kid's education; other expenses, no luxury by all means: I'm still driving a 6 year old car, and frankly after all bills are paid, I survive on a $50 the last five days prior to the next paycheck!

And my father has turned completely hostile, bitter, & angry at me. He would either confront me directly about money issue: ''Why don't you pay for it, etc?'' Or everyday he would tell my mother that one of his deepest regrets is to bring his family to the US; he should have left us in Vietnam under the communists! That kind of statement hurt and angered me tremendously. First,as a mother myself, I cannot even imagine saying such cruel things about my kids.Secondly, I think if I could afford it, I would help him financially. But I can't. I tried to explain to him but he never listened and he has maintained a very cold, bitter interaction with me. I appreciate any advice you might give. anon


We (my siblings and I) also went through a similar situation with our dad. In our case, what eventually helped was setting a budget for dad's expenses. Our dad knows that he will get a certain amount each month to cover his personal expenses while we siblings will cover other fixed expenses (home, utilities, food, medical). We've explained to him that we also have our own personal bills to pay and that he can't expect us to pay for everything.

And yes, I know of the emotional blackmail (''I raised you - why aren't you being grateful, etc etc'') which sadly, has caused our relationship to deteriorate. I've decided to ignore it now (hard to do yes) and I've told myself that I won't let him get the better of me. I know this isn't very helpful but I hope you find your own way of dealing with his comments. spf


Hi. I am also Asian (Chinese from Hong Kong) and know what you mean about parents and money. I didn't get from your posting whether you are a man or a woman. That matters, in my opinion. I think Asian fathers expect male children to perform but not female children. I have a feeling you are a man, and that is why your father is so hard on you. I think you have to consider also that your values have changed since coming to the U.S. (I know mine have). All the things you mentioned about communication and expectations between you and your father are caught up in the cultural differences. I don't think you can ever change him, so you just have to do your best in YOUR part of the communication. I would definitely explain to him that you don't have the money to support him, and that you are having a hard time. Apologize because you feel really bad, considering all the things he has done for you in the past. Help out in other ways other than financial, and give him the love that he is looking for. Don't get caught up with the money. It's not worth it. Hope this helps. Feel free to email me if you want more communication about this. I have more to say, but it's hard to say it all here. paula
In reading your post, I recognize that there are two issues here: cultural expectations and relationship problems.

You should hightail it into therapy with someone who understands cultural issues surrounding Asian daughters (an Asian woman therapist if possible). She could help you get perspective on what is culturally appropriate - you are straddling two cultures and should have some support in your navigation towards a relationship with your parents which is comfortable for you.

It is possible that your father may not ever be able to accept that his paradigm is not going to work here. If he continues to be abusive, stop talking to him.

I know lots of Asian women who have successfully maintained a relationship with their old country parents within an American attitude (ie: no, you cannot come and live with me, I will not support you as long as you have the means to support yourself, yes I will be helpful to you - but not a servant). It takes strength not to fall into the ''good Chinese daughter'' trap (or Japanese, or Vietnamese), but find a therapist who understands these issues and you will be able to find a balance between the old world and the new. Eurasian and proud


