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Lessons From Vacation - "Money Can't Buy You Love"

My wife and I took a couple of weeks off in late August. We went to Colorado and over the two weeks, we had various family and friends come out to visit us. It was very relaxing with no television (and all the noise and anxiety that it creates).

I always find that when I go on vacation it gives me more of a chance to reflect on recent events and happenings. Sometimes, things pop up while on vacation that inspire me.

Just as we were about to leave for vacation, I received a very kind, though heartbreaking, letter from an older woman (in her 80’s). She told me how much she enjoyed my articles, but then went on to tell me about some family members (a child and a grandchild) who had “borrowed” money from her. When she ran low on money, they became angry, quit contacting her, and have now alienated themselves from her. She is both angry and heartbroken.

Unfortunately, there are scams everywhere. Sometimes, they are sophisticated scams by third parties. It could be giving out your Social Security number over the telephone, or learning that you have won $10 million if you only send $5,000 and your bank account number. The list goes on and on.

More insidious to me are those scams by family members. “Grandma, if you love me, will you loan me $50,000 to start my business?” “Mom, if you love me, just help me pay a few bills.”

Sometimes, it is the pity train: Poor little me, if I only had someone to help me. Then, mom, dad, or the grandparents step up.

I am a lawyer that started practicing in 1980. In the mid-80’s in Hays, we went through a terrible financial downturn, with a loss of a major manufacturer, collapsing oil prices, low crop prices, and spiraling interest rates. I had a front-row seat of watching parents and grandparents filing bankruptcy because they tried to save a child or a grandchild from financial ruin. One wealthy client bankrupt himself trying to save his son. He passed away a poor man.

Scams are not restricted to third parties on the telephone; or to internet scams. Scams can be your own family.

When I work with someone, and they tell me they are going to loan a child or a grandchild some money, I ask them just to think of it as a gift. Just assume it will never be paid back. If it does, it is manna from heaven.

I myself saw this affect my family. My grandmother would fall for every organization that said it was raising money for law enforcement (my grandfather had been a policeman). There were many evangelical TV ministers that she gave to, only to have them break her heart when they were caught in some scandal.

But more hurtful was that my grandmother gave a “friend” over $30,000. Though I was helping my grandmother, I did not realize what was going on until the person that she was giving money to died. He had been helping her with her books. Only then did I realize what had occurred, the emotional impact that on my grandmother, and the risk it put her in financially.

If something smells funny, or too good to be true, please consult with an attorney. If you are a client of my firm, always feel free to pick up the phone and ask our advice if something feels like a scam. But more especially, be careful with those family loans.

Scams come in many forms. It is not just strangers; it can be family and friends as well.

I know that many times, the emotional play is “if you love me.” But as the Beatles recognized long ago, “Money can’t buy you love.” As soon as the money is gone, so is the “love.”

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