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Tax Day 2012: Friends don't lend friends money

If you're not careful, Tax Day might leave you romantically bankrupt.

At least that was the risk I faced last year, when I suffered one of the harshest consequences of waiting until the last minute to complete my taxes.

Things didn't calculate as I planned, and I found myself staring at my computer wondering if my bank account would hold up until payday. I had some money, but there wasn't much wiggle room. You know, for things like gas -- and more than one meal a day.

Amid my panic, my romantic relationship entered new territory. My boyfriend asked if I wanted him to lend me some money before my paycheck hit.

"Once the money hits, I'll pay him back immediately," I told myself. It would be like the whole ordeal never happened.

Except it wouldn't.

It'd be all too easy to grant myself an automatic extension on repaying the loan. Sure, my boyfriend and I could prepare a written contract to avoid that problem. But that would put a business-like umbrella over our relationship -- not something I wanted. So I turned down the offer, took solace in a promise that money can't buy you class and survived.

I'm likely not the only one who's faced the dilemma. On Tax Day and beyond, it's easy to consider asking a friend or family member for a loan upon entering a financial pinch. While tempting, the idea can backfire.

Fifty-seven percent of people said they have seen a friendship or relationship ruined because one person didn't pay back the other, according to survey results cited in a 2009 article by financial author Dave Ramsey.

He cautions, "It is okay to give money, but loaning money to someone with whom you have a relationship will lead to broken hearts and broken wallets."

Still can't dismiss the idea? Whether you're asking for money or lending it, you need to approach the transaction with clear rules. In a 2010 article for O, The Oprah Magazine, financial advisor Suze Orman recommends preparing a written contract.

"A loan must be treated as a business deal, even if you're lending to a member of your immediate family or your dearest friend," Orman says. She recommends going to Nolo.com, where you can download a basic promissory note.

An unexpected money crunch is one thing. But if you're handing out loans frequently, you're sacrificing both your friendship and a chance to teach some financial responsibility.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/sonya to read her work.

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