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A new Bank of America study proves it.

2 minute read

Owing a friend money can cause anxiety and stress, while asking to be paid back is awkward.

Even debts less than $100 would cause more than a third of Americans to consider ending a friendship, suggests a recent Bank of America survey. More than half surveyed have lost friends over money already owed.

Lending a friend a few dollars or a quick meal out is one thing, and only 4 percent said they would consider cutting off a friend for $10 or less. Still, making a habit out of IOUs or habitually asking for — or lending out — money can lead to serious problems down the line.

A few hundred dollars is enough to drive the majority of Americans to end a friendship. A combined 93 percent of people said some amount between $1 and $999 owed to them would cause them to seriously consider dumping a pal.

While several hundred dollars is a very meaningful amount of money to most people, the principle matters almost as much as the principal. After all, friends are supposed to be able to trust each other, and reneging on a debt is not a great way to prove one’s self in the trust department. It’s simply awkward for friends to hang out in pretty much any capacity if one of them owes the other money — unless the activity in question is the debt being paid.

Unfortunately, these incidents of IOUs going unpaid are not rare. According to the report, 71 percent of survey respondents have loaned out money they have yet to receive back, with the average person losing more than $2,000 over the years.

That’s a tough place to be in, and an even tougher one to get out of much of the time. Out of eight possible responses, asking a friend for money they owe ranked second in making survey respondents uncomfortable. Only forgetting someone’s name was picked more often, while awkward situations like tripping in public, texting the wrong person, and going on a first date were seen as less uncomfortable than requesting to be paid back.

Things only get more complicated when a friend cannot or will not pay up, as no one enjoys the thought of bringing someone they know well to court over an unpaid debt. Many lack the resources or time to do so anyway. Luckily, as complicated as owing or being owed money can be, avoiding these situations is anything but difficult.

The answer here is obvious: Don’t lend or borrow money from friends. Period. The data shows that mixing money and friendship is toxic to both things, and even beyond the numbers most people likely know as much from personal experience. Still, the mistake gets made time after time because of how easy it is to write off concern by thinking this situation is different.

Technology is helping to make things easier on this front, at least. Time Magazine broke down the best options for paying friends digitally, such as PayPal, Venmo, and Square Cash. Additionally, many banks such as Chase and Bank of America have introduced options to send money from their mobile apps.

These solutions are mostly for smaller dollar amounts, but they can still be useful in preventing several smaller debts from snowballing into a real problem. The message from the report is clear though: Don’t mix friends and finances.

A coffee or hamburger and fries is one thing, but loaning a large amount or habitually spotting a friend is a recipe for disaster down the road.

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About the Author

Ti Windisch

Ti Windisch

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