Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
barnaclebob
Posts: 2209
Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2012 10:54 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by barnaclebob » Mon Mar 27, 2017 9:46 am

gr7070 wrote:However, how did someone frugal and responsible take out $175,000 in loans for what should have been 1.5 years of grad school?!?


The 175k may be undergrad too. My generation (barely a millennial) has been told since we could understand language to go to a good college with absolutely no regard to making it a cost/benefit decision. There is no education on how long it takes to pay off 100k of student debt or even what the payments would be. When you learn about that is when you apply (or even signing) for the loans probably after you have already chosen your school. Then there are hoards of people getting degrees like the OP's girlfriend where "you have to go to grad school to get paid anything".

mptfan
Posts: 4173
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:58 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by mptfan » Mon Mar 27, 2017 9:50 am

barnaclebob wrote:My generation (barely a millennial) has been told since we could understand language to go to a good college with absolutely no regard to making it a cost/benefit decision. There is no education on how long it takes to pay off 100k of student debt or even what the payments would be.

I agree that some people where told that, but you should not generalize and assume that everyone in your generation was told that. My daughter is college age, and I have certainly not told her that...I told her quite the opposite...that she should do what she can to graduate from college with as little debt as possible, ideally debt free.
I eat risk for breakfast. :)

RoadHouseFan
Posts: 279
Joined: Sat Aug 13, 2016 6:55 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by RoadHouseFan » Mon Mar 27, 2017 9:52 am

Do not pay any of her bills and present her with a prenup.

User avatar
Meg77
Posts: 2089
Joined: Fri May 22, 2009 1:09 pm
Location: Dallas, TX
Contact:

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by Meg77 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 10:00 am

This would not be an immediate deal breaker for me since she is otherwise very frugal and responsible with money - and also because she sees the debt as an issue and is doing her best to minimize the impact of it.

However, I am not sure "her best" is quite good enough. Sitting around for 10 years and waiting for the government to forgive your debt is a very common approach, but in my view it isn't the best one. For one thing, it's caused her (and countless others) to reject much more lucrative career paths in favor of public service. That's fine if she wanted and planned to go into low paying teaching fields, but if that were the case she presumably would not have taken out (and absolutely SHOULD NOT have taken out) 6 figures of student loan debt. As others have noted, she could earn far more in another line of work with her credentials. Over a lifetime, the difference in her total earnings because of her decision to go the student loan forgiveness route and start off a career in a much lower paying job than she could otherwise get will be MASSIVE. In addition, her low income may well lead to her decision to leave the workforce altogether once she has kids. This is common among women who make less than $60K or so a year since it often doesn't make sense to pay for child care and work after taxes, commuting, work clothes and other expenses are taken into account.

In short, what seems like a responsible decision - entering the 10 year income based repayment student loan forgiveness plan - is actually often a terrible idea that will slash lifetime earnings for many people (especially women) who make that decision.

If it were me, and if you are committed to her, I would encourage her to maximize her income, minimize expenses and pay off those student loans in just a few years. As a financial partner (which is what a spouse is even if you keep separate accounts, unless you live separate lives and maintain separate households too), I'd be much more inclined to support her financially in that circumstance versus the one she is in now.
"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." - Benjamin Franklin

traveltoomuch
Posts: 516
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2013 5:48 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by traveltoomuch » Mon Mar 27, 2017 10:08 am

This is a real concern, and I congratulate you for considering it.

While you're on the topic: how compatible are your long-term financial goals, priorities, and resources? Are you imagining retiring very early (e.g. 45/50?). Is she? What is her plan for doing that on her salary? How do you feel about supporting her early retirement in that case?

I'd take your time. Do not rush into legal marriage.

bikechuck
Posts: 110
Joined: Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:22 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by bikechuck » Mon Mar 27, 2017 10:24 am

When I got married my wife had student debt and I did not. Her father advised/encouraged her to take out student loans and then default on them which neither of us were comfortable with. Shortly after getting married we had our first child, my wife dropped out of the workforce for several years and I effectively paid off her loans using my salary. I did not mind doing this as I always thought that once married we were in this together and our resources and obligations became shared. We have always had one shared bank account, shared credit cards (which thankfully we no longer carry a balance on) a shared mortgage (now paid off), shared car loans etc.

