Dave Says: Student loan debt needs to be addressed in new marriage
By DAVE RAMSEY
Syndicated financial columnist
My niece just graduated from college with $20,000 in student loan debt. Her boyfriend graduated as well, and they’re talking about getting married. He has $115,000 in loan debt and wants to go to graduate school. They both want to be teachers, and she’s currently job hunting. The idea of all this debt hanging over their heads bothers her. Do you have any advice on how she can come to peace with the situation?
This is a really interesting question. In a way, I’m glad she’s conflicted about the situation. At the same time, I wouldn’t want it to be a deal breaker where their relationship is concerned.
Here’s my take. You don’t pass up a great, lifelong relationship just because of debt. You do, however, walk away from a relationship based on things like laziness, irresponsible behavior and immaturity. These are flaws that usually don’t go away. Any girlfriend or boyfriend who goes into a marriage thinking, “I can fix this person,” is in for a rude awakening.
I’m glad she’s looking for a job, but her boyfriend also needs to be working—especially if they’re planning to get married. There’s no excuse for either of them being full-time students with $135,000 in combined student loan debt hanging over their heads. Besides, lots of people hold down real jobs and further their educations on a part-time basis.
If she were my niece, I would encourage her to have an open and honest discussion with her boyfriend about their future, how he plans on paying for graduate school and her feelings on the situation. If his answer is simply to borrow more money, then she’ll have some potentially difficult decisions to make. But if he realizes how damaging picking up any more debt could be to their finances and their future, then they can start off on the same page. And things will look a lot brighter!
No pay, no say
My fiancée and I are planning our wedding. Our parents don’t want to contribute financially, so we’ve budgeted $7,000 to cover everything. The problem is both sets of parents still want to make decisions regarding the ceremony and how many people attend. How should we handle this?
In my mind, they don’t have a say in what happens or who attends if they don’t contribute. I understand how your parents feel though. How nice the ceremony is or who’s invited can be a painful discussion, but in this case their opinions should only count as long as they fall within the confines of your budget.
Be courteous and gentle when you explain how much you’ve budgeted and what that means in terms of who can come, how many are there, and just how fancy this event will be. Now, it would be really nice to involve your fiancée’s mother in the planning. But at the end of the day, she does not make decisions. Make sure you involve them and their opinions, but it’s you and your bride-to-be who have the power.
I know your parents love you, and they want it to be a wonderful day for everyone. But this is your wedding, not theirs. And by the way, this would be a really good time to consider premarital counseling. It amazes me how many people enter into a lifelong commitment without talking and thinking things through. And part of that should be you guys getting on the same page as to how you’re going to handle interfering in-laws. You both obviously have some!
* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He’s authored four New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 5 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.
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