Should You Co-sign Your Teen’s Student Loans?

These days, most people don’t have enough money saved up for a college education for their child because college has become so ridiculously expensive. Instead, they encourage their offspring to apply for financial aid, which includes grants and loans.

Grants are great, but generally hard to obtain in more than a nominal amount; hence the popularity of loans. But since young people just out of high school (or home school) rarely have a financial track record, their parents are often asked to co-sign loans, especially if the total annual cost of the chosen college is more than several thousand dollars a year.

Should you co-sign your teen’s student loans? If you’re a Christian, you need to be aware that the Bible, while not specifically prohibiting co-signing loans, makes it clear that it is foolish to do so.

Check out Proverbs 17:18 (KJV):

A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend.

Surety, in case you’re wondering, is pledging to repay a loan without any sure way to pay it back. Co-signing means you’re taking on that obligation for someone else in case they can’t pay it back. The reason the bank requires them to have a co-signer is because it considers them a bad risk.

It’s possible to borrow money but avoid surety. For instance, if you get a car loan and use the car as collateral, you can sell it and repay the loan if you have to. If you obtain a mortgage and use the house you’re buying as collateral, you can sell it and use the proceeds to pay off the mortgage.

But if you pledge to pay your child’s student loans back if they can’t, what do you have to use as collateral? Nothing. Now you’ve plunged yourself into surety, and according to the verse above, have become “void of understanding,” or lacking in good sense, according to other Biblical translations.

To make matters worse, by co-signing a loan for your own child, you have also obligated him or her to extensive debt for which they have no collateral.

Why would this displease God? Larry Burkett explained this in his book, Using Your Money Wisely:

Obviously, surety is not a biblical law— it is a principle. A principle is a biblical guide to keep you on God’s path and out of the world’s traps. You don’t get punished for violating a principle unknowingly; you suffer the consequences. The consequences of violating the principle of surety is that you presume upon the future. In other words, when you sign surety for a debt, you pledge your future. If you have omniscient insights into the future, then there is really no danger. But, since only God has omniscient insight, when you sign surety, you presume upon God’s will.

So if you’re a Christian, you should not co-sign college loans for your teen. Trust me, refusing to do so will not make you popular with your teen or possibly others in your family or social circle. But as Christians, we know that obedience to God trumps the approval of man.

How can you help prepare your teen for the future without co-signing student loans? Well, you could have saved up over the years so you could just give them the money. If that didn’t happen, you can help them research scholarships and grants.

Another option: seriously consider whether your teen even needs to go to college. In homeschooling circles, sending kids off to college has been a way to prove that homeschooling works, so there’s always been a lot of pressure to do so. But the U.S. already has an overabundance of college grads who can’t find work in their field. Do you want your teen to end up in that boat?

In the updated and expanded third edition of Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers, available for purchase at all online and brick-and-mortar book sellers and from Cardamom Publishers on June 1, you can learn how to determine if your teen is college material and whether it’s worth sending him or her to college in the first place. Stay tuned for more information!

Happy 2016!

I spent much of the last part of 2015 working on two quilts that were Christmas gifts (photos to come). I managed to finish them in time but I must have been crazy to put myself under such a deadline. There were several interruptions, including emergency surgery on one of my kids (she’s OK now, thank God), the purchase of a car and a broken part on my sewing machine.

The Christmas season was full of surprises, the best of them being the announcement by our daughter and son-in-law that they’re expecting their first child this summer. We are very excited about this wonderful news! This will be our third grandchild; we were blessed to spend some time over the holidays with our first two bright and gorgeous grandchildren, and they are a delight :) We Skype with them every week and love it, but there’s nothing like being there in person.

The holidays gave me an opportunity to reconnect with some old friends, which is always nice. Some were also homeschooling parents, so we have much to talk about. I continue to find it interesting that some of their kids are doing very well as adults while others continue to find their way. I mean this in terms of their faith lives, not their work or personal lives, as all seem gainfully employed and/or busy raising their own children. These things are also true of my own children. It appears to me that homeschooling creates wonderful family lives and good educational experiences, but cannot create an adult who handles everything perfectly, no matter what the speakers at homeschool conventions may tell you! That said, it’s a privilege to watch our adult children navigate the world with all of its joys and challenges.

In 2016, I hope to update Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers with additional projects and information. We also have a couple of eBooks in the pipeline at Cardamom that will hopefully be published this year. And of course, there will be more quilts….and a new baby to love!

