Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Set up repayment schedule, but don't expect friend to repay loan
Lender: I just gave my friend from college a large emergency loan. We're meeting after work to talk about a repayment schedule. This friend is in many ways a victim of her own bad decisions, and I have recently been trying to distance myself from her. I feel bad for the situation she is in and I gave the loan without hesitation (we've known each other for over a decade and she has never asked for money before), but I want to make it clear this bailout was a one-time thing without rubbing salt in her wounds. Suggestions?
Carolyn: I don't think you need to say this is one-time-only. Should she ever ask again, you simply say no.
I do think, though, that you need to prepare yourself for not getting this money back. Loans to friends generally don't end well, and loans to friends you don't entirely trust and who aren't entirely trustworthy? That's a seriously low-percentage venture.
Do establish the payment plan, in writing, but prepare yourself for her to continue to make bad decisions. For people who aren't responsible with money, the first step is usually to stop paying the debt for which being late has the lightest consequences. Repaying a friend is basically the definition of that low-risk default.
Let brother's family show they can be supportive of you, too
Auntie abandonment: Six years ago my brother and his husband adopted a baby girl. At the time, I was living close to them in Quebec, and at 38 I thought I would stay put indefinitely. I gladly promised to be a permanent fixture in their daughter's life, because they were worried about giving her consistent female role models.
Since then I have been extremely close to the family — I am more than an aunt to her.
Unexpectedly, I met a man in the States, and he has asked me to marry him. He wants me to move to New York with him, which is understandable. I would absolutely go if not for my niece. Not only would I miss her terribly, but also I feel that her dads rely on me to help them with certain aspects of raising her.
I feel so guilty about the thought of abandoning her that I have not even told my brother that I'm unofficially engaged.
My fiance does not have the option of leaving New York because he has a child there from a past relationship. What should I do?
Carolyn: Talk to your brother!
If I were in his place, I'd be sad, but I'd give you my blessing. While it will be hard on your niece — and on all of you — you need to go where your life takes you. If it were me and you chose not to go, on my or my child's account, without saying anything to me, I'd be upset that you didn't give me a chance to support you.
Meanwhile, because you got to know a man in New York so well, you apparently have some mobility. Use that to stay in your niece's life, enough for her to know she can trust you and count on you.
That is, if the move is really what you want. If you just don't want to leave, then you don't need your niece to justify wanting to stay.