By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There’s evidence that older Americans are amassing mounds of education debt, probably for children or grand-children, and it’s a trend that can really backfire.

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Higher education has only gotten more expensive and it’s natural for parents and grandparents to want to help, says Joel Steele, co-owner of Steele Financial Solutions in Cherry Hill. But, those who co-sign someone’s student loan may not realize that, if the younger person stops paying, they’re on the hook for the balance.

So if you want to help, Steele says, think it through, “Take the emotion out of it, at least temporarily hit the pause button, if you’re doing this yourself, with your spouse or if you’re working with a financial advisor in trying to interject some rationale, some logic, in terms of what are the plusses, what are the minuses.”

Steele says there are tremendous financial resources for college students that don’t involve putting your house or retirement in jeopardy.

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“You don’t want to have to choose, help your children or have a good retirement.”

Steele likens it to the safety announcement on airplanes: if the oxygen masks drop in an emergency, parents fasten theirs on first, then work on the kids.

“You just have to be very cautious. It’s nice to help people. You feel a need to help your kids. You want to do anything and everything for them but you have to make sure that you’re looking out for yourself.”

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One simple college funding solution from Steele: just loan or give them the money. You’re out that much and nothing more.