Sticking Together

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ron Lieber, "Your Money" columnist at the New York Times, discusses the etiquette of helping friends who have lost their jobs or are going through hard financial times.


Ron Lieber

Comments [33]

Jen from Brooklyn

I never lend more money than I can live without, something that my mom taught me. I have the luxury to do that because I do not have kids and I have a job, and I know that not everyone can. As soon as I lend money, I tell myself that it is gone, not because I do not trust my friends to pay it back, but because I do not want to have weird feelings about it. Nonetheless, I have had it happen that the sorts of ordinary quibbles that one gets into with friends are interpreted by that friend as pertaining to the money, when it is my belief that the loan has no relationship to the matter at hand. Pride is a powerful thing, and I would never want to take that away from a friend (unless it is over something important, like an argument about whether sweet potatoes and yams are the same thing).

Mar. 25 2009 09:47 AM
Mike Levay from Staten Island

You can help your friends by searching Craigslist for gigs they might be appropriate for and sending them the link.

My brother always sends out appropriate gigs he spots to musicians that we know when looking for gigs for our own band. The favor is always appreciated.

Mar. 24 2009 06:55 PM
SKD from brooklyn

I have been unemployed for a year. The only work I have had during that time has been from friends who hired me to do something for them.

Aside from that, I feel isolated and depressed about my prospects and find it hard to feel like socializing. When I do talk to friends (who don't contact me that much--I am to blame as well for not keeping up), it doesn't seem to occur to them that I might be anxious or worried. They make outrageous suggestions like "let's go on a road trip!" or ask why I don't buy an iPhone or get an expensive haircut. (Huh? With what money?)

Funnily enough, after listening to this show, a friend rang who is underemployed and worried, and we chatted for a long time. Maybe she heard the show, too.

Mar. 23 2009 04:32 PM

Thank you for all your helpful comments and suggestions. Please remember that our bulletin board will continue to stay open for your advice and your questions.

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Mar. 23 2009 03:48 PM
Nicole from Westchester

I am a recently unemployed big law firm lawyer and I have relatively young children. Expecting that I will not find another job that pays for childcare and still allows us to increase our income, I need creative ideas for how to build a bridge over this time, until my youngest of 3 children is in full day school (in 1.5 years). I must be able to do some legal work from home - big firm quality research and writing work, for example, at small firm prices? I really am good at what I do, and I want to work hard. And I am not alone in my plight. There must be a solution.

Mar. 23 2009 11:14 AM
Michelle from Brooklyn

I will pay more on a tab for dinner and drinks.. buy a coffee, I have given a weekly metro card and home cooked food or snacks..
Recently an unemployed friend was kind of down and I am fairly poor so on a warm evening we walked around China town, over the Brooklyn Bridge taking cool photos and then i treated to some Grimaldi's Pizza.
I really do not have money to spare - had my salary cut recently...but will give what i can to help a friend!

When i was unemployed i appreciated just company, people reaching out to me as i felt very isolated as well, and help with brainstorming employment ideas etc...and most important - encouragement!

Mar. 23 2009 11:13 AM
zuwena from manhattan-Harlem

Couldn't get through to the program. One suggestion I have in the "money" area, based on what I do, is "buy extra food that your neighbor likes" when you go to the grocery store and give it to your friend or neighbor. It's money, it's a gift, it's a special treat, it's a loan--it's whatever the person wants to consider it without incurring any real obligation. Of course, there are also special occasions when you can actually just give a card with money "to tide them over".

Mar. 23 2009 11:13 AM
Belinda Y. from L.I.C.

I am a long-term optimist and believer in friendship charity with 25 years of such activity behind me. The unfortunate lesson is: loaning money to friends gives an overwhelming motivation for a friend to generate reasons to ditch *you*, the charitable loaner. It's irresistable, because by imagining slights ( often generated by the big change in dynamics that loaning money causes) the recipient gets a convenient justification for unilateral debt relief. The rather ironic bottom line is, don't loan money to friends whom you want to keep as friends.

