Repairing financial wounds at Thanksgiving dinner

Yesterday we spent quite a bit of time discussing what’s wrong with Thanksgiving/Black Friday. Let’s get past that. Like I mentioned in that post, if you aren’t part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. My rant is over. Let’s get better.

Thanksgiving = family. And if any of your familial relationships are damaged for financial reasons, then this Thursday the healing begins. You are no longer allowed to bury your head in the sand. Especially once you’ve read this post which will pick the scab off the wound…just prior to us starting the healing process. (Okay, that was a little gross. I’m a bit squeamish. I wish I hadn’t written that, but alas I’m too lazy to delete it. I’d rather just explain it away with a digression.)

Family financial wounds are damaging for several reasons. By righting the wrong, you will begin to heal all the different types of damage that the wrong caused. For example, let’s say that you’ve borrow $500 from your favorite Uncle Rick. As you know, Rick has a mustache. Pete the Planner Bonus Fact: 90% of people named Rick have mustaches. This debt has existed for a while. And you haven’t made any real effort to pay him back. What sort of damage has this unaddressed debt caused?

  • Non-transparent communication- It was your deep connection with Rick that allowed him to really understand your financial conundrum. It’s this same deep connection that has you clammed up as you ignore your debt to him. Things just aren’t the same. You can’t even share your career success stories with him. “If things are so good, why isn’t he/she paying me back,” he might wonder. And if things are so good, why in the hell aren’t you paying him back, I wonder.
  • Rick lost his pension- But why would you know? It’s something that we doesn’t really share with anyone. While $500 used to not be that big of deal fro Uncle Rick, it is now. He’s secretly getting pissed about it. Oh, and he hates your new car because of this. He doesn’t care that it’s a lease.
  • Any financial progress that you are seeing is false financial progress- Things are finally starting to turn around for you…or so you think. People conveniently forget to tell me about personal loans that they took from their family and friends. That’s why I always ask about them. Just because there isn’t a loan document, doesn’t mean that the debt doesn’t exist. Not to get all cosmic-Oprah on you here, but I don’t think you can consider yourself financially viable until you fully acknowledge that debt. And I mean really acknowledge it. Like talk about it – acknowledge it. And if your Uncle Rick has conceded in any way, shape, or form by now calling the loan “a gift”, then you REALLY need to get to work. I don’t really care if he has absolved you of your obligation to pay him. In my book, you will always owe him the money. If he has called it a gift a couple of years ago, but now he is hurting financially, then he is unlikely to tell you. Do the right thing.

Crap, now what? The good news is that it isn’t too late. And what’s better is that I’m going to now tell you the EXACT right way to fix it. Stepping up and doing the right thing in this uncomfortable situation will be the first step towards your financial rebirth. Hyperbole? Nope. It’s true. Taking ownership of your decisions is such an important step in your financial development. Good decisions are generally made by confident people. You will generally lack confidence if you are embarrassed by your financial behavior. There isn’t anything much more embarrassing than shafting your Uncle Rick out of the money you owe him. See what I’m sayin’?

Here’s the plan. You are going to bridge the gap. What? You’re concerned that you don’t have enough money to pay Slick Rick back? Don’t worry about that. Follow these steps:

  • Be subtle- Sorry, but you don’t get to take credit for this. You don’t get to tell anyone other than your significant other or your Uncle Rick what you are doing. This isn’t one of those things that you announce right before the family prayer This is not a broadway production of your one man show “The Guy That Finally Paid His Debt.” Just settle the hell down, and focus on the execution of this thing.
  • Get a card- Delivering a soliloquy that will change your financial life can be a little nerve wracking. Therefore, avoid the possibility of doing this wrong. Write it down. Is this the Nancy-ass way out of it? Nope. This is way too important for you to risk saying the wrong thing. You are going to write a simple note.
  • Write a check for a nominal amount- This is an act of goodwill. This isn’t repaying the national debt. Write a check to Rick for $25-$50. Slip the check into the card. You are going to write this same check every single month until you pay back Rick. I don’t know why people feel like they can only repay family debts with one giant check, but that is a ridiculous notion. You don’t pay your bank back for your mortgage loan in one big chunk do you? Of course not.
  • Write the following message- Uncle Rick, Enclosed you will find a check for $__. It is my first payment towards the $____ I owe you. My financial struggles should not extend to those that I love. Thank you so much for believing in my ability to repay my debts. Your confidence in me means the world to me. I won’t let you down. Happy Thanksgiving.
If you choose to go through this process on Thursday, then you need to let me know. I’m very proud of you in advance. Several of my clients have done this, and it was the beginning of their financial brilliance. Congrats on your willingness to take control of your financial life once again.

4 thoughts on “Repairing financial wounds at Thanksgiving dinner

  1. Hi Pete! I actually started this my last pay period. I had borrowed about $250 from my mom a few weeks back and gave her a $50 check last month to get this started. It made me feel at least I was making some movement in the right direction. Having the personal loan from her felt like a looming cloud over me. Am I out of the woods – no.. but I scraped the bear poo off my shoe.

    thanks Pete! Avid reader…
    Jenny Alexander

  2. I will try this again. Several months ago my husband and I began to work towards paying off a $1,800 debt to my aunt. I mailed our first payment of $300 and it felt so good to start going back in the other direction. 90 days later I got a letter from my bank saying that my aunt had not cashed the check and they credited the $300 back to us. I haven’t tried to pay her back again since then. I will take your advice and drop a check in the mail with a note like you suggested. I can’t send $300 this time…. maybe only $15, but it will be something. Thanks for your post.

    PS: What if she won’t cash my checks??

  3. Wow. She’s not really helping. Cash works. Don’t do the barrel of penny thing. That’s not cool 🙂

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