I am happy that we took this approach, we have had a good life and in many ways it is getting better with two grown and successful daughters and two granddaughters who have enriched our lives. Somehow what seemed like a large amount of debt became manageable and is a distant memory. I would do this the same way if I had to do it over again.

bigred77
Posts: 1915
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2011 4:53 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by bigred77 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 10:28 am

mptfan wrote:
barnaclebob wrote:My generation (barely a millennial) has been told since we could understand language to go to a good college with absolutely no regard to making it a cost/benefit decision. There is no education on how long it takes to pay off 100k of student debt or even what the payments would be.

I agree that some people where told that, but you should not generalize and assume that everyone in your generation was told that. My daughter is college age, and I have certainly not told her that...I told her quite the opposite...that she should do what she can to graduate from college with as little debt as possible, ideally debt free.


I think it's actually pretty fair to generalize and say the standard advice communicated to the vast majority of millennials was "go to the absolute best college you can get accepted to, financing the education will be a secondary concern that will work itself out in the wash". It was well meaning advice but got some people in trouble when college costs rose so dramatically, so quickly. Parents didn't understand the higher education landscape had changed from when they were college aged. The same advice was no longer applicable.

Current college age kids I think are classified as Generation Z (born post 1996). They are getting a different message communicated to them today than what millennials got. They also seem to have escaped a lot of the negativity that was associated with the millennial generation (so far). :mrgreen:

acanthurus
Posts: 257
Joined: Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:02 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by acanthurus » Mon Mar 27, 2017 10:45 am

You've been dating 8 months. There are other girls out there without $175k in debt.

This is Bogleheads. Costs matter.

stoptothink
Posts: 3743
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:53 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by stoptothink » Mon Mar 27, 2017 10:55 am

bigred77 wrote:
mptfan wrote:
barnaclebob wrote:My generation (barely a millennial) has been told since we could understand language to go to a good college with absolutely no regard to making it a cost/benefit decision. There is no education on how long it takes to pay off 100k of student debt or even what the payments would be.

I agree that some people where told that, but you should not generalize and assume that everyone in your generation was told that. My daughter is college age, and I have certainly not told her that...I told her quite the opposite...that she should do what she can to graduate from college with as little debt as possible, ideally debt free.


I think it's actually pretty fair to generalize and say the standard advice communicated to the vast majority of millennials was "go to the absolute best college you can get accepted to, financing the education will be a secondary concern that will work itself out in the wash". It was well meaning advice but got some people in trouble when college costs rose so dramatically, so quickly. Parents didn't understand the higher education landscape had changed from when they were college aged. The same advice was no longer applicable.

Current college age kids I think are classified as Generation Z (born post 1996). They are getting a different message communicated to them today than what millennials got. They also seem to have escaped a lot of the negativity that was associated with the millennial generation (so far). :mrgreen:


It's absolutely a fair generalization, no different than being told for years that we should be buying as much home as we can afford. As a millenial, who very much took cost into consideration when making decisions about where to go for undergrad, graduate school, and where to pursue my PhD (and completed this process without every having even applied for a loan as a result), I find that my way of thinking is totally foreign to the huge majority of my peers. Even today, as my wife has returned to finish her undergrad, she is told every semester that she should at least fill out a FAFSA even though we pay for it all out of pocket and have the means to do so.

Hanksmoney
Posts: 31
Joined: Fri Feb 24, 2017 10:04 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by Hanksmoney » Mon Mar 27, 2017 11:10 am

I have a completely anecdotal comment - my wife had a very tumultuous college; in and out, all on loans due to family's severe financial shortcomings. I knew that and got married because that's who I wanted to marry despite about $50k in loans in a language major that had little value. Her father is a quadriplegic injured in the military 25 years ago. Well 4 years into the marriage, he gets huge settlement and pays off all her loans in one sitting. Not to mention she is his sole heir (not something I really think about). I suppose the moral of my story is that I didn't marry for money and it worked out.

junior
Posts: 696
Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2008 6:14 pm
Contact:

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by junior » Mon Mar 27, 2017 11:20 am

Jags4186 wrote:
junior wrote:The Bogleheads are not exactly a representative sample size of humanity, and asking for relationship advice here might have a certain skew to the feedback... just saying.


I disagree.


The bogleheads are certainly not a representative slice of humanity. They are people who like to talk about money a lot. They also tend to earn more money than most people and have higher net worth than most people, because talking about money and investments when you have none just isn't much fun.