Hi - Your dad's a narcissist, surf the web for definitiions of that. It might be comforting to have the labels. He's open and honest about how little he cares for you. You are still hooked and feeling responsible and guilty. Get therapy to help you distance yourself from him - you owe him no justification for how you spend your money and have the right to have a jewelry fund, a retirement fund, a vacation budget, candy fund - whatever the heck you want. You've been more than a good daughter. I guess I'm assuming you're a woman because we women are more likely to get hooked into guilt for not serving the needs jerks who don't care about us and I can't imagine a man writing that post. Good luck. anon
Easier said than done, but DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Parents know your weak spots, and your dad is obviously struggling with the fact that things aren't working out the way they were ''supposed to.'' And how could they? He moved from his home country, which was in turmoil. He's probably experiencing a bit of mid-life crisis, and discovering that belligerence and anger doesn't work anymore (as maybe it would have if the war hadn't come along). But that doesn't mean he won't stop trying! But it's not about you; it's just dissatisfaction that doesn't have a home. And, unfortunately, for immigrants in this country, things are not like home, and you don't know that till you've left and made a commitment to live here. And once you've lived here, ''home'' isn't really the old country anymore either. Both you and your parents may always feel a little lost from that perspective. (Heck, I even had that sense of disillusionment and disorientation moving from one part of the Bay Are to another after a divorce, so it's much worse changing cultures and countries completely!) Here's what I suggest (again, easier said than done): Do your best with your dad, be firm on your limits, don't join him in his anger (that's just what he's doing to try to get you to do things the ''old way.''), be as loving and compassionate as possible, and mourn the loss of the loving, family-oriented dad you'd love to have (but try to get over it). And walk away when you can't take any more, to take care of yourself. I have similar issues w/ a couple of family members (minus the cultural clash). I will never have the mother I want and imagine, so there are limitations, but she has her strengths as well (and difficulties from her past that I try to empathize with). When necessary, if she lashes out at me--doesn't happen much anymore b/c I am an now expert at avoiding the unnecessary battle--I simply say I have to go, making up an excuse if needed. Also try not to feel guilty about not meeting all of your father's demands. You do what you can, you take care of yourself & family & dad as best as possible, set your limits, and move on. Try not to say things you'll regret when he dies. You wouldn't be anguished if you didn't love him too.

Friends' frequent requests for money donations

March 2008

I have friends who belong to organizations, lead organizations, and run marathons. Quite frequently, friends personally ask me for monetary donations to support their causes. When I was younger and starting out, even when money was an issue, I certainly didn't mind offering a small donation of perhaps $50 to support lymphoma or breast cancer for example for a friend running in a marathon. Now that I am older and financially established, friends hope and somewhat expect that I have the means to offer thousands of dollars to support their causes. I have been even placed on permanent mailing lists which I think is a bit rude. Annually I do donate to organizations of my choosing but I wish my friends would not persist in this arena. It has come to the point that one friend remarked, ''Why don't you just donate what you donated to .... to my organizaion?!'' or, (comparing qualities in friends, never good) ''Suzy Q donated $2000 to our organization this year, you really should, don't you think?'' How would you handle this situation? Why can't friends keep money out of the equation? Frustrated


How about sending an e-mail to all of these fund-raising friends (blind cc list), saying something like, ''Dear friends, as you all know, I have donated to many causes over the years, and have rarely if ever, turned down a peronal request for a donation. What you may not know, is that I also donate to causes that I am personally, if more privately, committed to. While I wish I could continue to support all the different causes that all of us support, and I applaud everyone's efforts for doing this important work, I have decided to select a finite number of causes and support those as fully as I am able. So from now on, I will not be making donations to other organizations. I wrote this letter to everyone because I feel badly about saying no to anyone. But I'm sure you all understand we all have our limits, and I have now found mine. Thanks for understanding!'' That should nip it in the bud, no? anon
This is a very good issue to raise. Giving money to causes you support can be a wonderful thing, as you get the good feeling that you are helping make the world a better place. However, getting browbeaten because you haven't given enough to someone else's pet cause (in their estimation) is not such a wonderful feeling.

My husband and I make a careful plan for our giving at the end of every calendar year. We favor making fewer, larger gifts rather than scattering smaller gifts between many organizations. When people hit me up, I explain our strategy to them. Not everyone is happy. Some people are so passionate about their causes that they can't understand how you could fail to share their passion. Explain to them that, while you admire their commitment to X, you have made other commitments.

