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things everyone forgets

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How far would you go to help a loved one?

It’s a complicated question to answer. If we’re talking about making one’s self available to offer aid or emotional support, I’m all here for it. But once you enter into a territory where we’re talking about money, things can get very complex.

Like a story I found online where a young woman was approached by her aunt to help her relative out in a major way.

The woman, who has done pretty well for herself as a nurse, went to visit her aunt and uncle one evening. In the midst of shooting the sh-t, the aunt put the woman on the spot and asked her if she would be able to co-sign for a loan, for a house of all things. The woman’s aunt and uncle said their home was in bad shape, their landlord is a bum, their neighbors are not the best people, and basically, they want to move out–preferably out of apartment buildings and into a home with just a little more space. While the woman understood both her aunt and uncle’s reasoning for wanting to move into a home, she didn’t really feel comfortable with them asking her to have such an integral role in that transition. Plus, she says that they’re not that close

Still, not to burst anyone’s bubble, she told them that she would think about it and get back to them. When the woman asked her other family members what they thought she should do, and how she could go about letting her aunt and uncle down easily, her loved ones were vexed. The fact that the pair even requested her help in such matters was deemed disrespectful by her mother, and the woman’s boyfriend said such a bold request needed to be shot down. Considering that they’re family, what would the woman do if her aunt and uncle all of a sudden couldn’t pay on the home and she got into trouble because of their decisions? Co-signing on a loan, to her, sounds like a mistake waiting to happen.

And Equifax agrees. Mechel Glass had this to say on behalf of the consumer credit reporting agency in a story from 2014:

“If you co-sign a loan with someone who doesn’t pay his or her bills, the damage to your financial standing could be far reaching. The other person’s failure to pay could result in accounts being turned over to collections, lawsuits filed against you, garnishment of your wages, or liens placed on your property. If you are not in the position to repay the loan or take over the payments on the loan should the primary owner of the debt stop paying on the account, these are real possibilities.”

And even if they do pay their bills, Glass said that anything could happen that could turn things upside down.

“Co-signing with a family member doesn’t necessarily mean your finances (or relationship) will be negatively impacted, but the fact is that family members may run into financial difficulty due to unforeseen circumstances. This could cause the person to default on the loan, creating problems for everybody involved. As with any financial decision you make, before you co-sign, be sure you weigh the consequences and have the facts.”

With that being said, I wouldn’t do it. I know people who have loaned and co-signed loans for large sums of money to help family members get cars, an education, and all sorts of things. But a house is a whole other beast. I think there is a possibility that things could go left, and if they do, this woman’s credit could be affected in a major way, and her relationship with her aunt and uncle could be irrevocably broken. And more than anything, I’m not down for people doing anything they know in their heart they’re not comfortable with just to keep their relatives from feeling salty and acting funny in the future. But the decision is this young woman’s to make.

How would you handle such a request from a loved one? What is a good way to turn them down nicely? 

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