OP is free to take advice here (from total strangers) or not, but if OP were to ask this in a non-investment forum such as a relationship forum OP might get a different sort of feedback. (That said there has been a decent range of responses here)

deltaneutral83
Posts: 418
Joined: Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:25 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by deltaneutral83 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 11:32 am

acanthurus wrote:You've been dating 8 months. There are other girls out there without $175k in debt.

This is Bogleheads. Costs matter.


Cold blooded, I love it.

Seriously, this degree could have been had from an in state school for $60k, and I'd want to know why the $175K route was taken, understanding the behavior. A ten year occupational prison sentence can't reasonably be expected to work out. I've never known anyone to make a ten year plan on anything and have it go exactly the way you need it. There's nothing that's been stated so far in the relationship advice that has addressed why an in state school was not chosen. When it comes to matters of the heart people like to make heads or tails of the situation. In this example, many have equated the $175k as black or white, take it or leave it. No, there was in state tuition somewhere that was bypassed that has zero to do with "two are now one....if you love her it shouldn't matter....But she likes to help others with her degree" etc. These are distractions.

Plan on being $175k more in debt if you walk down the aisle simple as that. If you can't stomach $175k, walk. If you can, full steam ahead. BUT, know that the $175k needs to be in your budget.

Barefoot
Posts: 37
Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2016 8:30 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by Barefoot » Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:22 pm

My wife got some student loans in grad school. In hind sight, she should have done it more. (this was 35 years ago)

clutchied
Posts: 399
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2015 12:11 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by clutchied » Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:34 pm

mstone3 wrote:Thanks all for the responses - just to add some more details...

She is about 7 years away from meeting the 10 year service obligation, so a long way to go.

Aside from the debt, she is extremely responsible financially - very frugal, very careful budgeting, not reckless in any way.

A good article regarding the potential threats to PSLF can be found at: http://bostonstudentloanlawyer.com/will ... liminated/



I'd sit down and work through a plan; complying with the regs for PSLF, then come up with a backup plan just in case.

It appears she is responsible otherwise, so this might be a non-issue. Just get it out in the open.

User avatar
KlingKlang
Posts: 469
Joined: Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:26 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by KlingKlang » Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:48 pm

mstone3 wrote:If the PSLF program were to fail, it seems paying back the debt would be insurmountable on her income alone, presumably leaving me to absorb the payments.


This is probably late, but one thing that has been bothering me about your initial post is why you feel $175K of debt is insurmountable for someone making $55K/year. If she really was " very frugal, very careful budgeting" it seems that she would be able to pay this off in about 5 years even without the loan forgiveness program.

stoptothink
Posts: 3743
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:53 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by stoptothink » Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:58 pm

KlingKlang wrote:
mstone3 wrote:If the PSLF program were to fail, it seems paying back the debt would be insurmountable on her income alone, presumably leaving me to absorb the payments.


This is probably late, but one thing that has been bothering me about your initial post is why you feel $175K of debt is insurmountable for someone making $55K/year. If she really was " very frugal, very careful budgeting" it seems that she would be able to pay this off in about 5 years even without the loan forgiveness program.


Understand what you are saying, but it would be nearly mathematically impossible for someone making $55k/yr to pay off $175k in 5yrs, even if the loans were at 0%.

aristotelian
Posts: 3022
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:05 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by aristotelian » Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:59 pm

Are you asking if it's a financial issue or a relationship issue? It is definitely a financial issue but not insurmountable. If her other financial habits and values are in line with yours, it need not be a relationship issue. I was horrified to learn that my fiancee had 40k students loan debt. Probably close to 100k in today's dollars. It was a painful conversation. I rememberr my response was "well, that's not ideal"" and she burst into tears and locked herself in the bathroom. WE got married and we are still together with two great kids almost 20 years later.

User avatar
KlingKlang
Posts: 469
Joined: Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:26 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by KlingKlang » Mon Mar 27, 2017 1:04 pm

stoptothink wrote:
KlingKlang wrote:
mstone3 wrote:If the PSLF program were to fail, it seems paying back the debt would be insurmountable on her income alone, presumably leaving me to absorb the payments.


This is probably late, but one thing that has been bothering me about your initial post is why you feel $175K of debt is insurmountable for someone making $55K/year. If she really was " very frugal, very careful budgeting" it seems that she would be able to pay this off in about 5 years even without the loan forgiveness program.


Understand what you are saying, but it would be nearly mathematically impossible for someone making $55k/yr to pay off $175k in 5yrs, even if the loans were at 0%.


