Think Carefully Before Lending Money to Relatives or Friends

By Randall Orser | Budget

In this time of Covid-19 it is important to consider all the implications of loaning money to friends or relatives. The pandemic has resulted in many Canadians having financial problems due to losing their job and they inevitably turn to friends and relatives to help them out.  Before you make the decision to loan them money you need to consider the following:

  •  It is important to put yourself first, especially now,  you need to ask yourself if you can really afford to lend money.  Everyone wants to help their friends and family but extending a loan should not cause you to be in financial straits.  It would be better for the loved one to consider applying for the various government programs available especially those for small businesses. You need to keep all the cash that you need and be prepared for the worst case scenario in your own circumstances.   You should not sacrifice your retirement plans to help your kids out even though you want to and you need to be realistic about the risk of not getting your money back.
  • Be prepared to never see your money again, the loan that you make may become a gift as even with their best intentions their circumstances may mean that they are unable to pay you back.  You could ask for collateral against the loan, but that depends on how far you are prepared to go to collect and also protect your relationship with that person. A parent who lends money to a child should also consider other family members and and view the loan not as a debt but as an advance on their inheritance.
  • Ask why they need the money, if you are advancing a loan then you should know why the money is needed so ask questions.  If you are loaning someone money to help maintain a lifestyle that they cannot really maybe it would be better to ask questions to understand their circumstances and advise them as to how they can reduce their spending.  You may be able to help in other ways rather than loaning money such as buying groceries.  
  • Set the terms, establish terms for the loan, specify the amount, the date the loan should be repaid or a repayment schedule and whether or not you will be charging interest. To secure the loan you could register an asset such as a debt free vehicle or the borrower could name you as an irrevocable beneficiary in a life insurance policy.  This makes it possible to protect the loan amount up front from other creditors for example in the event of bankruptcy.
  • Think twice about guaranteeing a loan, as this can be risky, you may end up on hook for not only the debt but the accrued interest.  A lender may not feel that they are involved in the loan if they do not provide the funds but in fact they are taking on a new debt obligation if the borrower defaults.  Be aware that your children may have their eyes on your assets and what they may inherit and may use emotional blackmail to get the money they want.  It can be difficult to say no to them if you have loaned them money before.  Even if you do help out especially to keep a business afloat, it may be a short term solution and the business may not improve its financial situation under the current circumstances and closing down may be inevitable.

If you seriously considering extending a loan to a friend or relative, it might be prudent to get some guidance from a professional beforehand.

From an article by Mathieu de Lajartre

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President/CEO Number Crunchers® Accounting Inc. Learn how to just say stuff it to this bookkeeping thing with our 'Just Say: "Stuff It" To Bookkeeping program.