Mar. 23 2009 11:11 AM
Christine from Staten Island

Hello? Brian and guest missed the boat about the friend who called re her unemployed friend's quandry about a UI claim. The unemployed woman was concerned that a claim would sour her former employer from re-hiring her in the future. And, yes, I understand that employers' UI rates can be impacted by the claims, she's foregoing very meaningful income to protect against that possibility. Perhaps a conversation with the employer to test that out?

Mar. 23 2009 11:05 AM
Michael Perry from Brooklyn

So many of my friends have been hit hard by the economic times yet this has been one of my best years ever. Lately I have been feeling more pressure to trying to continue to grow so I can figure out how to offer jobs to my friends if it really comes down to it.

Mar. 23 2009 11:03 AM
David from Manhattan

Never loan a friend money. If you want to give them money that's one thing, but if you expect to get the money back and retain the friendship at the same time you'll be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Mar. 23 2009 10:58 AM
Melanie Cohn from Staten Island


I'm responding to the artist who needs money. I'm the Executive Director of the Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island, and we give grants to our Staten Island artists. We also help artists hook-up to resources through a bi-weekly e-blast. I suggest that artists get in touch with their boroughs art council--there's one in every county and we are all here to help not only with money, but with professional workshops that help artists with financial questions, gallery questions, real estate questions, etc!

Melanie Cohn
Executive Director
Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island

Mar. 23 2009 10:55 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I've been trying to guide a laid-off friend towards a healthier diet and lifestyle. Up to now, she's kept a "sex in the city" diet -- ordering in chinese food for most of her dinners.

I've tried to show her how not only can she eat far healthier, it will cost her much less, and she will finally LOSE weight on a mostly vegetarian diet.

But old habits die hard....

Mar. 23 2009 10:53 AM
Suki from Brooklyn

Two months after my best friend's boyfriend lost his job, I made him a $5,000 loan. Neither my best friend nor my boyfriend are aware of the loan - it was essential to keep it a secret in order to avoid ruining our highly-valued friendship.

He will pay me back in installments as soon as he gets a job.

He'd have done the same for me.

Mar. 23 2009 10:50 AM
Harris B. from Harlem

I have given cash but not directly to the out of work person. Instead, I offered to pay a bill: credit card statement, mortgage payment, rent, etc directly to the vendor. I felt like I was indeed helping my friend and my friend did appreciate it; yet, neither of us felt the awkwardness of having cash pass through our hands. My check went directly to his credit card company.

Mar. 23 2009 10:50 AM
Lisa from Jersey City, NJ

I've offered my friend can come live with me for a while. I've been the recipient of NYC couch surfing and always important to pay it forward.

Mar. 23 2009 10:49 AM
Teri West from Brooklyn, NY

I have a very good friend from grammar school, who is a single mom living in California. She recently filed for bankruptcy because she didn't have a job, and had no money to pay her bills. She wasn't sure how she was going to make it through the next week. She asked me for $50 and I wasn't sure how such a small amount was going to help her, but she said the $50 would pay for the medication for her son for a month. He has type 1 diabetes and is 3 years' old. I sent her the money along with a box of hand-me-down clothes for her son. A few weeks later she found a job, but for the few weeks that she didn't have a job and had no money, I felt completely helpless. But being able to give her something concrete--like medication for her son--seemed to make a difference.

Mar. 23 2009 10:47 AM
robert from Manhattan

Being unemployed, I've found trying to pay for dinner or drinks with friends a lot harder now.

Mar. 23 2009 10:46 AM
greg rubidge from toronto (but former nyc'er and still love the city!!!) and still listen to WNYC

with money and friends -
better to gift it, than loan it.
if you do loan it, write out the terms ahead of time.

treat your friends to a nice meal or pick up the tab when you're out some time.

and yes, if you're hanging with an unemployed friend, come up with more modest or free fun activities.

Mar. 23 2009 10:46 AM
Harris B. from Harlem

Two examples with two different friends:

1) Helping a friend identify viable international volunteer opportunities, i.e. Peace Corps, etc. He wants to use being laid-off and this hard economic times to consider a career change from the for profit to nonprofit/humanitarian world. Also, a great way to "ride out" the hard time in a developing country helping others who are really hard hit.

2) Offering my friend/neighbor to come over for dinner often. It's not just to provide food but to enjoy each other's company.

