Would You Ever Marry Someone With Enormous Student Loan Debt?
Imagine you've met the perfect partner. You've cried quietly together during a movie, met each other's parents and helped each other through hard times.
And after a year or so of dating, you can honestly see yourself with this person for eternity.
You have to make a choice.
While neither decision is inherently right or wrong, both come with real-life consequences.
The Dark Side Of Marrying Someone With Student Debt
If you think this situation is unlikely, think again. Keep in mind that national student loan debt is well over $1.3 trillion.
The average student debt for 2016 grads who took out loans was over $37,000, while nearly 7 million student loan borrowers are in default.
So even if your loans are paid off, it's not uncommon to meet someone who still has debt from college. And if you just so happen to hook up with someone with a graduate, law or medical degree, watch out.
You could easily grow to love someone whose debt is six-figures deep.
While dating someone with debt isn't a big deal, marrying them can open a Pandora's Box of issues. Before you say “I do,” consider how your partner's debt could spell trouble:
Combining Incomes Might Mean Higher Monthly Payments
If your partner is on an income-driven repayment plan such as PAYE, REPAYE, IBR or ICR, combining incomes could be a problem.
Since eligibility and payments hinge on income, boosting your combined earnings could cause your partner's monthly payments to surge.
And if your new household income is high enough, it could even disqualify your partner from participating in an income-driven plan altogether.
Still, potential problems don't end there. While a higher income should make bigger payments more doable, issues can still crop up.
Let's say you earn all the money but have no plans to combine finances once you marry. If your spouse winds up with a huge monthly payment and you're not helping, money arguments are inevitable.
Filing your taxes separately can help prevent your incomes from being intertwined, but not always.
Under REPAYE, for example, your combined income is used to determine your monthly payment whether you file separately or not. Plus, filing separately can mean losing out on the student loan interest deduction to boot.
Other Financial Goals Might Have To Wait
While it's absolutely possible to get a mortgage when you have student loan debt, the situation does become more complicated.
For starters, you'll have to see what a bank is willing to lend you. Because most banks rely on your debt-to-income ratio when determining what you can afford, student debt might prevent you from getting a mortgage large enough for your needs.
And with huge student loan payments looming, you'll also need to hash out what you can reasonably afford in your own mind.
Like anything else in life, however, everything is negotiable. Maybe you buy the house and wait on kids, or vise versa.
Either way, confronting these issues early in a marriage won't always end well.
Why Debt May Not Matter
All of the reasons I've listed should make you think twice about marrying someone with considerable debt. But what if you think long and hard and still choose love?
The reality is many people do just that and enjoy an even stronger marriage because of it.
For some people, debt isn't enough to stand in the way of a relationship that is working in every other way. It may make things harder, but not insurmountable.
And student loan debt might even leave you better off in the end.
You Can Foster A Sense of Teamwork
When you tackle something together early on, you learn to work as a team.
Your debts may incite some pretty serious conversations, but you work your way through them. And if you really love your partner despite their debts, you'll want to help them dig their way out anyway, right?
If you can conquer student loan debt together, you can overcome any other obstacle that comes your way. If you can learn to sacrifice together, the rewards will be sweeter.
And if you can lean on each other during hard times, you only stand to strengthen your bond.
You can achieve amazing things together if you merely focus, and there's nothing better than celebrating those triumphs as a team.
Paying Off Loans Can Help You Learn About Money
Crushing your debt together can help you learn some amazing lessons about money, and those lessons can carry over into other areas of your life.
Imagine you create a debt payoff plan that targets high-interest student loans first. As you start implementing your plan, you have a lightbulb moment: If you applied the same principle to your credit card bills, for example, you could feasibly become completely debt-free faster.
And just like that, another money-saving strategy is born.
Plus, enduring student loan debt can deter you from taking on debt in other areas of your life.
After paying hundreds of dollars in student loans every month, you might learn to shy away from big car payments and other consumer loans. Isn't that a good thing?
Regardless, financial education – even the forced kind – is always a positive. And when you're forced to handle your student loan debt, you learn plenty of financial lessons by default.
Everyone you date will have their own share of faults, and student debt could be one of them.
Before you walk down the aisle or get too serious, ask yourself what you can live with.
By talking openly and honestly with your partner, you can work through these issues and see where they stand.
And really, overcoming student loan debt might be the biggest test of all.
If you truly love someone, their debts won't matter.