Don’t spend more than you earn. Don’t buy too much house. Don’t forget to pay your bills on time. There’s quite a few financial rules that are floating around that we’re told to follow, or else. Just like rules in your everyday life, sometimes you need to know when breaking them will benefit you more than following them. One of the “rules” I often see is to never co-sign a loan. However, I’ve twice been a part of the breaking of this rule.
Co-sign Me Out of Debt
When I was in graduate school I had a plan: consolidate all of my debts so that I can get a better overall rate and more manageable monthly payments. That plan didn’t work out so well as some parts of the plan involved getting a payday loan and locking my keys in my car and myself out. Eventually I figured everything out and applied for a personal loan from the credit union associated with my university. Although I had been keeping up with the payments for my various debts, the loan officer was reluctant to give me the loan because of past missed payments. She told me that I could get a loan if I could get someone to co-sign the loan.
After careful consideration, I decided that my brother would be the perfect
sucker co-signer for my loan. He is seven years older, he had a great job, a house, and high income. I called him and asked for him to co-sign my loan, with the promise that since the payments would be deducted directly from my paycheck (which was true), so as long as I was a graduate student getting a stipend I would never miss a payment. After a heavy sigh and what seemed like a 20-minute pause before giving me an answer, he agreed.
The loan was eventually paid off in full without any missed payments before I completed graduate school. A few years later, I told him over drinks, “See? You had nothing to worry about.” He made me buy the next round.
Co-sign Her Out of Debt
A few years after my first co-signing incident, Her and I were living together and had just combined our finances. Of course, I did this with great reluctance as I was also agreeing to help pay of Her’s enormous student loan debt of ~$130,000, of which was half federal student loans and the other half private student loans. The private student loans were the most egregious, with the interest rates at just under 10% with a monthly payment of around $750. Although we used a bunch of methods to decrease our balance and pay off the loans ten years sooner, it was still an enormous burden. Her received in the mail a letter from the private loan company stating that the interest rate could be lowered if she were to get a co-signer. Of course I was hesitant to agree to this, but I figured that it’s our student loan debt now, and that anything we can do to mitigate its financial effects would be good. I agreed to co-sign the loan.
Me co-signing the loan did decrease the interest rate by a percentage point or so, but didn’t change the way we attacked the loan. Our saving grace came when we transferred $11,000 of the balance to a card at 1.99% for life and when Her’s godmother paid off the rest of the balance of $50,000. We laid those loans to rest, which freed me from my co-signer responsibilities.
Have you broken any financial “rules?” What were the circumstances for that decision? Let us know in the comments!