Wishing you a blessed 2016,
Barb

Homeschool High School’s Most Essential Subject

What subjects should you include when homeschooling your teen through high school? Answering this question can and does fill entire books. Personally, I think at least some of the subjects should be related to your teen’s interests as much as anything else. But there’s one subject that should be mandatory: personal finance.

With unemployment and underemployment becoming more common, it’s imperative that we send our kids out into the world with some financial savvy so they can wisely manage what money they’re able to earn. And we have the resources to do the job.

As parents, we put the “why” behind the “how.” It’s one thing to say that teens should set some money aside every month and save it for a rainy day. It’s quite another to tell the story of how your dad and his siblings saved almost every nickel they made as teenagers so they could help their single mom buy the family’s first house. That was a real-life situation I shared with my teens; I’m sure you have your own. (Sometimes true stories don’t have a happy ending…..every family these days knows someone with a cautionary financial story to tell.)

We also have great resources available to use with our teens. For example, we don’t need textbook charts showing how credit card interest is calculated. We likely have the credit card bills that show how little a minimum payment is required for the purchases we’ve made each month. We can show the high rate of interest charged on balances, the equivalent of paying a 22% (or greater) premium on everything we buy…..thus saving us 22% when we pay off the bill each month. (Even if you’re not a credit card user, the reason for that decision should certainly be shared with your teens, if you haven’t done so already.)

Textbooks might also include case studies of make-believe families with examples of income and expenses. However, we can place a month’s worth of real paycheck stubs on one side of the table and a month’s worth of bill stubs on the other (utilities, mortgage payment or rent, car payments, etc.) and let our teens do the math. Real life has much more impact than case studies of strangers.

Today’s economy offers many sad stories of those who relied on credit to make up the difference between their income and their desires…. to their detriment. Go over some of these stories in your newspapers and online and discuss them with your teen. Use them as examples of why it’s so important to live within your means.

I’m sure you can think of other ways to teach your teen your view of personal finance. I designed similar projects for my teens* that they worked on, and I included them on their high school transcripts with the title Life Prep (Personal Finance). No one questioned it, and it certainly didn’t prevent my kids from being admitted to college.

You might be hesitant about sharing your personal financial information with your teens. If so, consider that what you teach them about this subject will greatly affect them for their entire lives. Making smart financial decisions when young can benefit a person for years. Unfortunately, messing up because of financial ignorance can hurt a person for years.

Sharing information and opinions about personal finance is every parent’s job. It’s too important to leave out, especially in times like we’re living in right now. Homeschooling parents have the time and opportunity to do this. The time to begin is right now.

*found in Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers

A Homeschool Tempest in a Teapot

So the press has found some dissatisfied homeschooled adults. This must make them so happy. Nothing like a little controversy to boost your website traffic.

It makes sense that there will be some homeschooled adults who are dissatisfied with how they were raised. Just looking at the populace at large, what percentage are unhappy with the way they were raised? Probably a good portion, judging from the number of self-help titles published over the years for readers trying to get past their problematic childhoods. Why should homeschoolers be any different?

In this particular case the focus is on a certain type of homeschooling family, known collectively as Quiverfull, according to the article. (That name stems from a book very popular among Christian homeschoolers in the 1990s.) This has been a trainwreck in the making for some time. I knew several families like those described in the article; given their strict beliefs, particularly as they applied them to their daughters, rebellion was inevitable. After all, once your girls get out into the world and discover that there are options in addition to marriage and motherhood, some of them are going to want more choices.

When my first book (Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers) was published, I had trouble getting a booth at a certain homeschool conference to sell it. I couldn’t even get a response from those running the conference. I was later told by someone in the know that the problem with my book is that it encourages girls as well as boys to become independent adults. The families running the conference didn’t want their girls to get any ideas, I guess.

Now, I don’t agree with their mindset and my husband doesn’t either. We homeschooled all our children, daughters and sons, with the intent of helping them be all that they could be. Personally I think we can trust God to lead each child to the right career; those that think all girls should be trained only to be wives and mothers ought to give some thought to how God used Corrie ten Boom and Amy Carmichael.

But just because I disagree with families who raise their daughters to be only wives and mothers doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing. There is no agenda-free schooling anywhere. There’s an agenda in public school and private school just as there is in any homeschool. Parents are free to choose how to educate their children, and children are free to embrace or reject their upbringing when they become adults. The article I cited at the start of this post is merely an attempt to foment controversy, so don’t let it bother you too much.

The irony in all this is that many of the young women quoted in the article will someday change their minds. They’ll end up being stricter than their folks. I’ve seen it happen before. Some of the biggest rebels eventually turn into the strictest parents. People are funny, aren’t they?