Certainly it would be if she has $2000/month in living expenses and 'deserves' trips to Aspen, Europe, and Hawaii every year, but that doesn't match my definition of "very frugal, very careful budgeting".

stoptothink
Posts: 3743
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:53 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by stoptothink » Mon Mar 27, 2017 1:35 pm

KlingKlang wrote:
stoptothink wrote:
KlingKlang wrote:
mstone3 wrote:If the PSLF program were to fail, it seems paying back the debt would be insurmountable on her income alone, presumably leaving me to absorb the payments.


This is probably late, but one thing that has been bothering me about your initial post is why you feel $175K of debt is insurmountable for someone making $55K/year. If she really was " very frugal, very careful budgeting" it seems that she would be able to pay this off in about 5 years even without the loan forgiveness program.


Understand what you are saying, but it would be nearly mathematically impossible for someone making $55k/yr to pay off $175k in 5yrs, even if the loans were at 0%.


Certainly it would be if she has $2000/month in living expenses and 'deserves' trips to Aspen, Europe, and Hawaii every year, but that doesn't match my definition of "very frugal, very careful budgeting".


At current unsubsidized federal loan rates, you are looking at ~$40k/yr in payments - likely pretty close to her total take home pay. Again, pretty darn close to mathematically impossible, unless someone was paying all her living costs. No matter how you dice it, no matter how frugal you are; it's a very significant debt for someone with a modest income.

deltaneutral83
Posts: 418
Joined: Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:25 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by deltaneutral83 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 1:40 pm

KlingKlang wrote:
Certainly it would be if she has $2000/month in living expenses and 'deserves' trips to Aspen, Europe, and Hawaii every year, but that doesn't match my definition of "very frugal, very careful budgeting".


This is where BH can get subjective. I had to re read your post three times to make sure I saw the $2k figure you listed for monthly expenses which I deduce you mean to be too high for her situation. Where I live, I'd need 2/3 roommates in a 3-4 bedroom/a beater car/to live right beside work and the supermarkets just to get started. And I live down south.

stoptothink
Posts: 3743
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:53 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by stoptothink » Mon Mar 27, 2017 1:51 pm

deltaneutral83 wrote:
KlingKlang wrote:
Certainly it would be if she has $2000/month in living expenses and 'deserves' trips to Aspen, Europe, and Hawaii every year, but that doesn't match my definition of "very frugal, very careful budgeting".


This is where BH can get subjective. I had to re read your post three times to make sure I saw the $2k figure you listed for monthly expenses which I deduce you mean to be too high for her situation. Where I live, I'd need 2/3 roommates in a 3-4 bedroom/a beater car/to live right beside work and the supermarkets just to get started. And I live down south.


I may be the most frugal person on this board, to get through school debt free I actually did live on ~$1k/month some years (as recently as 2013) and did some things which even people on this board would find nuts to cut living costs. That being said, to pay off $175k in 5yrs, she is looking at ~$40k/yr in payments. That is probably very close to take home for a single person on $55k income. You can live off less, you can't live off $0; again, unless someone is covering her living costs. It's not some marginal or "normal" amount of school debt for someone with just an undergrad.

bigred77
Posts: 1915
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2011 4:53 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by bigred77 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 1:54 pm

KlingKlang wrote:
stoptothink wrote:
KlingKlang wrote:
mstone3 wrote:If the PSLF program were to fail, it seems paying back the debt would be insurmountable on her income alone, presumably leaving me to absorb the payments.


This is probably late, but one thing that has been bothering me about your initial post is why you feel $175K of debt is insurmountable for someone making $55K/year. If she really was " very frugal, very careful budgeting" it seems that she would be able to pay this off in about 5 years even without the loan forgiveness program.


Understand what you are saying, but it would be nearly mathematically impossible for someone making $55k/yr to pay off $175k in 5yrs, even if the loans were at 0%.


Certainly it would be if she has $2000/month in living expenses and 'deserves' trips to Aspen, Europe, and Hawaii every year, but that doesn't match my definition of "very frugal, very careful budgeting".


1.) Even if she lived at the US defined poverty level for a household of 1 and sent every additional dollar she made to loan repayment she could not pay the loan off within 5 years.

2.) She is taking advantage of a government program and acting in her own best interest.

