Loan to debtor daughter is a costly lesson

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Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: Our daughter (the youngest of our four children) owes $20,000 in school loans and has accumulated another $20,000 in credit-card debts after the breakup of her marriage. She and her son have lived with us (rent free) twice so we could help her get her life and finances in order. My husband paid off the credit card debts using our home equity line of credit with the understanding she would repay us at the rate of $400 a month. She has been irregular in repaying us. She recently married a man she met just a few months ago and quit her job to become a full-time homemaker. Since that time, we have received two "hot" checks for the debt. We covered these bad checks as a wedding gift. My husband is now considering canceling the debt and discussing this as a portion of her "inheritance." We barely have anything besides our home and Social Security to live on as we reach retirement (we are both 61). This has totally enraged me. She has not finished her education and has not even begun to pay back her school loans. Her debt to us is a debt of honor and should be repaid. My husband often comments about how broke we are -- and now he wants to forgive this debt? I resent them both. Your advice?--Disgusted

DEAR DISGUSTED: This problem starts with your husband. He is enabling your daughter to the extent that the two of you will pay the consequences -- possibly for years -- while she is actually rewarded for being irresponsible. Your husband has no right to mortgage your future for an expenditure you don't agree to.

You should seek professional financial and marriage counseling to resolve this. Realistically, your daughter will not repay you on a schedule, but I agree with you that she should. Unless you are prepared to sue or have her charged with writing bad checks, however, you may have to write this off as a very expensive lesson. Every time she is rescued, it impedes and delays her own growth.