I need a quick vent about family. My older brother is in financial straits at the moment due to uprooting his family in order to get treatment for my oldest niece. It’s been a rough year, they’ve all pulled through amazingly, and everyone is now in a great place as far as health and wellness are concerned. My brother has never been good with money and has years’ worth of bad financial decisions, and yet, he so rarely asks me for help, that I refuse to say “no” the few times he does ask (which I realize probably makes me an enabler, but… well, I love the guy more than I love FIRE, what can I say). They were in the middle of their relocation last year the weekend I got married, and with both breadwinners quitting their jobs for the move and paying numerous expenses (and previous poor financial choices) they didn’t have $1000 for the damage deposit on the new place. They asked me if they could borrow it, fully open about saying they had no idea when they’d be able to pay it back. I ran up to my hotel room and grabbed the cash out of some of the wedding cards we had received as gifts and handed it to them, saying something along the lines of “I hate having anything to do with money and family combined, so PLEASE do not make me chase you for this. I’m not going to hound you and call you and ask you to repay it, it will just sit there as this ‘thing’ between us for all eternity until you pay it. I get that you have no spare cash and no job prospects and life is going to be hard for quite a while. I’m okay with that, just pay it back when you can.”
Now, I honestly never really expected to see this money again, and to some extent I’m okay with that, they truly needed a hand up at the time. Since then I’ve also GIVEN them money, no strings attached to pay for other things they couldn’t afford (their kid’s school fees last year for example).
This summer, my brother wanted to treat his family to something special to thank all the kids for supporting eachother over the last year. They had moved to an area that was close to some wonderful skiing, and wanted to buy a family pass. It was a nice gesture, and again, I could see where he was coming from. If the pass is purchased early enough, it is quite reasonably priced: $600 for unlimited skiing for his family of 6 for the upcoming season. Unfortunately he couldn’t come up with the $600 by the time the sale was ending. He was loathe to ask me for the money, and I could see he really didn’t want to ask. I felt like he was going to buy this pass as soon as he had the money, and it was just going to end up costing him more and more the longer he took to come up with the money, so I offered to loan him the $600 on top of the existing $1000 that he already owed me. He said something like “That’s why I didn’t want to ask you. I feel bad that we haven’t paid that back yet. No, I don’t want to borrow it from you, I’ll ask Mom & Dad.” My parents don’t have a lot of money, but they are regularly lending what they do have to my brother and it makes me crazy. I’d rather he borrow from me and not pay me back than borrow from them! Anyways, as it turns out, he either couldn’t get a hold of them, or they didn’t have any spare cash at the time, or whatever.. eventually he calls me back and asks if the offer is still there to borrow the $600. Of course it is, I give the same speech about “pay back when you can, I’m glad you are showing your family appreciation, but when you guys get back on your feet, don’t make me chase you, etc”, and I pay for the ski pass.
Again, I’m okay with all of that. I have a hunch I won’t see this money again either, and I can live with that.. until today’s facebook post from my brother. He put a down-payment on a new “toy”… the toy being a used truck to go 4x4ing in! What?! What?!? Argh!
Yes I have read the previous posts on this thread about setting up a contract and a repayment scheme and whatnot. I have done that in the past when loaning larger sums, or to friends/more distant relatives; I’m not going to do that for a $1600 loan to my big brother. Yes, I’m an enabler. Yes, I “knew better” given his history. I’m hoping that this new toy was maybe a very cheap purchase in exchange for him doing an odd-job for someone, or something like that, but the words “down payment” make me doubt that’s the case. It just infuriates me to see new toys splashed all over facebook when they’ll turn around and say they can’t afford to pay for basic needs or family gifts. I just needed to vent. Grumble grumble grumble…
The thing is… if I were to do it all over again, I’d probably do the exact same thing, and that probably makes me a naïve idiot, but… well, no excuse, it is what it is. I can’t have a six figure bank account and turn around and refuse to lend my family a few hundred bucks. I. just. can’t. I do wish they didn’t rip my heart out every time I do give them the money though.