When I was 15 years old, I once lent $20 to another school mate in the same club. We were both in the robotics club. At that time he claimed he needed money to buy a guitar bag as it was going to rain soon, and there was no protection for the guitar he was holding against the rain. I never thought much and took out $20 for him. Yet he did not return to me despite me chasing for it for weeks. The matter went up to one of the teachers who asked him to return the money. But in the end there was nothing much the teacher could do too, and he never did make an effort to check back with me again. Not that I had any complains. It was the students’ personal matters.
I remembered when chasing him for it, he claimed he used it for food, to watch movies, and for other things. Basically, he had money to do every other thing but to return to me. Although $20 may not seem much to many, but to me at that time it was also savings slowly accumulated over the weeks. At that time my family was so poor I had to walk 45 minutes to school every day just to save on a 45 cents bus fare.
That memory stuck with me till today.
When I was in my 20s, I joined an online Whatsapp group where everybody was sort of a small business owner, be it having an online ecommerce store, or having a small physical shop selling shoes, or a small office providing IT solutions. We were gathered from an online forum, and everybody was happily talking everyday on matters ranging from business to personal life. But as time goes on there were a few conflicts here and there as people met up and formed opinions of each other. It was later when the group was broken into pieces that some of us know that a member of the group had borrowed $300,000 from another member in the group.
We called the borrower A, and the lender B.
A borrowed $300,000 on the pretext of using it for his business, with the intention to return it a year later. However a year later, A had no intention to return any of the money, claiming he was unable to return. Yet A was living a high-end lifestyle. He was earning $8000 per month at that time from his full time job, and he had spent extravagantly. He had a car in the small Singapore, hired a maid to do his housework for him (expenses about $1000 a month), sold his condominium for cash but rented a bungalow to stay rather than a smaller but sufficient apartment etc. He offered a lot of excuses and non-workable alternatives.
For example, he offered to pay B $500 a month in instalments, which is quite ridiculous. He also offered to pay back in shares of his failing company. Take note of the potential scam here. If A borrows money from B, the liability is on A personally. If B agrees to convert the debt A owes into shares of A’s company, A can can declare the company bankrupt and close down the company any time. When that happened, any percentage of shares in a shut down company is worth nothing. A now has no personal liability on which B can claim on.
Naturally B tried everything he could to claim back the money, from the soft method of asking him personally, to outright asking in the Whatsapp group where everyone was, to sending a lawyer letter. But whether he could get back the money in the end or not, it was an excessive drain of time and resources. Not to mention all the stresses and unhappiness which ensued.
From young my parents told me, that if I am to lend money to others, I should lend with the mental preparation that I will never get my money back. I am sure that as we grow older and deal with people, we would have come to this understanding sooner or later. But often, such understanding have to come from personal experience. I did lend money to close friends in need after that, but only when I am certain of their characters and know that if the sum of money lent out could expose any bad characteristics, then so be it.
Learning to say no to people is a skill. Learning to judge people’s characters accurately is also a skill.
Sometimes, it is not that we do not trust the character of the person, but rather the capability of that person too. For example, if my best friend wants to borrow $50,000 from me today, I am very sure he will return when he can. But if he decides to use that money for business, when I know he is not cut out for business, I will reject him. Because the probability of him failing in the business and unable to return me the money in a reasonable time is very high. I need not further explain what will happen to the friendship if he could not return me the money in a reasonable time despite his best efforts. I would rather reject him from the start. If he is a true friend, he will not cut off the friendship over such matters.
I know talk may be easy, but it is up to you to decide how you want it to be. To lend or to reject is a decision only you can make. But whatever the decision, do give it enough thought to whom you are lending, for what purpose and how long it will take to return. Finally, be prepared that what went out of your hands today may not make it back.