About 10 years ago my longtime best friend made a terrible decision to quit a really good job in the hopes of finding a higher-paying one. She's still searching, but now she has a son with a deadbeat dad. A while back I offered to help pay to fix her leaky roof, but I no longer have the surplus cash and she still owes me $500 she promised to pay back two years ago. I'm a single mother of two averse to credit-card debt. She sees nothing wrong with maxing out a credit card and then making minimum payments for the rest of her life. I suggested a way to approach the leaky roof without either of us getting into debt. Now she's furious at me, thinks I'm backing out of my original promise and yells at me for not performing errands whenever she calls, although I babysit for her free when I can. I'm beginning to think she's not such a great friend. Or is it me? -Anonymous
Nothing spoils relationships faster than money differences. People come into adulthood with varying beliefs about how to get it, keep it and spend it, and think their way is the only right way. That's definitely poisoning the atmosphere on both sides. If you think that owing you money should encourage your friend to treat you with respect or to at least make the same decisions you would, guess again. That's not the way people's minds work, especially when they're under stress. It just makes you, the lender, a target of ill will. Even if you say nothing, every time your friend calls or sees you is an unpleasant reminder of her many ill-advised decisions, her disadvantaged position, your superior money-management skills and perhaps your better luck.