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If you lend money to friends or family, beware: You may never get it back.
What’s more, you could permanently damage your relationship with the borrower. That’s the findings of a new survey from Bankrate.com, which found that 46% of adults who lent money suffered either one or both of those consequences.
“The stats are pretty striking,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at Bankrate. “Basically half the time, something goes wrong.”
Bankrate’s online survey of 2,490 adults was conducted in late August.
Among the biggest relationship killers were co-signing a loan or other financial product. Survey respondents said they also damaged their credit score and lost money in the process.
Another big regret for survey respondents was lending out their credit card, which also led to bad blood, lost money and lower credit scores.
The respondents who were most likely to do these favors were parents of adult children. Others who are likely to get burned: credit card holders who pay for group bills with the hopes of racking up more rewards points. Older millennials — individuals ages 30 to 38 — were most likely to get stuck with these bills.
Prepare yourself in advance if you’re going to enter one of these sticky situations, Rossman advised.
“Proceed with great caution on this,” Rossman said. “Don’t lend money, don’t co-sign unless you’re prepared to lose that.”
By going in with the mindset that the money is a gift and not a loan, you can prevent bad feelings from souring your relationship later on. But only give that money if you can afford to, Rossman said.
Another, better alternative: gracefully bow out of lending cash while finding other ways to help. That could include helping with research or introducing someone to other connections who can help them.
It also helps to make it more about a personal policy against co-signing rather than the person with whom you have a relationship.
“You can say, ‘I love you. I think you’re a high character person. If this were about writing you a recommendation, I would do it. But co-signing is more than that,'” Rossman said.
Keep in mind that the worst case scenario — that the relationship is damaged — will have lasting consequences.
“You really want to prioritize that and not make it super awkward for Thanksgiving, or even potentially the rest of your life,” Rossman said.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.