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Should You Get Married To Debt?

Mar 23, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Maybe you got lucky in the game of student loan roulette—and you managed to get out of college without a crushing debt load. But student loan debt could still affect your life—especially if you fall in love with someone who has a larger amount of debt.

True love is supposed to conquer all, and it’s considered cold and heartless to make marriage decisions based on practical financial matters—but if you do marry someone with a significantly larger debt load than you, it will definitely affect your life.

We’re not telling you not to marry someone you love because of his or her debt. But it’s smart to be aware of these things—and to have some practical conversations about your spending priorities as a couple.

Here are just a few ways your significant other’s student debt could affect your life.

More fights about money

Broke Man

If your soon-to-be-spouse has a large debt load, it’s never too early to sit down and talk about money.




Money is one of the most common issues couples fight about—and it’s easy to skate along without conflict if you both make equal salaries and carry roughly equal amounts of student debt. But if you’re both carrying unequal levels of debt, you’ll have plenty of opportunity for conflict. It’s possible this conflict could be driven by feelings of guilt or inadequacy by the person with more debt—or feelings of frustration on the part of the person with less. It could also be caused by different spending and debt-payoff priorities between the two partners. With a big debt load between you, you and your spouse will need to have many difficult conversations about money.

See Also: Online Degree in Finance

You might have difficulty gaining credit

A large debt load lowers your credit score as a couple, without a doubt. But it also lowers the credit score of the individual with less debt. If that’s you, you could find yourself struggling to get reasonable interest rates on all kinds of things—including car loans and credit cards. It may also be harder for you to rent an apartment or buy a house because of the debt you now share with your spouse.

You may be responsible for the debt—even after divorce

It’s an awful thing to think about—and most couples on the verge of marriage don’t consider it. But if you get divorced, what happens to his or her debt? Some states have common property laws, where your spouse’s debt is your debt once you’re married—and in some circumstances, you may be responsible for paying it off even after a divorce. You might not want to think about it now, but you’ll be glad you did if the worst ever happens.

Whether or not you’ll be responsible for your spouse’s student loans in the case of divorce will depend on a wide variety of factors—including the laws in your state and when you enrolled in school. If the spouse enrolled before marriage, you may very well be responsible—because you will have had the opportunity to benefit from the added earnings brought on by the spouse’s degree while you were married. It’s rare, however, for a spouse to be found responsible for student loans incurred after a divorce.

It will affect how you spend as a couple

If one of you carries a large debt load—and neither of you are making a big salary—the debt will definitely affect your life. It could have an effect on where you live, what you do for fun, whether or how often you go out or travel, and even when or if you have children. The debt could also affect career issues, such as whether or not one of you can afford to go back to school, start a business, or stay home with the kids.

If your soon-to-be-spouse has a large debt load, it’s never too early to sit down and talk about money. Find out exactly how much debt your significant other has—and get all the details about payment terms, interest, and who holds the loan. Talk to your significant other about how you both want to tackle paying back the loans and managing the family budget. And figure out together how long you’ll want to take to pay them back—and whether you’ll have to postpone the timing of certain major decisions to accommodate that schedule. Your significant other’s debt will soon be your debt—and you’ll both need to be on the same page regarding your finances.



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