Marriage and Student Loan DebtJanuary 17, 2019
Ever been on a date where the other person doesn’t stop talking about their ex? If you’ve had this experience, you can likely relate it to discussing your student loan debt in your relationship. Talking about finances is a necessary evil in a marriage. It can be difficult to discuss finances in a marriage because many people handle finances different based on their personal experiences and how their parents handled them. You might be great at adulting, but if your parents were never open about managing money, you’re probably unsure of how to bring it up. You might even be unsure as to where to start when it comes to managing finances together. Student loans are a big part of many couples’ financial reality. Figuring out how marriage will affect your student loans is an important part of managing your money together. Here are some main points that we think you should know about marriage and student loan debt.
The fastest way to create a rift and cause problems in your relationship is to hide information about your finances. According to CreditCards.com, 6% of Americans in a relationship have hidden credit cards or checking/savings accounts from their partner. That total adds up to about 7 million, for perspective, that’s the size of the state of Massachusetts. It’s not uncommon especially in younger people ages 18-29 to withhold some financial information. It’s when a partner begins to lie about large purchases that a partner should become concerned.
People might think that love solves everything, but it’s better to be on the same page and realistic about the situation. If you are mature enough to get married and really want to work together to succeed, you need to face your finances. As a couple, you need to get over any fears about assessing the financial situation and air everything out. It doesn’t have to be painful but it needs to be an honest outlook. For some couples, this can seem really overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be.
Get a Plan
Have a conversation about how to best review everything. Discuss each of your finances and then surmise a plan to tackle them. Now in some cases, it may not be this simple depending on your income level, occupation, and level of debt. You may want to meet with a financial counselor first and go over everything together, or sit down as a couple at home and discuss the basics before moving any further. It’s totally up to you both, as a team.
Don’t be shy or embarrassed by your financial situation as a couple. There are people who make a living on making sure couples are financially confident and ready to tackle financial goals together. Don’t overlook this benefit of consulting with an outside source about finances—especially if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. If you can’t afford an outside counselor check online, you may be surprised at the educational resources available for free. When it comes to self-learning about finances just be careful how you select your resources. As the old saying goes not everything you see online is true!
When the person you’ve chosen to marry has student loan debt you can face some challenges. If you haven’t co-signed for a spouse and it’s just their name on the loan, this won’t be something that shows up on your credit report. Beware that even if you did not co-sign your partner’s loan there are instances when you might be responsible for paying the loan. Student loans aren’t that different from other types of loans.
For example, if someone passes away, the rest of their loan will likely be forgiven and the spouse would not have to continue making those payments. There are some cases where death will not discharge the remaining debt and the loan company may contact the estate for payment. If your spouse ever lost their income and went into default, the loan companies will look for someone to pay. If your spouse doesn’t have an income, your wages could be garnished. It’s a pretty extreme scenario, but it also happens and is something you should be aware of.
If you are choosing to marry someone with student loan debt, it’s important to talk about this. You’ll want to have a plan set up for each of these scenarios. Though they are extreme if you have savings and you pay down your debt responsibly you shouldn’t have any problems.
Repayment Plan Adjustments
IBR and other types of repayment plans are often used when paying back student loans. We would caution against using these programs. In some cases, your monthly student loan payment may not be covering the interest accrued that month and therefore your balance will continue to increase.
Repayment plans can be based on your household income and family size. When you get married your income and family size may change. If your spouse makes a considerable amount of money, your minimum payments could go up even with your family size going up. If your spouse makes less than you or is not working, your loan payment could go down. It all depends on the details of your financial situation and your loan servicer, but it’s worth noting that this is a possibility.
Fairly often we receive request to refinance couple’s student debt together. Many see this as creating a lot less hassle for themselves by creating only one bill. That’s not always possible, and many experts suggest keeping your loans separate in case your relationship status or financial situation changes in the future. You are not always able to refinance together, either. Whether or not you can refinance your student loan with your spouse will depend on the loan type and servicer you have. If you’re looking into refinancing, talk to each other about goals. Do you want a lower payment so you can save for a house or do you want to pay loans off sooner so you can live abroad or go to grad school? Again, it’s up to the two of you, but you can’t be on the same page if you don’t talk about it.
Take a deep breath and know that it’s normal for people to get stressed out talking about money, but it doesn’t have to be that way. No matter how much money you make, you will have to work together as a team to set priorities. This isn’t a blame game. Just talking about finances doesn’t mean that you’re secretly harboring any resentment or grudges. No one is being attacked and no questions are stupid. You both have to agree to create an open dialogue where you both feel good about discussing money and plans. Know that sometimes there are compromises, or one of you might change your personal plans to advance the other. That’s what it means to be a team.
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