Most young adults cannot qualify for a credit card or other loans without an adult cosigner. As a result you may be asked to help out, even if that help only extends to your signature on an application, but make sure you understand the risks you face. The Federal Trade Commission estimates over two-thirds of cosigners are asked to repay all or some of a loan because the primary borrower defaulted on the obligation.

First, make sure you can afford to make the payments if your child cannot. Second, set relatively low spending limits on any credit cards you cosign for. You may want to limit the total balance to $500 or so, for example. Make sure any limit increases require your permission as well as your child’s - that way you can make sure you know the extent of your obligation. If you sign on a car loan, have your name on the title as well as your child’s. That way you can sell the car if you need to. Once the car is paid off, you can simply remove your name from the title.

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