Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

Family loan turns relative into scofflaw

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I lent some money to a young relative to buy a used truck. His mother thought that because he didn't have any credit record yet, he would learn to make payments on a regular basis by paying me, in addition to having a vehicle he needed for his job. We signed an agreement, which specified how much he would pay (both principal and a low interest rate) and how many payments he would make.

He made the first few payments, but then stopped paying altogether. I have tried to get in touch by phone, email and paper mail, with no results. I left messages that expressed concern, not anger, asking that he please contact me to discuss the situation.

He hasn't lost his job. His mother knows he stopped paying, but doesn't know how many payments he has missed. I don't want to cause a scene at a family event where he might be present. I just don't know what to do next.

-- Perplexed

Dear Perplexed: There will be no scenes at family events, I assure you, because your young relative will not show up at any events he suspects you will also attend.

That's the problem with lending money to friends or relatives; it creates problems when the money is not repaid. This young scofflaw will ghost you, rather than face a fairly straightforward problem in a mature way.

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I'm not sure why your relative's mother thought this loan (from you) would be a good idea; she could have co-signed a bank loan with her son, unless her own credit is poor.

At this point, you might start by asking a lawyer to send a friendly letter on your behalf. Include a copy of the promissory note and ask this young man to contact you to arrange for repayment on a new schedule. Otherwise, he could face you in small claims court.

Generally speaking, it is wise to consider that loans to family members often end up being gifts.

Dear Amy: There's a guy who has made it known that he likes me. I am interested in him, too, but here's my dilemma: We are of different ethnicities (I'm white). This is not an issue for me, but he has strong beliefs in the "Black Lives Matter" movement. In the city where we live he hangs mainly with residents who are mostly (their words) brown and black people.

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