Guess what happened to me the other day? No, I didn’t get to grips with the eurozone crisis, or bump into Benedict Cumberbatch. It was something much more zeitgeisty: a friend asked if she could borrow some money.
Apparently, it’s not unusual these days. In a recent survey, more than half of households admitted they gave financial support to family and friends. And I can understand why. You see, I wasn’t insulted by the request – far from it. I was flattered. My friend obviously thought I was good for a couple of hundred quid, which suggests that I can manage my money, even in an economic downturn. She also presumably thought I would agree, which speaks for my generosity. Then there was the feeling of power. I know, not a terribly nice emotion. But it was only fleeting and it’s not as if I made her kiss my feet or anything.
I told her I needed some time to think, talk to my other half and so on. Snap decisions are not always the best, as the leather leggings in my wardrobe testify. So now I am torn. I want to help her out because she is a friend and she is struggling. I would lend her a coat in a cold snap so why not some money in a financial freeze?
Yet I am wary. The request has already shifted the balance of our relationship. Will it ever recover, I wonder. Will I start to scrutinize her spending habits like some sort of crazed accountant? Will she always expect me and my largesse to pick up the tab? What happens if she can’t pay me back? She’s clearly in a financial mess so the risk of default must be high. And what’s wrong with an overdraft, credit card, personal loan, or even her mum and dad?
I contemplate drawing up a loan agreement and a repayment schedule, but I decide the price is too high. I could end up losing my friend as well as my cash – and I’m not that well off.
So I turn her down, pleading poverty and a parsimonious partner. I’m sure she understands. After all, who wants to be a banker these days?