In the What If Wednesday series, we transport to a hypothetical alternate-reality and watch life play out. And we do it on Wednesday, because alliteration.
As I sat across the (probably fake) mahogany desk from the slightly slimy sales associate, I realized this was probably the most important decision I had made in my 21 and two-thirds years of existence. Sure, choosing your eternal soulmate was kinda important, but far more important was this moment — the moment I settled on… the ring.
I remember signing and finalizing the paperwork. My sweaty hands grasped a stapled brown bag that held the small jewelry box and its diamond engagement ring. I was waiting for a paycheck to come through the following week, so I put the astronomical amount (for a 21-year-old who had never carried a balance greater than $2000 in his bank account) on a newly acquired student credit card I received the week prior. Unlike many credit card stories, this one ends happily as I did in fact pay down the balance a few weeks later. But regardless, I wouldn’t allow anything to stand in my way at the time of getting Joanna the perfect ring.
Enter hypothetical alter-universe. Your brother has been dating a girl for about a year, so it comes as no surprise when he calls you up and tells you he’s ready to propose. You congratulate him and do your best to build him up and await the conclusion of the call. But it’s not happening. And then he drops the bomb: he wonders if you could spot him $4000 to buy the ring. Here’s the deal. He’s a good guy. He’s just finishing grad school and has a standing offer from a good company. You’re not crazy about his fiancee, but you think she’ll grow on you. He tells you he doesn’t want to be irresponsible and put it on a credit card or store-issued credit and that he can probably pay you back in full within six months. And then he stops talking and awaits your response…
Long answer short: sorry, bro. Can’t help you.
Long answer long: family and money is always tough. And while this situation seems like it’s a pretty safe bet to get our money back, that’s not the only thing that we’re considering. Here are our concerns:
- The Principle of Borrowing — Having battled with the Debt Monster, the last thing we’d want to do is enable someone to make the very same mistake. The ring he chooses is up to him (and maybe her). We’re not about to tell them what they should or shouldn’t buy, but they’re going to need to find another lender.
- No Family Loans — If there’s one thing Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman agree on and insist on repeating over and over and over, it’s to never lend money to family. Loans change your relationship from brother and sister or mother and son to lender and borrower. And that’s a breeding ground for feelings of resentment, anger, shame, despair, etc. For us, the Debt Monster will have no place in our familial relationships. So should money ever be exchanged among family, it would be given with no intention of ever seeing it again. And since getting a jewel encrusted trinket isn’t a dire situation, we can’t just say goodbye to $4 grand.
- That’s a Lot of Dough! — Regardless of your income/savings/net worth, if you’re living on a budget, you know that $4000 is a sizable chunk of change. And while it wouldn’t put us out at the moment, it’s not money we want to see leaving our bank account.
- Jealous Rage — I don’t think it would sit well with Joanna knowing that some of our cash was going toward a ring that will likely be much larger and blingier than hers.
We’d let him know we loved him, we’d be happy to help with wedding prep, jewelry store negotiations, etc. And while the conversation might be a little more difficult than just giving him the answer he’d want to hear, it’d be the right decision — for us.
What’s your take? Would you help a brother out, trust your instincts, and lend him the money? Or would you turn his dream of the perfect ring down?