One of the problems of being a donor is that you sometimes feel as though your reward for making gifts is more mail, more requests and higher expectations. But it's still worth it to support the causes you believe in, and they really do need your money. Stick to your guns, don't feel apologetic and keep on giving. Giver


I know exactly how you feel. I've been responding this way: ''How great that you're running/walking/bicycling. I want my charity dollars to go to one or two places so I can follow the impact my donations have. This year I'm donating to Heifer International and Habitat for Humanity because those causes are really important to me. (During Katrina it was to the Red Cross.) So many people have asked me to sponsor them, it felt like my giving was too scattered.'' Still feels awkward but it's the truth. Choosing Charities
I have this problem and it bugs me a little too. I even get them from people who are my business clients. I remind myself that their intentions are good and my response is usually ''thanks for this wonderful opportunity but I will be sticking to my own list of donations for the year. I hope your bowl-a-thon is very successful.'' Or something like that. Nice - to the point. Pick your own good will!
Friends no longer ask me to donate to their organization unless they are willing to donate the same amount to my organization, ''Huntington's Disease Society of America'' at www.hdsa.org. Committed to Preventing Huntington's Disease
When friends ask me money for their causes I give what I can. If you don't feel like giving, then my advice would be to say I don't feel like it, maybe some other time. It's that simple

Want to be removed as co-signer on step-daughter's loans

Sept 2007

Hope the BPN community can help w/this one.

We co-signed student loans for my now 26 year old SIL back in 2002 & 2003. Her mother couldn't really help her and we stepped up. She is now married and has an excellent job tho is sometimes late w/a payment (and the loan co calls us every time).

As part of our general financial housecleaning this year (property trusts, paying down debt, etc)as we expect our second child, we have asked her to take us off her loans as co-signers, and thus far she has not, as she's been complaining that the interest on consolidation loans are too high (from 5% to 12% seems to be the range).

Do we have any recourse or are we dependent on her to get this done?

Thanks so much, Responsible


My mother co-signed a student loan for my daughter. We asked about taking her off and it's very simple: we had to make on- time loans for one year and then you can apply to remove the co- signer. The terms of the loan don't change, it's still the dept. of ed. Since you are a co-signer, you have a right to see the loan, I would suggest that YOU find out how to log in to look at the loans you co-signed, find out exactly how to remove yourself as a co-signer and if, in fact, the one year rule still applies, then monitor it and then just DO IT. You can do all of this online and you'll know for sure what the real story is. Gizella
if you cosigned a loan, you are going to be unable to break that contract. it is a legal document and that's pretty much that. however, i consolidated my loans 2 years ago through sallymae and have a rate a little over 3%. the rates are higher now, but i'd advise her to contact them. this is a fixed rate on the majority of my student loans, with about a third being revolving (a HEAL education loan). i have the option of paying this one off first. i'd approach her less from the standpoint that you want to be released of your legal obligation and more that you are trying to help her- catch flies with honey and all that. good luck! paige

Money I loaned to friend has not been repaid

Sept 2007

Back in May, my *good* friend, a colleague of mine, who is a single male, who works full time and makes 4K a month, asked me, a part time worker and married mother of 3, for a small loan. He stated he was in dire need of the money as he was getting evicted from his apartment for ''lack of payment''. He also was having problems with the IRS and the phone company for not paying his bills. I hesitated for a sec (with my instincts telling me no because I figured he will not repay me) but reluctantly decided to go ahead and lend him the money because he cried and seemed so desperate as he begged and begged. I knew he was manipulating me but oh, well, I hated to see him so upset. Well, it's now September and of course he hasn't paid me. I am just figuring I should just ''eat it'' and chalk it up as experience. I'm actually embarrassed for him that he hasn't paid me as I'm the type of person who immediately pays my bills. Unfortunatley, it's awkward now when we see each other at work as the air is tense but I don't bring up the subject waiting to see what he'll do. Anytime he sees me, he always brings it up but doesn't pay up. Don't really know what to do...it's uncomfortable. anon