Mar. 23 2009 10:43 AM
Gloria from Freeport, New York

I want all my employed friends to tell EVERYONE -- their family, their friends, their co-workers -- that I'm out of work! You never know who is connected to who and what opportunities they may be able to extend. I'm not ashamed of being unemployed, so please spread the word.

Mar. 23 2009 10:41 AM
greg rubidge from toronto (but former nyc'er and still love the city!!!) and still listen to WNYC

just a suggestion. although some may loan money to friends, probably best to just give money and then it can never be an issue.

have friends fax/print for you is nice.

treating for a nice meal is also a nice way to keep your friends spirits up.

Mar. 23 2009 10:41 AM
Chris from NYC

If you have access you can offer to do any necessary faxing for friends who don't have a fax machine at home. Using the local mailboxes place for this can really get expensive

Mar. 23 2009 10:40 AM
Dubai-Boy from UK

my buddy is a pilot and old college mate. i came back to the usa a bit hobbled and then this apparent recession pushed me up against it! my m8 "invested" in a web site I launched to the tune of 1000.00! and I am going to pay off for him Big! if not, I pay him back the old fashioned way ... :)

Mar. 23 2009 10:40 AM
shc from Manhattan

So many of my friends are laid off now that we have more time to spend together! We'll get together for a lunch date (and cook at home) or do something really cheap. It's more akin to free therapy than anything else, helping each other cope with the big question marks that have entered our lives. I also agree with Jonathan (#1-2) where I've been volunteering more in general and have offered my time to working friends doing errands that they don't have time for during the day (now that they're working more since all their colleagues have been laid off).

Mar. 23 2009 10:40 AM
Mark Stein from Manhattan

There is no asset more toxic than money owed by a friend! There is, however, nothing wrong with giving money to a friend. The important thing is to make it clear to your friend--and yourself!--upon giving that it is a gift, not a loan. You are, in essence, making an investment in your friend's happiness, and the only dividend expected is the asset of a more happy, secure friend. This is a very tricky negotiation, but I have managed to give friends money without negative impact on the friendship.

Mar. 23 2009 10:38 AM
sclark from Ringwood

I forwarded Job listings from my current contracting employer to the brother-in-law of a close friend. That was the first week I heard he was searching. I haven't heard anything from him since. (two weeks)
I'm not going to continue pushing anything more on him until he asks for more.

Mar. 23 2009 10:38 AM
John Zuarino from Park Slope

As a freelance editor in the same field as my twin brother/roommate, I was embittered by the sight of my brother freelancing to the point of exhaustion each night. Thankfully, he's decided to outsource some of his work to me rather than hoard it for himself.

Maybe that embitterment was actually a twin thing, though…

Mar. 23 2009 10:38 AM
William from Manhattan

Our highschool-age son is sharing his room (computer and wireless connection), during the day while he is at school, with our family friend who lost a job and does not have an internet connection at home.

Mar. 23 2009 10:37 AM
Gal from Manhattan

I've used the contacts I have at work to get friends odd jobs to make ends meet. And it's worked out beautifully!

Mar. 23 2009 10:37 AM
Anne from Manhattan

Talking about losing my job is still an emotional experience. It has been tough because everyone asks whether you still have a job (even the doctor asked!) when I mention working in financial services. I feel like it is something we traditionally think of as a private matter, but because of all of the media, it has become a public conversation.

I've most appreciated the friends who don't ask and have offered to connect me to friends/colleagues in relevant industries, especially if they follow up.

Mar. 23 2009 10:23 AM
Jonathan from Williamsburg

I forgot to mention, i'm actually painting a kitchen right now! It's a friend from High School I've not seen in almost 15 years. People are really nice and want to help friends in these hard times.

Mar. 23 2009 10:14 AM
Jonathan from Williamsburg

Having been burned by "friends" in the past, I wouldn't ask my friends for money. However, since being laid off in January, I've found that I can help friends tackle projects that they just cant get to for some extra cash. Painting, pet sitting, odd jobs have all helped me and them and everyone comes out whole in the end. If you want to help your friends, just consider what you'd like to get done and what you'd be willing to pay to have it done!

Mar. 23 2009 10:09 AM

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