3.) Some Bogleheads frequently scoff at someone taking a mortgage equal to 3.2X their gross salary (emphasis on "some bogleheads"). Now your telling me they should be able to pay off the mortgages within 5 years?


OP, I would sit down with her and see if she is taking FULL advantage of the program. I believe contributions to Traditional IRAs, HSAs, or 403b's will all reduce her AGI and thus reduce the amount of her income based repayments. She may be able to put a significant amount away to invest, pay almost nothing on her loans, and have them all discharged in 7 years. That would be a pretty ideal outcome.

User avatar
bottlecap
Posts: 4955
Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:21 pm
Location: Tennessee

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by bottlecap » Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:07 pm

mstone3 wrote:If things continue to go well with the relationship, there is the possibility of getting married, but I do worry about the significant debt load. How much of a red flag should this be?


What red flag? She has debt, taken out to go to school. While not wise in hindsight, every 18 year old in the country is goaded into taking out loans to pay inflated education costs that - in many cases - make no sense from an economic standpoint. Few, even otherwise frugal ones, have the savvy to decline.

A red flag to me is a significant character flaw about finances (or anything else). Doe she have one or more?

If not, then I think you're being "shallow" in the sense that it is only about how much she can contribute financially to the relationship.

Just think of her as making $35,000 per year instead of $55,000 (or just subtract out whatever the payment might be). Would you break up with her if she was hardworking but simply made less of an annual salary?

I understand that the debt stinks and is scary. But it's not your debt and can't put you in the poorhouse. It simply means your (possibly) intended won't be able to contribute as much to your joint income for some period of time and does not necessarily indicate a red flag.

And in all likelihood, the taxpayers will pick up the tab anyway.

JT

physiorol
Posts: 158
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2014 1:52 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by physiorol » Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:47 pm

deltaneutral83 wrote:
acanthurus wrote:You've been dating 8 months. There are other girls out there without $175k in debt.

This is Bogleheads. Costs matter.


Seriously, this degree could have been had from an in state school for $60k, and I'd want to know why the $175K route was taken, understanding the behavior.


Not sure how much of the 175K came from Speech Path School, but in these para-medical fields with moderate salaries the competition for the limited places in state schools is very fierce, and many people are forced into the more expensive private school option. Most will look at their options without additional schooling required to get a license to practice and decide the expensive schooling leading to a professional career is preferable.

To OP:

Good luck finding a goal completing 20 something without college debt. Due to lack of financial educational, most people are not frugal. The main thing is to eliminate those people that will not alter their spending habits once they have been educated on the benefits of minimizing expenses.

deltaneutral83
Posts: 418
Joined: Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:25 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by deltaneutral83 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:49 pm

bottlecap wrote:A red flag to me is a significant character flaw about finances (or anything else). Doe she have one or more?

If not, then I think you're being "shallow" in the sense that it is only about how much she can contribute financially to the relationship.

JT


I haven't read a study that didn't list finances as a top 3 reason for divorce. So I can't say it's shallow to examine the leading risks of any undertaking small or large, in this case very large, in fact, the largest? Makes good sense to me to examine it carefully.

I have a scenario regarding financiual "character flaws" separate from OP's situation. I'm curious, when the details of having an income of x and student loan of 3-5x with x remaining constant other than a COL raise, how long before that person is "hiding something?" 4 /6/12 months etc? I've seen this get sprung on friends of mine well past 12 months in a relationship. And worse, some of them had to initiate the conversation to gather the facts. That sends a shiver down my spine to be dating someone that long and that little detail to remain in the dark.

NoVa Lurker
Posts: 639
Joined: Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:14 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by NoVa Lurker » Mon Mar 27, 2017 3:00 pm

bottlecap wrote:Just think of her as making $35,000 per year instead of $55,000 (or just subtract out whatever the payment might be). Would you break up with her if she was hardworking but simply made less of an annual salary?


This was my reaction. Even putting aside the federal loan forgiveness, this is a one-time debt that just does not seem that significant in the scheme of things.

When I started dating my wife, she was making $52,000/year (with no bonus) as a public school teacher. I had recently broken up with a woman who was making $225,000/year as her base salary, plus a bonus, as a law firm lawyer. The difference between those amounts is about equal to OP's girlfriend's student loan debt - except in my case, that amount applies EVERY YEAR in the foreseeable future. I never thought less of my wife because her salary was lower - even framing it that way seems ridiculous to me. And I certainly never thought, "I need to find a woman who makes more money."

