There are three topics of conversation you should generally avoid at the dinner table: politics, religion, and money.

Of course, it may be difficult to avoid the topic of money if you happen to owe some to the person sitting next to you.

When it comes to borrowing money, there may be no one easier to turn to than a relative. To get a better understanding of the money borrowed between family members in the U.S., we surveyed over 1,000 people across the country about the money they’d borrowed and loaned and what they potentially never repaid (or were never paid back). Read on to see what we discovered.

Money In, Money Out

There are a number of unexpected scenarios that might put you in an untimely bind, financially speaking. Whether it’s medical bills, a change in employment status, or a major expense you weren’t planning on, anyone can find themselves unprepared for the worst. It may seem like the best solution would be to ask a friend or family member to borrow the money you need – it may also be something most Americans have experienced, according to our survey.

We found that nearly 3 out of 4 Americans acknowledged borrowing money from their relatives at least once in their lives. While a majority may have been willing to accept money from their family, not nearly as many had given it out – just over a third indicated they’d loaned money to family and less than 1 in 4 had both given and received a loan.

So what exactly counts as a “substantive” loan? The answer varies, according to the Americans we polled. Over a third indicated they considered anything up to $500 as considerable. Others told us the figure needed to climb much higher in order to be considered meaningful. For 1 in 4 Americans, between $501 and $1,000 was considered substantial, while about 1 in 5 told us it was between $1,000 and $5,000. For nearly 1 in 10 Americans, borrowing (or lending) a significant sum of money meant totals from $5,000 to $10,000, and more than 6 percent of respondents said a substantive loan would be one totaling more than $10,000.

Cause and Effect

Considering even a few hundred dollars might be considered a substantial amount of money, we found that more than 1 in 4 people who’d loaned or accepted money from family associated negative consequences with the transaction. Our survey found that those effects included resentment between family members, verbal arguments, and even irreparable harm to the relationship. More than 1 in 4 Americans who had loaned money to family also told us they would never do it again.

Generous Generations

There are a number of reasons why it’s not recommended to lend money to friends or family – chief among them being the hassle you might experience trying to get that money back. According to our survey, repayment (even between family members) isn’t always guaranteed.

Our study revealed that Generation Xers borrowed the most money from their relatives but were also the most diligent generation in paying that money back. While they indicated to us that they borrowed over $23,000 on average, they also paid back more than 75 percent of the loan amount. We found that millennials both borrowed the least from their family members and paid the least back (about 55 percent of the loan amount).

So which generation is giving out the most cash? We found that baby boomers were the most generous with their money, even if they only got about half of it back. Millennials, who told us they loaned family less than $4,000 on average, were the most likely to be paid back for their generosity.

Whom We Approach for a Loan … and Why

In a moment of crisis, what’s the most money you’ve ever had to request from someone? According to more than 42 percent of Americans we polled, the biggest loan they ever requested from a family member was between $1,001 and $5,000. Only roughly 1 in 5 people indicated they’d asked for more.

Regardless of age, the most unexpected expenses were the same for everyone we surveyed: vehicle-related costs. The cost of owning a car extends far beyond the sticker price. Factoring in routine maintenance and oil changes, the average American puts at least $1,000 into their car every year (not to mention how much even the most minor of car accidents could cost you). For millennials, the second most frequent reason to ask family for money involved their educations. In the U.S., the average annual cost of tuition and fees can range from nearly $25,000 to nearly 38,000 depending on the type of school. On average, Americans we polled who’d asked to borrow money for school were loaned over $5,000 from their family members.

And just who’s lending out all of this money? In most cases, the answer was Mom or Dad. For nearly 2 out of 3 women and more than 3 out of 4 men, a parent was the most likely person to turn to when extra cash was needed. More than 1 in 10 respondents also admitted to borrowing money from their siblings. While only 3 percent of men told us they were willing to ask their in-laws for money, women were more than three times more comfortable going to a spouse’s parent in an emergency.

Negative Consequences

Despite the potentially good intentions of lending a family member money during a time of need, our survey found that not all Americans felt good giving (or taking) loans from their relatives.

When asked about the biggest loans they’d ever requested, nearly 1 in 3 people we polled admitted that they never paid back the money they borrowed. Nearly 1 in 10 said it took one to two years to repay a loan, and even fewer said they p back that money in a month or less. The good news? Almost half of people said they paid back their biggest loan within a year. The inability to ever repay the cash they borrowed could have something to do with the level of guilt most Americans acknowledged feeling when they asked for their loans in the first place.

More than two-thirds of people who borrowed up to $1,000 said they felt guilty about the loan, while more than 70 percent of those who took between $1,001 and $5,000 said the same. Despite largely feeling appreciated for their efforts, nearly 1 out of 4 people we polled who’d loaned money to family in the past said they regretted doing it at all.

A Safer Option

A majority of the Americans we surveyed acknowledged borrowing anything from a few hundred dollars from their family members to several thousand dollars, to cover everything from auto repair bills to the mortgage on their houses. In some cases, these intra-family loans had negative consequences on the relationships between family members. Another item of concern: These types of loans can have big tax implications depending on the amount of money borrowed.

At LendingTree, there’s a better option. With personal loans you can use for events ranging from a wedding or vacation to unexpected medical bills or debt consolidation, we help you get the money you need without making things awkward at holiday get-togethers. With just one simple application, you’ll be connected to multiple lenders and your pick of qualified offers to help meet your personal financial needs.


We surveyed more than 1,000 Americans on their borrowing and lending habits, family behaviors, and financial regrets.

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