Ask Money

Co-sign for Law School?

Chris Farrell May 20, 2008

Question: I am 58 years old, a self-supporting teacher, and anxious about my retirement savings. My son at the age of 29 has decided to go to law school, and asked if I would co-sign $14,000 of his student loan package. The thought of having my name attached to a debt of any kind is distressing. Am I being unreasonable?… And what about the immediate liability? Does the $14,000 go on my credit report until it’s paid? Are there any liabilities to my credit, just for being a co-signer? Thanks for your advice. This is a heart-rending situation. I don’t think I can say no, but the thought of being a co-signer at my age makes me VERY nervous! Carolyn. Carlsbad, CA.

Answer: I understand the desire to help out your son financially. But I would not co-sign the loan. You’re right to worry that the risk is too great, especially with retirement looming. Put it this way: I assume your son has done the calculations that a law degree will pay off over time in higher earnings and better career prospects. Assuming that is the case, the debt burden is well worth taking. Time is on his side, and he should absorb the risk of something going wrong. You shouldn’t be on the hook financially.

To be sure, one advantage of you cosigning the loan is that he will probably get a better rate on the loan. Again, it’s really a question of whether the investment in a law degree will pay for itself. You could always make a small private loan to him on your home to help him out with an understanding that he’ll pay you back later on.

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