(The Root) —
"I watch Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, and I saw the episode where there's a girl whose baby daddy wanted to borrow money. On Twitter, people said she was stupid for giving him money to open a store. My daughter's father has asked to borrow some money, and now I am thinking twice. I've loaned him money before and he has always paid me back, but this is a large amount. Is helping him out really so wrong? I would expect him to do the same for me." —K.F.
I watch Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, too. And I was one of the people on Twitter openly wondering, "Hon, what are you thinking?!" when Traci, the woman you're referring to, decided to lend $25,000 to her ex-boyfriend Drew, with whom she shares a son. It was money that he promptly lost. If the investment had been a success, we would have been talking about how she lucked out on that one, but the criticism wouldn't have been nearly as bad (if at all).
Let me give you the top three reasons so many people objected to the scenario that you refer to, especially given how it turned out:
1. Traci had extreme reservations about giving Drew the money. This is evidenced by her continued hesitation and her saying exactly that when she discovered that Drew's business "partner" had run off with their investment, a total of $50,000. She also mentioned that Drew was involved in shady business dealings in the past. He obviously had not learned his lesson.
2. There was no (apparent) business plan in place. Perhaps one was discussed off camera and the viewer wasn't made privy to it. I hope this is the case. Otherwise, it was as entirely foolish of Traci to turn over her money to Drew as it was for Drew to turn over the combined amount to his "friend" without a contract. Anytime you're investing in any project, there should be a clear and logical plan to at least recoup your investment.
3. Traci was giving the money for all the wrong reasons — mainly control and fear. This couple has been broken up for seven years, and yet Traci is still possessive, to the point of verbally and physically attacking other women, and can be reduced to real tears while recounting her hurt over their breakup.
Drew didn't want to be in a relationship with her, but she did have something he wanted: money. She initially withheld it as a way to get him to show more interest in her. When she tore up the first check after she found another woman visiting his home, he threatened to leave Atlanta to go back on tour. She was afraid that he would leave, and knowing this, he was emotionally manipulating her to get the money.
I'm happy to hear that the father of your child has been diligent about repaying the money that he's borrowed from you in the past. Unfortunately, many women have done what you have and, like Traci, have not had positive results.
Now that your ex is asking "for a larger sum than usual," I would encourage you to take greater precautions to protect your money, if you decide to lend him money at all.
To be frank, your ex's repeated requests for money from you indicate a chronic mismanagement of his finances or lack of employment. That's not uncommon, given this economy, but you need to ensure that his financial shortcomings don't begin to affect your own financial health. You are his ex and the mother of his child — not his wife, not a bank and certainly not an ATM.
I'm a devotee of the teachings of financial adviser Suze Orman, who notes that any loan should be treated as a business deal. She suggests that if you're going to lend money, at the very least you should prepare a promissory note that includes the amount being borrowed, any interest and, of course, the date by which you will be reimbursed for your investment.
I also have to share with you my father's rule on lending money to friends and family: Don't give what you can't afford to lose. While your ex has a good record of paying you back, he also has a record of falling short with his own finances — hence his asking you to help him out. No matter what amount your ex has requested, consider it a "large sum," whether it's $100, $1,000, $10,000 or more. If you can't afford to lose the money, don't give it to him. Just because you've granted his requests in the past does not mean you have an obligation to do so in the present.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.