By the way, my wife had over $30k in debt from a one-year master's program. I paid that off right after we got engaged. Not a big deal. I don't make so much money, but we are frugal, and we are fine for money.

junior
Posts: 696
Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2008 6:14 pm
Contact:

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by junior » Mon Mar 27, 2017 3:26 pm

bottlecap wrote:Just think of her as making $35,000 per year instead of $55,000 (or just subtract out whatever the payment might be). Would you break up with her if she was hardworking but simply made less of an annual salary?
JT


I think this is the correct way to look at it if you are compatible and make each other happy.

stoptothink
Posts: 3743
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:53 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by stoptothink » Mon Mar 27, 2017 3:59 pm

NoVa Lurker wrote:
bottlecap wrote:Just think of her as making $35,000 per year instead of $55,000 (or just subtract out whatever the payment might be). Would you break up with her if she was hardworking but simply made less of an annual salary?



When I started dating my wife, she was making $52,000/year (with no bonus) as a public school teacher. I had recently broken up with a woman who was making $225,000/year as her base salary, plus a bonus, as a law firm lawyer. The difference between those amounts is about equal to OP's girlfriend's student loan debt - except in my case, that amount applies EVERY YEAR in the foreseeable future. I never thought less of my wife because her salary was lower - even framing it that way seems ridiculous to me. And I certainly never thought, "I need to find a woman who makes more money."

By the way, my wife had over $30k in debt from a one-year master's program. I paid that off right after we got engaged. Not a big deal. I don't make so much money, but we are frugal, and we are fine for money.


When I met my wife, I was in a 2yr on-again-off-again relationship with a woman who was the director of marketing for a local megacorp. She was well off enough that I never would have had to work. My wife was a single mom, making $11/hr, who had somewhat recently filed bankruptcy (thanks to a deadbeat drug addict ex), not a penny to her name, no college degree, and had a car that was totally falling apart that she still owed a lot of money on. Money isn't everything and (to make a long story short) I dumped the very successful marketing director for my now wife within about 2-months. That being said, I made it very clear that financial responsibility was an absolute deal-breaker for me and she stepped up to the plate. Within 6-months she made massive strides; found a new job which doubled her income, paid off all her debt and began investing in her retirement. 4yrs later she makes over 4x what she did when we met and is also a full-time student finishing her undergrad (and mother of a now 5 and 2yr old). Together, we are doing quite well.

The student debt isn't necessarily a red flag (at least not one that can not be overcome), but whether or not she takes it seriously and seeks to make better financial decisions in the future is. OP needs to explain how important financial responsibility is to them and see how it plays out.

User avatar
Pajamas
Posts: 2780
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2012 6:32 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by Pajamas » Mon Mar 27, 2017 4:39 pm

mstone3 wrote:I've been dating a wonderful speech-language pathologist for about 8 months. I recently learned that she took out a massive amount of student loan debt (175k+) to pay for her graduate program. Her salary in a public school system is around 55k per year. I was a bit shocked to learn how much she took out in loans compared to her salary. She is betting heavily on using the public service loan forgiveness (PSLF) program to clear the loan debt after 10 years of service (she is careful to follow the proper repayment plans and submits the required paperwork to Dept of Ed each year), however we both know the PSLF program is not a guarantee.

I am very debt averse and have no debt at all. If things continue to go well with the relationship, there is the possibility of getting married, but I do worry about the significant debt load. How much of a red flag should this be? If the PSLF program were to fail, it seems paying back the debt would be insurmountable on her income alone, presumably leaving me to absorb the payments. How much is this me being shallow vs. a valid problem?


Do you know why she took on that much debt exactly? It may or may not be a red flag, especially since you say that she is otherwise careful in her spending. If it was the best way to get a degree from a good school to enter her chosen career, and she expected to benefit from the public service loan forgiveness program, then it is not a red flag in my opinion, just a yellow flag. You are not being shallow to think about it, but I don't think it would be a good reason not to get married unless it is a symptom of financial irresponsibility.

Seems like her salary is perhaps on the low end and there may be a possibility of her making more money with a different employer, depending on where you live. But there are certainly non-financial factors in her career choice, and working with students in a public school system is probably innately worth the lower salary to her.

The real issue seems to be uncertainty about whether or not she actually will be able to have the loan forgiven. If it is, then there is no problem. If not, then the advice given above to consider her salary as being $20,000 less than it really is makes sense to me, too. Either she alone or the two of you together or she together with someone else will deal with it. Don't let her loan be the deciding factor between those three scenarios.

