Financial Literacy - Smart borrowing
Chris Farrell
debt
Ask why you need a loan

Now what's happening is that credit card companies are actually cutting peoples' credit limits and I think this is a real shift that's going to continue.

Getting back to the question, "What's your ideal credit limit?" Well, you have a pretty good idea of the credit balance you're most comfortable with and, deep down, you know that that limit should only be determined by the size of any possible household emergency.

q_v2.gifNew cars have often been sold with "zero down, zero percent interest for 24 months" offers. Do these make sense for consumers? Are you better off avoiding these dealer credit offers and dealing solely with your local credit union?

a_v2.gifThese offers are still appearing, but they're mostly being offered at dealerships selling American cars. If you are in the market for an American car, in this sense it is a great time to buy.

If you really need a car, I would do everything to get the best deal I could, and then once you've settled on a final price, I'd deal with financing the purchase. And I'd go to the dealer prepared to negotiate the best financing offer I could possibly get. Sometimes the dealer will have the best offer; sometimes you might be better off with the financing available through a local bank, your credit union or even your insurance company.

q_v2.gifIs there ever a good reason to be a co-signer on a loan?

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a_v2.gifWhat you need to be aware of is that you're on the hook for the loan. You love your children, you love your uncle, you love your niece. They may be good people, but things happen. People lose their jobs, they have other financial demands, and you will truly be on the hook for that loan if this person that you love falls behind. And they're (the creditors are) gonna come after you, and there's nothing you can do about it. It will impact your credit score; it will impact your pocketbook.

While I think it may be wonderful that you want to help family members out, rather than sign and do a legal document, why not instead just "gift" them a few thousand dollars? Or do a small private loan -- and if that falls apart, OK, so there's then a little stress in the family and a little bit of upset. But you won't have Sallie Mae calling you that John and Jane haven't been paying their loan and you are the co-signer.

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