Want to know the most common question readers have about personal finance?
How do I get my significant other on the same page as me financially?
The simple answer is you talk. However, the complicated “How to” answer is there is no magic one size fits all answer.
Finances, like all aspects of a marriage, require working together, communication and love.
But here recently, the handling money as a couple scenarios has gotten a little more complicated. Why?
One reason, student loans of course.
With more and more people graduating from college every year, (More and more of those people having student loans) a common question is now:
What is it like marrying someone with student loan debt?
And while there are many avenues I can go down as it pertains to marrying someone with student loan debt – I think I will go down the one I experienced first hand.
Marrying someone with 6 figures worth of student loans.
Truth be told, most people do not have six figures in student loans, let alone multiple six figures. So when I share our story and how we work together with student loans I like to preface it with this:
- I had student loans, so did my wife.
- She just happened to have way more then I did.
- If it was the other way around it wouldn't matter – at the end of the day we are a team.
In a recent article on Business Insider we discussed how we manage paying off student loan debt as a married couple and how we work as a team. That is the most vital component we emphasize – TEAM!
#1 You're a team.
When we met in 2012, after a West Virginia University football loss, I didn't know the cute blonde would become my wife. Lauren happened to be visiting a friend for the weekend, while she was a doctorate student in North Carolina.
Long story short, she had a clinical rotation coming up that allowed us to start dating and we did the long term relationship thing for another year before she ended up having her last clinical rotation within 30 minutes of where we now live.
By the summer of 2015 we were engaged, in July 2016 we were married and from the time we met to the today there was one thing that was certain, we loved each other. Which leads me to the second principal when marrying someone with debt;
#2 If you love someone, you love them, debt shouldn't matter.
I give the quick backdrop because all along our journey of dating, becoming engaged, and eventually getting married I knew that Lauren had student loans. In other words I knew my wife had six figures worth of student loan debt.
Sure, I too had student loans but I had gotten my loans down from $40,000 in 2009 to roughly $15,000 or so by the start of our marriage in 2016. That doesn't mean it was always easy to understand, but like #2 says, either you love someone or you don't.
Even though Lauren had lots of loans, like a mortgage sized student loan, it never deterred me from asking her to be my wife. And personally that is how it should be.
Student Loans & Marriage.
While this is just my belief and you don’t have to agree, (But I think it is accurate considering 1 in 2 divorces are related to money) money shouldn’t be the reason why you do or do not marry a person.
If I am being honest there were times when we would have high volume discussions about finances and it was challenging imagining going from $15,000 in student loan debt to multiple six figures.
Note: The only caveat to any of this are those rare occasions when two people get married and then they find out one had some crazy amount of credit card debt or something along those lines. If that happens, that marriage was built on sand in the first place, not trust, which is why it is best to always get some pre-marital counseling.
When you get married your debt is their debt, and their debt is your debt. You can slice it however you want, but my biggest recommendation is getting on the same page financially.
Joint accounts, separate accounts, no accounts, it doesn’t matter financially you are bound together in a marriage. And while getting on the same page when it comes to finances involves trust and communication, correct me if I am wrong but isn’t trust and communication what a marriage revolves around?
Having a common vision and goal is also important in any marriage. When that is established getting on the same page financially is a breeze.
Be honest financially in your relationship.
While it might be easy for me to say we are on the same page financially and gung ho about paying off student loans, I can understand if not everyone is. That wasn’t always the case.
Over time we have adjusted social groups and made lifestyle changes in order to reach our goals as a couple. Delaying gratification is something we pride ourselves on. We work together on financial decisions and we use each other as a checks and balances system.
However, I think if you are serious about marrying someone then the thought about whether or not student loans is a make or break… well then maybe just keep reading.
Putting a price on your marriage – like oh I won’t marry someone who has student loans – might just mean that they are not the right person. Yeah I said it, sorry.
Like I alluded to earlier, Lauren and I had some discussions about her student loans and it was sometimes scary to think about marrying someone with debt when you don’t have a lot, but money is not why we got married in the first place.
We got married because we were in love and we were a team. The thought of not marrying someone because of their student loans is really contradictory of what marriage really means.
Finances in a marriage starts with honesty, which is the same fundamental a marriage is built around.
3 Tips to make it work when you marry someone with student loan debt!
Here are just a few ways to make things simpler when it comes to marrying someone with student loans.
#1 Lay it all out.
For starters, make sure before you even get married you discuss finances as a couple with a trusted financial advisor (Maybe paid or just a family friend).
Make sure to discuss everything – no secrets. This is also a great time to also discuss things such as:
- Parenting styles when having kids
- How to handle finances
- Areas where you may disagree
- What ways to improve as a couple
- Long term plans
# 2 Have a plan.
Create a long term financial plan together. It's OK if it changes.
Whether you are marrying someone with student loan debt or credit card debt, you still need a long term financial plan for your future family. Going back to #1, knowing each others goals and being on the same page is vitally important to a healthy marriage!
#3 Marriage is 100-100.
Realize a marriage is not 50-50, it is 100-100. With most marriages according to statistics not making it, prior to getting married it is important to realize that you should expect to give 100% without expecting anything in return.
Being aware of possible pitfalls and roadblocks like finances and working together can really be make or break for some couples. The following are great ways to start and carry on your marriage as mentioned before;
- Having a plan
- Getting everything out on the table
- Not always expecting a return
So why not figure it out early on and learn to get on the same page?
With the current student loan trends … 72% of college graduates have student loans, chances are more couples will be entering unions with student loans. This isn't problematic, so long as couples recognize that one or both may bring debt to a marriage.
Creating a plan, being all in on the same team and working together is what marriage is about, so at the end of the day it shouldn't matter if one or the other has debt!
Q: What works for you when it comes to being on the same page financially in a relationship?
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and many more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their newborn son, their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! In case you were wondering, Josh uses Personal Capital to track his net worth and his first investment account ever was an Acorns account 😎