Loik098
Posts: 414
Joined: Mon May 30, 2016 9:29 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by Loik098 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 6:42 pm

Grt2bOutdoors wrote:Which is better? GF who owns a house that has $175k in mortgage debt, the house is worth $25k in a recourse state, and it's 2008 all over again, massive foreclosures abound and you can't find a buyer anywhere. Or, GF has $175k in student loan debt, is employed and has a ton of Human Capital to offset the debt and more? You tell me, there are flags and then, there are real flags


+1. Student loan debt with a good interest rate is very similar to a mortgage. Would you hold off on marrying someone who just bought a house and has a large mortgage you might need to help pay? Could you really look at her and tell her that? If I were her, that'd be a red flag about YOUR priorities.

Life is too short to forego happiness because of good debt.

Kencufc
Posts: 128
Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2016 9:36 am

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by Kencufc » Mon Mar 27, 2017 7:03 pm

bostondan wrote:As a doctor, I see this all the time. Many of my colleagues with no debt married other doctors who had massive debt. Some with debt married others with debt, resulting in even larger debt (one close friend has ~$900k between them).

If this is the woman you plan to marry, once you actually get married you will need to accept the debt as your own and hold no grudges. I would avoid getting excessively tangled up in her finances until you are at least engaged.

I can see why this would cause you stress, but she is one of many with debt like this from student loans. She has not done anything unusual. It is not a red flag in the sense that I think you mean it. You are certainly allowed to not want to marry someone with a lot of debt, just as you are allowed to not want to marry someone for any reason that you want.

Personally, if I loved a woman enough to want to spend my life with her, the debt would be a minor issue. In fact, my wife had a lot of debt (more than your girlfriend) from law school and she took a job as an Assistant District Attorney making $40k. It didn't bother me. To each his own.


I agree. This debt shouldn't be a reason not to get married. Not formulating a plan and being irresponsible with finances in the future may be a reason to not get married. If you get married, you need to accept the debt as your own. Don't hold it over her head as "your debt". Shoot for the PSLF. If it doesn't play out, then pick yourselves up by the bootstraps, put in some overtime, and knock it out asap. In 10 years you all should both be further along in your careers and salaries higher. Howev, be very cautious as expenses and family size may be bigger too.

User avatar
F150HD
Posts: 1133
Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2015 7:49 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by F150HD » Mon Mar 27, 2017 7:47 pm

deltaneutral83 wrote:Seriously, this degree could have been had from an in state school for $60k, and I'd want to know why the $175K route was taken, understanding the behavior


Exactly. ties into my question multiple posts back (that went unanswered)

F150HD wrote:
mstone3 wrote: $175k, yikes
when she was taking out the loans (and long prior to her graduation) had she already pre-planned to use this program to pay them back once she was finished w/ her schooling?


it doesn't seem responsible to take on that much debt unless you're maybe going into a field where you'll make $100k first year out w/ significant increases after (lawyer or whatnot).

The same degree could be had at a decent state school for 1/3 the cost of what was paid (if not less).

Kinda feels like I'm missing something here. Its like paying off a house!

Isabelle77
Posts: 125
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2015 1:43 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by Isabelle77 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 8:04 pm

175K is a lot of money. I was lucky to have parents with good financial sense who taught me well but chances are your girlfriend didn't. At 22 fresh out of college most young people these days take the advice of their parents. It often takes a few more years to figure out the mess you've made. If she shows all the signs of being responsible outside of these loans, I wouldn't worry about the relationship moving forward.

I helped pay off my husband's master degree in...wait for it...Music Theory from NYU of all outrageous places. He's actually been really financially successful (not in music!) and I've never regretted helping, although it was totally a stupid decision to get the degree in the first place.

While your girlfriend has a big ugly debt I really believe there are other more important factors in a relationship as long as she understands the error of her way :)

TheJourneyContinues
Posts: 35
Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2015 8:14 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by TheJourneyContinues » Mon Mar 27, 2017 8:32 pm

Loik098 wrote: Would you hold off on marrying someone who just bought a house and has a large mortgage you might need to help pay? Could you really look at her and tell her that? If I were her, that'd be a red flag about YOUR priorities.

Life is too short to forego happiness because of good debt.


