November 5, 2019
By Kelly Burch, Business Insider
During my freshman year of college, there was a five-figure gap between what my financial aid covered and what tuition cost. In hindsight, I should have seen that bill and run to my nearest community college, since the four-year university I was planning to attend was clearly unaffordable.
Instead, I turned to private student loans to cover the cost. As a broke 18-year-old with no official work history, I couldn’t get approved for a private student loan on my own. My parents couldn’t either because of their credit histories. I was panicked, until an aunt offered to cosign an $18,000 loan.
I was incredibly grateful at the time, and still am today. That loan allowed me to get started in a journalism program that kickstarted my career. However, in the 12 years since that loan was dispensed, I’ve learned a lot about cosigning.
I recently refinanced the loan in my own name, and I’ll never ask for a cosigner again. And though I am incredibly grateful for the gift my aunt gave me, I’ll never be a cosigner myself. Here’s why.
Cosigning affects you, even if everything goes well
Many people think a cosigner is merely a backup payee. If the primary borrower doesn’t pay, the lender can go to the cosigner, who is also responsible for the loan. If you think about cosigning this way, there’s little risk, as long as you believe the primary borrower will hold up their end of the deal.
However, that’s not the full picture. When you cosign a loan, it shows up on your credit report. Lenders consider cosigned debt just the same as they would consider debt where you’re the primary borrower. It affects your all-important debt-to-income ratio, which can limit your ability to get additional credit in the future. That means that even if the person you cosigned for is doing everything right, their loan can still change your financial situation.
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