When Tracy DuVivier Gary was 7 years old, she was given her first quarter from her mother with "clear instructions" that she had "four choices."
"I could spend it, save it, invest it or give part of it to a friend," says Gary, who at 33 is a millionaire and coordinator of the "Managing Inherited Wealth" program of The Women's Foundation of San Francisco, a prototype for similar groups across the country.
Even though Gary's parents, both "committed philanthropists" whose "language of money and giving" provided her with a strong sense of obligation to community and friends, she was "devastated" during her young adult years when she loaned sizable amounts of her newly inherited wealth to friends whom she wanted "to love" her, but who typically defaulted on their loans. Thus, "sabotaging our friendships."
"I had no contract or written agreement with any of these people," says Gary. "It was like a parental relationship. I was giving them special attention and they became like rebellious teen-agers with a breakdown in communications."
Finally, when Gary was in her late twenties she realized she "wasn't practicing social responsibility" by ignoring her borrowing friends' "disappearances" or defaults, so she developed feasible personal-loan guidelines, which, though tough and with interest rates, have proven successful for her, as well as her friends.
"During the initial phone call when a friend asks for money, I tell her beforehand that the loan would be conducted as a business agreement with my business manager present for at least the first part of the meeting and that I have a lending rate, usually two to four points under the going prime rate.
"If all that is agreeable, I always arrange to meet with my friend in an office. It's important that she comes to me, not me to her."
When lending sizable amounts, Gary will typically set up an "agreeable time" when the loan is "reassessed." For example, a two-year loan for $3,000 would be reviewed at the end of a year. That way, says Gary, if the loan is in trouble they can "together" work up a new strategy of payment.
Gary, who lives modestly, giving half her inheritance annually to commmunity projects, also has a special clause in which low-income borrower/friends may pay back in services -- ranging from gardening to works of art -- rather than money.
"The building of trust is important in friendship. We have to have ways of protecting that trust. And this is my way of investing in the people I care about."
Gary's San Francisco foundation is "undoubtedly the leader" in the issue of teaching women how to manage money, says Jody Hynes, 37, Silver Spring, who heads the recently developed The Women's Fund of Greater Washington. "We plan to be doing the same in the future. It's a need that has to be addressed."