Mark Twain once noted how sacred the bonds of friendship are -- until money comes up. Your friend has a problem with money and he took advantage of you. Friends don't do that. At the same time, you say that you didn't think he would pay you back, so you apparently told yourself at that time that your friendship was worth losing that amount of money. Did you establish a time at which he should have paid you back? It doesn't sound like it. I would approach him at a moment when you can be alone and ask to talk to him. Tell him that your friendship with him means a lot to you and that's why you need to have him help you out by returning the money he borrowed. Give him a time limit -- a short one, as it was a ''small loan.'' Make it clear that it's really important to you that he make this effort for you. If he doesn't -- make it clear you're no longer friends. And don't lend money unless you really want to. also a soft touch
You are generous to call this person a friend! I wouldn't ever take advantage of a friend in that way. If I wasn't able to pay you back immediately, I would explain in DETAIL why, and give you an idea of when I thought I would have the cash. This may be a losing battle, but I wouldn't just let him get away with this. If it's already awkward talking with him at work, then I would just get my courage up and straight out ask him for the money back and give him a deadline when to pay me. If he brings it up every time he sees you, then follow up his comment with something like this: ''You know, Joe, it's been six months. Xmas (or whatever) is coming soon. I would like to have the money back in the next two weeks. What can I do to help make that possible? Would you like a phone call at home? a note?'' If he says he doesn't have the money now, then tell him that you will accept installments. ''I understand that money is tight. How about you just pay me 20 bucks (50 bucks/100 bucks) every week/every pay day?'' If he says he can't, tell him: ''well Joe, as a matter of good faith and friendship, it is important that you take your debt to me seriously. what CAN you afford to pay me each week?'' Even after all that, he may never pay you back without being forced to. But at least you have stood up for yourself. Did you and he sign anything when you made the loan? Do you have a cancelled check or anything? I would like a friend like you!
I think you've got a few choices. If he's really a good friend, then you tell him, look, I'm uncomfortable with this debt. Let's make a plan for how you'll pay it back. How about $20 a month (or whatever seems reasonable?) If you can't do that, then you can either write it off in your head, and tell him that you've written it off, and therefore it's a gift, and truly think of it that way, or write him off as a friend. It sounds like you're going that way anyway, since you're not really ''awkward'' with a true friend, and a real friend doesn't ''borrow'' money with no apparent intention of paying it back. (Actually I don't have any friends who would ask me for money...) You knew you shouldn't have lent him the money in the first place, you were just hoping you were wrong. You're an optimist, nothing wrong with that. But I wouldn't loan anybody any more money unless you're a money tree.
You're right, he probably won't pay it back. Think I would simply tell him it's ok that he borrowed the money (next time he brings it up) and you know he'll pay it back when he's able, but that you don't wish to talk about it until then. Then change the subject and if he ever brings it up after that just smile and talk about something else. He'll get the message. anon
Yes, I've been there. After not getting paid back, and feeling so uncomfortable, I decided to heed my Grandpa's words, ''Don't loan money, just gift it.'' So I told my coworker not to worry about paying me back. It was still awkward for a long time. After a decade, we are still coworkers, and I will never have the same level of trust in this person, but we are amiable. Much later, I found out that she ''borrowed'' money from many coworkers. One of them did set up a payment plan with her, and she paid the money little by little. hope I never have to go thru that again
I'll bet you are not the only one that your friend has borrowed money from. I had a friend like this too, and I finally figured out two things: everyone he knew was, to him, a potential source for free money and 2) he was never going to pay it back. Nice guy, but really irresponsible. Just be aware. So, I also have siblings who borrow money, and who can also be irresponsible. This has worked for me over the years: I tell them I will lend them money when they need it, but they have to pay me back before I will lend to them again. And then I stick to it. This has worked really, really well. A couple of them need to borrow money pretty often, and they know I'm there for them, but they have to pay me back. They do pay me back, sometimes it takes a year or two. One of my sisters is paying me a little bit every month - she asked me to keep track, so I have a little Excel spreadsheet and when she sends me a check, I add it and send her a copy. It sounds a little unfamilial, but keeping things very business-like has helped. You might try that with your friend. Soft touch, with restrictions
To document the loan, just file a claim in Small Claims court. You might not get your money back, but at least there will be an official record of an amount due to you. And, you will have a documented loss to write off on your taxes.

There's an old saying that if you want to see less of someone, lend them money. It sounds as if there's something else going on that your ''friend'' hasn't told you. Is he a compulsive shopper or gambler? Has a credit-card company increased his interest rate to usurius levels? Does he need credit counseling? Is he trying to impress another woman with expensive jewelry? Lender


Best friend's questionable moneymaking scheme

Dec 2006

Hello BPN! I am conflicted about my friendship with my childhood best friend. We have known each other for over 20 years which accounts for 2/3 of my life! We were true best friends, did everything together from elem thru high school. I moved away for college and have just moved back to town. We'd see each other at least around the holidays and talk every month or so.

