DEAR ABBY: Thirty years ago, when my husband and I were married, our parents helped us out financially, for which we were grateful. Of course we paid them back as we promised to -- so much each month.
Our children are now grown and have children of their own. Last September our son asked us to co-sign a loan so he could purchase a $2,400 computer system for his wife and children. He promised to pay it back in six months. He also asked to borrow our credit card to pick up some toys he had on layaway for our grandchildren last Christmas. He promised to pay it back in January this year. We also co-signed a three-year lease/purchase contract on a home.
Nine months later, we received a notice from the bank that there had been no payment in two months. Our son explained that he was short of cash and couldn't make the payments, so we found ourselves stuck with them. He now says he doesn't know when he can pay us back. We have also discovered that they are consistently late with the lease payments for their home.
Abby, we never thought this would happen to us -- especially from a family member.
When will our children grow up? And what happened to "Honor thy father and thy mother"? -- TOO TRUSTING IN DELAWARE
DEAR TOO TRUSTING: Sharing your disappointing experience in an effort to warn other overly generous parents is noble and appreciated, but please don't tar all adult children with the same brush.
Most parents who help their married children as you did are repaid (as promised) by responsible children who honor their commitments.
I will repeat what I've said in the past: Before you lend money to a family member, make sure the terms of repayment are set in writing, with an agreed-upon consequence for nonpayment. It should be signed by both parties and notarized.