Home > Student Loans > Help! I’m Marrying Into $166K of Student Loan Debt

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Couples may find that one of the most challenging adjustments when forming a life together is combining their finances. In many ways, it’s great to join financial forces by increasing household income, sharing costs and having someone to work with as you pursue savings, retirement and spending goals. It can also be a total nightmare. Sometimes, taking someone “for richer or for poorer” means marrying into buckets of debt, which is a lot less romantic than the vows suggest.

After finding out his girlfriend has six figures of student loan debt, a lovestruck (and terrified) young man posted about his frustrations on Reddit: How does a mountain of debt stack up against love?

As the man explains in his post, he worked hard to tackle his own education debt, which now amounts to $5,300. He makes good money and has significant savings — the result of what he says were three years of disciplined spending so he could work toward financial independence.

The girlfriend of five years (whom he wants to marry) graduated with $120,000 in student loan debt, which has now reached a balance of $166,000. Together, they make about $140,000 a year, but in addition to her loans, he has a few thousand dollars left to pay from financing his education, and he also has a car loan.

When Debt Is a Deal-Breaker

Yes, the couple has a lot of debt, most of which is hers, but it doesn’t have to be a relationship-ender. There are a few things this guy should consider before abandoning love in the name of financial solvency:

If the couple can agree on financial priorities and behaviors, there’s a good chance they can work through her student loan debt without shredding their relationship to pieces over debt disagreements. If she’s not willing to make sacrifices to tackle her debt or doesn’t want to talk about money at all, he may want to think seriously about what he wants in a partner. Finances cause a lot of tension in relationships, which can worsen if spouses are constantly butting heads over how to handle money.

Assuming he thinks they can work together to pay down the debt, he’ll want to strategize immediately. Can she refinance or consolidate her debt? How much can they afford to increase payments each month? What areas of their budget can they slash to make even higher payments? It’s motivating to do the math and see how much money you can save long-term by increasing monthly payments, which can make short-term sacrifices much more palatable.

It’s also crucial for this man and his girlfriend to check their credit profiles (you can get your credit data and two credit scores for free through Credit.com). Good credit makes approval for refinancing and consolidation more likely, and anyone looking to save money on a variety of financial products will want to apply with the best credit score they can muster. For instance, poor credit can double your car insurance rates in some states, and poor credit can also make it difficult to get an apartment. The good news: Making student loan payments on time is a great credit-builder, so as long as they stay organized and meet their debt obligations, the loans can have a positive impact on their credit profile.

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