31% of Americans Would Rather Go into Debt Than Borrow From Loved Ones

More than half of Americans borrowed money from or loaned money to a loved one within the past year, according to a November 2020 LendingTree survey of more than 2,000 Americans. Nearly a third of Americans would prefer to take on debt rather instead of asking friends and family for money.

Key Survey Findings

  • Lending between friends and family is a common practice. More than half (53%) of Americans have either borrowed from or loaned money to a loved one in the last year. On average, lenders fronted $1,497 and borrowers asked for $1,067.
  • Nearly a third (31%) of Americans would rather go into debt than ask a friend or family member for money.
  • Those who lend money to friends and family may experience remorse. Forty-one percent of Americans have lent money to a loved one in the last year, and more than a quarter (27%) them regret it. Still, 84% would lend money again.
  • Most borrowers needed the money to cover necessary expenses like housing costs and car expenses. According to the survey, 22% borrowed money from friends and family to help with housing costs, and 10% cited pandemic-related job loss as the reason they reached out for help.
  • More than a third (35%) have borrowed money from friends or family, and 71% felt guilty asking for the loan.
  • Among both lenders and borrowers, the exchange can cause tension. More than a third (35%) said that borrowing from or lending to a loved one resulted in some form of negative consequences, including hurt feelings (14%), decreased contact (11%) and resentment (10%).
  • Americans are more willing to loan money amid the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly half (46%) of Americans said the pandemic has made them more likely to consider loaning money than they have in the past.
    • More than half (54%) of those who were laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic borrowed money from friends or family in the last year. For comparison, 22% of Americans whose income was not affected did the same.

According to LendingTree’s Friends and Family Lending survey, borrowing money from loved ones is a fairly common practice considering that in the last year alone, 53% of survey respondents either borrowed or loaned money to a friend or family member.  By borrowing money from loved ones, the borrower likely avoids interest charges and other fees. The vast majority of lenders (82%) didn’t charge interest on the loan, and those that did most likely offered more favorable rates than a typical bank or financial institution.

Still, there is still a stigma around borrowing from friends and family. Almost one-third (31%) said they would go into debt before asking friends or family for money.  Of those who did borrow from a loved one, 71% felt guilty asking for the loan. Still, about the same number (69%) would ask to borrow money again.

Asking a loved one for money can be daunting, but it might seem necessary to reach out when times are tough, said Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst. “No one likes to admit they’re struggling,” Schulz said. “Sometimes you just have to swallow some pride, though, and do what’s best for you, especially in crazy economic times like these.”

Lending money to a loved one doesn’t usually come with an airtight financial agreement, which means that lenders aren’t guaranteed to get that money back. About one in four (27%) regret lending the money to their loved one.

While it’s a righteous and selfless impulse to want to help a loved one who’s struggling, it’s still important to consider the effects it will have on your own finances before doing so, said Schulz.

“It’s important to make sure that you don’t dig yourself into a hole while trying to dig someone else out of theirs,” Schulz said. “Be thoughtful in how much you’re willing to lend, and understand that there are times when you just might not be able to lend anything at all.”

For the full survey report, please visit: https://www.lendingtree.com/personal/lending-between-friends-and-family-survey/.


LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 2,075 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. Of the total sample size, 719 had borrowed money from a family member or friend within the last year and 859 had loaned money to a family member or friend during the same time frame. The survey was fielded Nov. 6-11, 2020.

We defined generations as the following ages in 2020:

  • Generation Z: 18 to 23
  • Millennial: 24 to 39
  • Generation X: 40 to 54
  • Baby boomer: 55 to 74
  • Silent generation: 75 and older