Since moving back, there have been some ''transition'' issues, mostly seeing each other more often and realizing how different we are, but mostly non-issues that we both can handle.

More recently, however, she has become involved with a financial company - World Financial Group (WFG), thru her cousin (who I also know from childhood, not the most honest fellow). After asking a few basic questions about the types of life insurance he was hyping up to her (variable universal life), I realized he was blowing smoke. I did a little research and found out the company doesn't have the best reputation, they use multi-level marketing to gain clients (friend abuse i would say) and their associates basically get kickbacks for the referrals (like Amway).

I shared all my research with her and she read it, but still believed her cousin's pitch. I think she just saw dollar signs and that because he was so ''knowledgable'' about financial matters that he would share his ''secrets'' with her and her friends and family. I sat w/ him for a half hour and he backpeddled every time I asked a tough question, no secrets, he was just a fast talking salesman.

Anyhow, I hoped it would pass, I pleaded with her to do more outside resarch, but she has only become more involved. She even has her mother in law in the ''group'' and she is actually going to put real money into one of these lame life insurance plans. She was just wasting her time, but her mother in law can potentially lose lots of money. (my dad has sold life insurance for over 25 years and explained how these work in detail)

I feel very upset by the situation. I have tried to ignore it and have a rule (to myself) to not say anything about it anymore, but she keeps bringing it up because it's such a part of her life now. I have tried to recategorize her in my mind as a sister, since you don't choose family but you do choose friends, and it helps but i'm so annoyed (aside from the ethcial problems i have w/ the situation). I don't have a lot of friends in the area yet so I am also low on options there. What do I do? lonely and concerned


I can completely relate to your situation. My friend of 14 years has been duped into thinking he can make tons of money on the foreign currency exchange market. To humor him, I went to a hotel for the sales pitch. (Gag) My friend was convinced as were 100+ other people they were going to make millions in just a few days trading currencies. They bought the story hook, line, sinker fishing pole and fishing boat and washed it down with cool aid,

I was appalled, people plunked down $5,000 for software. It was hard to stomach; people maxed out credit cards just to pay for the crapy software. Think! 100 people spending $5,000... It's a huge amount of money these people are making.

Now I'm no savvy investor, but when we I returned home I did a Google search for the software/company and found web site after web site with the words complete rip off - stay away - invents if only you want to loose money. Several sites gave details on how the company makes money and you don't. On the "how risky is the foreign exchange market"? It's right around winning at Keno or hitting the big jackpot on a slot machine.

I hate it, but I have lost my friendship with my friend over this. No amount of evidence I produce for him will convince him otherwise. He think's I'm a fool for not investing. As I'm sure you've learned, you have a better chance at making money gambling then with the scheme you friend is offering you. I'm sure you know you will lose ALL your money with your friend's scheme.

Thanks for sharing your story with me, I needed a reality check.

My advice.... Is your friendship more important to you then money, invest. If money is hard to come by, more important to you and your family then lost a friend.

I think you would be happier giving the money to a charity then knowing some SOB is partying with your money.

Avoiding the topic doesn't work with this friend. He believes and I don't. I've tried to educate him and that's about all I can do. (You can lead a horse to water....) It's frustrating.

What's tragic is he is working harder then ever before and not getting ahead financially. As for the mother-in-law - If what you think what these guys are doing is illegal, contact law enforcement. You could try to educate the woman, but now you are butting in on family - You'll be the "bad guy" In a few years they will say, "You know you were right, I should have listed to you." Maybe then your friendship will bloom again.

