Apr 16, 201511:24 AMTaking Stock
with Nathan Brinkman
When your child asks for a loan, should you say yes?
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You raised them, helped get them through school, and now your children are on their own. Or are they? Even adult children sometimes need financial help. But if your child asks you for a loan, don’t pull out your checkbook until you’ve examined the financial and emotional costs. Start the process by considering a few key questions.
Why does your child need the money?
Lenders ask applicants to clearly state the purpose for the loan, and you should, too. Like any lender, you need to decide whether the loan purpose is reasonable. If your child is a chronic borrower, frequently overspends, or wants to use the money you’re lending to pay past-due bills, watch out. You might be enabling poor financial decision-making. On the other hand, if your child is usually responsible and needs the money for a purpose you support, you may feel better about agreeing to the loan.
Will your financial assistance help your child in the long run?
It’s natural to want to help your child, but you also want to avoid jeopardizing your child’s independence. If you step in to help, will your child lean on you the next time, too? And no matter how well intentioned you are, the flip side of protecting your child from financial struggles is that your child may never get to experience the satisfaction that comes with successfully navigating financial challenges.
Can you really afford it?
Perhaps you can afford to lend money right now, but look ahead a bit. What will happen if you find yourself in unexpected financial circumstances before the loan is repaid? If you’re loaning a significant sum and you’re close to retirement, will you have the opportunity to make up the amount? If you decide to loan your child money, be sure it’s an amount that you could afford to lose, and don’t take money from your retirement account.
What if something goes wrong?
One potential downside to loaning your child money is the family tension it may cause. When a financial institution loans money to someone, it’s all business, and the repayment terms are clear-cut. When you loan money to a relative, it’s personal, and if expectations aren’t met, both your finances and your relationship with your child may be at risk.