- College loans: 35 percent
- Residential leases: 32 percent
- Car loans: 19 percent
- Legal agreements for credit cards: 17 percent
- Car leases: 11 percent
- Home loans: 6 percent
Co-Sign or No-Sign?
When you co-sign for a loan, that debt will also appear on your credit report. But the real concern is the most basic one: Co-signing a loan or credit application means you're agreeing to pay the debt in its entirety if the main borrower defaults on the loan, becomes disabled or dies.
"It's important to recognize that you're making a high-risk decision, not just doing a good deed if you co-sign a loan," says Susan Tiffany, director, personal finance for adults at the Credit Union National Association. "The idea is that you're helping out your kids or your parents, but it has implications for you, too. You need to consider the fact that if someone needs a co-signer, it's because they've already been denied credit on their own and are considered a high risk."
In fact, Tiffany warns, in some states, debt collectors can go after a co-signer before pursuing the primary borrower for a debt.
Becky Frost, senior manager of consumer education for Experian, offers the following tips for parents, grandparents or other relatives contemplating co-signing a loan:
- Use discretion. Before you co-sign for anyone, be absolutely certain that he or she is capable of responsibly managing the account and will always pay bills on time.
- Have "the credit talk." Explain how credit works. It's important for the young person to understand that late payments, a maxed-out account or collections will affect both your credit scores and your ability to qualify for loans in the future.
- Stay in touch. It's important to maintain constant communication with your child to ensure that payments are being made on time and in full. The lender is not required to notify the co-signer about late payments or a delinquency.
- Consider the timing. If you're planning on applying for a loan for yourself in the next six months, it may not be a good time to co-sign for your child. With mortgages in particular, it's not a good idea to take on a new debt just before or during the lending application process.
Michele Lerner is a Motley Fool contributing writer.