My friend hasn't made millions. The software these clowns are hawking is now on TV - Christian channels. They use lines like "You have to believe you can become rich". And "You have to believe this system will work for you". Oh my god Anon


It looks to me like your best move is this: the next time she brings it up, look her in the eye and tell her, firmly, gently, & lovingly, that you realize she's committed to this program, but that it is absolutely not right for you, and you'd appreciate it if she'd agree to drop it & not bring it up again. And make a concerted effort to find more friends. --anonymous
I'm sorry your friend has fallen prey to a pyramid scheme. However, the issue here is your friendship with her, not her choice to be taken. There is no point in you spending any more time or energy trying to change her mind as she's made up hers. However, you can gently tell her you've made up yours and you're not interested in joining her venture. If the two of you can continue on as friends, then by all means do so, just be sure not to bring up the issue anymore. If, however, she refuses to drop it, then it may be time to cool the friendship. Also, regardless of the outcome, do look for new friends. That way you won't be dependent on her if you decide to break it off Anon
Be careful. This could end a friendship, and has ended many before.

World Financial Group is most definitely a multi-level marketing (MLM)scheme. They pretend to have a ''support'' network. They must, because they mostly make money on new recruits.

Say no once firmly. If your friend persists, tell her that you need to take a break from her if she will only talk about WFG.

Good luck with this. MLM's don't make friends. MLM make money for those on the top Anon


I would be very clear with your friend that you are NOT interested and want nothing to do with it. If she can't grant that wish, I would start taking my distance.

An acquaintance of mine became involved with this group and tried to get me involved. Some basic research revealed immediately that this was something that I was not interested in. First of all, this person wouldn't tell me much about it.

He just pushed for me to come to a meeting at his home. Then he kept calling me. He even asked another friend to ask me to come. At that point I called him and told him that I was just not interested. I also have a problem with the semi-legal status of these types of businesses and want nothing to do with them.

But about your friend; realize that people change. You did and she did too. (Why do you think so many marriages fail? And these couples LIVED together!) Being apart and having your own lives will change you. Though your lives alligned when you were younger, they obviously don't any longer. You already came up with a solution yourself. Find other friends! Join a sports club of some sort or anything else that will put you in contact with other people. Before you know it this will just be a somewhat bad memory JOJ


I think you have two different problems here. 1) How to keep a life-long friendship with someone who has turned out to have very different values than yours and 2) What to do when people you love do stupid things (and try to get you to do them too).

For problem #1: I really believe in ''make new friends but keep the old''. It's probably selfishness on my part: those old friends are a pretty big slice of my past, and my past is part of who I am, so I want to keep connected to it if I can. For me it's like hanging on to old photos and mementos. You don't look at them every day but it's a great pleasure when you do. So I grew up in Alabama and some of my old friends are way, way more conservative in *every* way than I am. When they come to visit me, honestly they look like they came from another planet. And you wouldn't believe some of the email they send me around election time. But I either ignore it, or joke about it, and they do the same with me and my liberal notions. We all know which topics not to bring up, and where the shut-up-now line is. When we get together, not often but we do, we have fun. There is nothing more relaxing and comforting than spending time with someone you have known for a long time, who knows about all the events in your life that got you to where you are now. The more years I've accumulated, the more important this has gotten. So I just hit the delete key when the Hate Hillary chain-mail comes in, and look forward to the next get-together.

Now #2: a good 2/3 of my immediate family believe very fervently in get-rich-quick schemes. None of them are rich and never will be, but they are all very happy and optimistic, so that is why they keep making the same mistakes over and over in the belief that one day they will actually hit the jackpot. There are few multi-level marketing type schemes that have not been proposed to me by a sister or a cousin or a nephew. My mother regularly invites me to attend this ''free'' seminar or take advantage of that ''free'' hotel offer. I learned a while back that they do not listen to reason. Also, that they never, ever stop believing.

It's part of their DNA. So why beat my head against the wall? I just say ''that sounds like fun but I have so much work to do I just can't make it.'' Or, ''Gosh we just don't have the money'' or ''I just really need to stick with the cosmetics and bath products I use now'' They are all *always* surprised that I do not want to take advantage of all these wonderful opportunities. They just want to help. So they keep coming back with more. I try to view is as just another one of those irritating things that you have to put up with when you are part of a family. G


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