Should you co-sign your child’s loan?

There are always risks associated with cosigning for any credit account, even when cosigning for your son or daughter. When you cosign a car loan for your child, you are assuming full responsibility for the debt. If your son misses a payment or pays less than the minimum due, the late payment will be reflected on his credit report and yours.

If the reason your child or parent needs a loan is that he or she has lousy credit and can never seem to get ahead, think twice before you co-sign. You may want to give your family member just one more chance, but your chances of being stuck with the bill are high. If your family member has proven to be trustworthy in the past, that’s great.

When considering whether to co-sign for a child, parents should consider both the child’s financial situation and their own, says Davon Barrett, a junior analyst with Francis Financial in New York. For instance, "if you need a loan shortly after you’ve co-signed, you may have to deal with higher interest rates, or even rejection," Barrett says.

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However, cosigning the mortgage means that should your child stop making payments, the lender will look to you to pay the entire mortgage amount, plus any catch-up amount that is owed, if your child has stopped making loan payments.

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Alternatives to Co-Signing. Buy the home yourself: Other parents are actually buying the homes themselves and renting them out to their adult children. Once the child has gained enough credit or down payment money, they can buy the home from the parents. Give a family loan: If you have enough cash to buy the house,

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Before You Co-sign. Despite the risks, there may be times when you want to co-sign. Your child may need a first loan, or a close friend may need help. Before you co-sign, consider how it might affect your financial well-being. Can you afford to pay the loan? If you’re asked to pay and can’t, you could be sued, or your credit rating could be.