Marriage and Student Loan DebtJanuary 17, 2019
Updated April 12, 2022
Discussing finances with your partner is an important step if you’re planning to get married – especially if you have student loans.
It’s common to have student loan debt into the first several years of your career, which means you or your partner may get married while still paying down student loans. Keep in mind that getting married will affect your financial situation, which may include factors like your student loan repayment plan, tax filings, and eligibility for tax deductions.
Here are a few things to talk with your partner about before you get married:
- Whether either of you has student loans
- The types of student loans you have
- Your student loan balances
- Current monthly payments
- Student loan payment history
- Student loan payment status
Figuring out how marriage will affect your student loans is an important part of managing your money together. Here are a few more things to consider when it comes to marriage and student loan debt.
Your Income Tax Filing Status Affects Your Monthly Payments
After you get married, you and your partner should discuss whether you’ll file taxes jointly or separately. Keep in mind that marriage could affect your student loan repayment plan if you are on an income-driven repayment (IDR) program, and you may no longer be eligible for an IDR if your joint income is high enough.
Here’s how your income is determined based on how you file:
- When you file jointly, your two incomes are added together to determine total income.
- If you file separately, each person’s income is determined individually.
- The standard deduction for couples filing jointly is $25,100.
- The standard deduction for couples filing separately is $12,550.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, here’s how your income is calculated based on your repayment plan when you’re married:
|IDR Plan||Filing Jointly||Married Filing Separately|
|REPAYE||Joint Income||Joint Income|
|PAYE||Joint Income||Individual Income|
|IBR||Joint Income||Individual Income|
|ICR||Joint Income||Individual Income|
You Could Lose Eligibility for the Student Loan Interest Tax Deduction
If you’re currently taking the student loan interest tax deduction, which can lower your taxable income by as much as $2,500, carefully consider the impact marriage may have on your financial situation.
Whether you file separately or jointly, your adjusted gross income must fall below $85,000 to qualify, and you and your partner’s total income may not exceed $170,000. If your income surpasses either threshold, you’ll no longer be eligible for this deduction.
You Could Be Responsible for Your Spouse’s Student Loan Debt
In some cases, getting married may make you responsible for your spouse’s student loan debt.
Federal loans offer a death discharge, but private loans vary by lender. If your spouse passes away, you could find yourself responsible for paying back their remaining debt.
Additionally, if you co-sign the student loan for your spouse and they fail to make timely payments, the financial burden will fall to you instead.
Will You Have to Pay Your Spouse’s Student Loan After a Divorce?
While it’s not a topic couples look forward to discussing, it’s important to know how divorce affects student loans before you tie the knot.
In most cases, if your spouse took out the loan before you were married, it will remain their responsibility. If you took out the loan together after getting married, however, that may not be the case.
The way student loans and divorce are handled varies by state – in some states, student loan debt is considered community property, and you’ll have to take on at least half of the debt. For that reason, some couples will work out prenuptial or postnuptial agreements to avoid friction during divorce settlements.
Your Credit Score Could Be Affected
In most cases, if your spouse took out a student loan before you got married, it wouldn’t affect your credit score and vice versa.
That said, if you become a co-signer on your spouse’s loan, then you’ll be financially responsible for making payments if they’re no longer able to do so. If a loan payment is missed, it will negatively impact your credit score.
Marriage Could Affect Your Financial Aid (FAFSA)
If you’re currently receiving financial aid that’s based on your income, like the Pell Grant, then you’ll need to carefully review the ways that marriage could impact your financial aid.
When you get married, the government will consider your and your spouse’s income when determining your financial aid eligibility. If your total household income is high enough, it may disqualify you from certain types of aid.
If you do lose financial aid eligibility and have reached your federal student loan borrowing limit, then you may need to look into scholarships or private student loans to bridge the gap.
Student Loan Repayment Options for Married Couples
Getting married is exciting, and even if financial planning seems intimidating at first, taking some time to coordinate with your partner will help simplify your student loan repayment journey in the long run. Here are a few student loan repayment and planning options to consider:
- Consult With a Tax Professional to Figure Out How to File
- Pay Your Student Loans Individually
- Help Each Other Pay Off Each Others Student Loans
- Explore Student Loan Repayment Assistance Programs
- Refinance Your Student Loans
Consult With a Tax Professional to Figure Out How to File
If you’re having trouble choosing the best way to file, it may be time to consult an expert. A tax professional could help you choose the optimal way to file your taxes to maximize your benefits.
Pay Your Student Loans Individually
If you’re concerned that student loan payments may become a point of contention, or if you each already have a strong student loan repayment plan, then you may consider continuing to pay your student loans separately.
While there can be several benefits to combining your repayment efforts, that strategy isn’t a good fit for everyone. Discuss your plan with your partner to decide whether paying your loans individually may be the best fit.
Help Each Other Pay Off Each Others Student Loans
Another option, if you’re looking to combine your student loan repayment efforts, would be to pay off your loans together.
For example, you may choose to start making extra payments on the loan with the highest balance or the highest interest rate to pay off your debt more quickly. When you’re deciding which student loans to pay off first, crunch the numbers to determine how you can maximize your savings.
If you choose this plan, keep in mind that you remain responsible for making timely payments on all of your loans – not just the one you’re most focused on.
Explore Student Loan Repayment Assistance Programs
If you’re looking for a way to supplement your repayment efforts, consider looking into student loan repayment assistance programs. Many organizations – potentially even your employer – offer options that can help you pay down your student loans and achieve debt freedom.
Refinance Your Student Loans
If you’re looking for a simple and effective way to pay off student loans faster, then student loan refinancing may be a good fit for you.
Here’s how student loan refinancing works: You’ll choose a new lender to pay off your old student loans, then take out a new loan with an updated interest rate and terms. One of the primary benefits of student loan refinancing is the opportunity to earn a lower student loan interest rate and save hundreds – or even thousands – over the life of your loan.
Before you sign on the dotted line with a new lender, consider the types of loans you have and whether refinancing is the right fit for you. Refinancing federal student loans could mean giving up federal benefits like an IDR plan or Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). The great news is, though, that if you have both federal and private student loans, you can choose only to refinance private student loans while leaving your federal loan benefits intact.
While you and your partner will likely have to refinance your student loans separately, if one of you has a strong credit score, they could cosign on the other partner’s loan to help them score a lower student loan interest rate.
ELFI Student Loan Refinancing
If refinancing your student loans seems like the right fit, be sure to check out ELFI.*
You’ll be paired with an ELFI personal loan advisor to support you throughout the refinancing process, and you can focus on paying off student loans early without penalty.
Check out our Student Loan Refinancing Calculator to estimate how much you could save, or prequalify here without affecting your credit score.
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