+1

Let's recap what basic facts the OP has provided:
1. $175k student loan debt with specific plan as to how she will pay it off
2. Otherwise financially responsible and a "wonderful" woman

Apparently I'm the only one on this thread of this opinion, but I think it's ridiculous that you're asking this question to a forum of strangers. Have you calculated, worst-case-scenario, what your financial deficit would be if you married this woman? Exactly how many years would your retirement be delayed, or you dream vacations be postponed, or your dream home be diminished? I say this with no sarcasm - if you marry her and find yourself resentful 10 years down the road because you didn't get to live the life you wanted, well that's not good for anybody.

Because what you're REALLY asking a forum of strangers is "is this woman worth, in the worst case financial scenario, delaying retirement X years/Y fewer European vacations/a house with Z less square footage?" Only you can decide that. Of course, traits like honesty, integrity, a willingness to work hard, and realistic expectations about being in a lifelong relationship are pretty priceless in a spouse but hey if debt is your bottom line then it's good you recognize that about yourself.

fund
Posts: 114
Joined: Mon Apr 28, 2014 10:06 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by fund » Mon Mar 27, 2017 9:19 pm

I've found this thread intensely fascinating. Count me in the camp of those who have argued that a person's personality and character are much more important - and yes, much more valuable - than the dollar value of student loan debt. If she's "wonderful" as you say, then I'm mystified about what there is to discuss. If I were her, I'd wonder what was wrong with your personality and character if you were considering breaking up due to student debt.

Let me take a slightly different perspective than the other posters here with whom I'm in agreement. It seems very much as if you're assuming that you'll enjoy a perfect financial life and suffer no setbacks or hiccups. None of us has a crystal ball. What if something happens to you that causes financial difficulty or hardship, either before or after marriage? Should she leave you? Should she say "Eh, too much cost. He's not worth it."?

I guess what I find so troubling and disturbing about some of the responses in this thread is that there appears to be a sentiment that says it's ok to reduce a human being down to dollars and cents. People and their lives are not spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are things you work on *together*, with your partner. Never in a million years wouid it have occurred to me or my wife to look at the other through such a lens. But this is BH, so perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised by some of the replies. I'm genuinely heartened, however, that my feelings regarding this matter are not alone.

When my wife and I got married we had nearly a quarter million dollars in combined student loan debt between us. Each of our salaries was not far off what your girlfriend earns. There was no PSLF, and we were living in a VHCOL area. It was a struggle - a real struggle. But we made it and we got there. Did it mean we sacrificed doing things we wanted to do and that we watched others do? Absolutely. But we made it a priority to get out from the debt. It took many years but we did it - together. We accomplished it together.

There's value there and it's measurable in more than merely dollars and cents.

Best of luck to you.

Niam
Posts: 74
Joined: Tue Jul 12, 2016 12:18 pm

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by Niam » Mon Mar 27, 2017 9:44 pm

fund wrote:I guess what I find so troubling and disturbing about some of the responses in this thread is that there appears to be a sentiment that says it's ok to reduce a human being down to dollars and cents. People and their lives are not spreadsheets.


This x 1000. This thread troubles me so much that even though I realize I am being harsh and judgmental (and perhaps unfair), for the sake of both the OP and his GF, a part of me hopes they break up. Anyone who would ask a question like this obviously has a much different world-view than someone who would take out 175K in loans to become a speech-language pathologist. I cannot imagine asking this question or being married to someone who would think to ask this question.

Lastly, a question for the OP and those who seemed to share the girlfriend's 175K loan through the same prism: How would you react if instead of asking whether 175K in loans should be a huge red flag, someone asked whether he should marry a girl he just found out had a 175K trust fund? Would you guys really be saying stuff like finances are a main reason for divorce, so jump at this great news and propose to her? Would that not seem shallow and disgusting at a visceral level?

User avatar
LadyGeek
Site Admin
Posts: 41053
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:34 pm
Location: Philadelphia
Contact:

Re: Massive Student Loan Debt - Girlfriend

Post by LadyGeek » Mon Mar 27, 2017 9:46 pm

I removed an off-topic post. This thread has run its course and is locked (topic exhausted, getting contentious, relationship issue). See: Locked Topics

Moderators or site admins may lock a topic (set it so no more replies may be added) when a violation of posting policy has occurred. Occasionally, even if there are no overt violations of posting policy, a topic (or thread) will reach a point where the information content of the discussion has been essentially exhausted and further replies are much more likely to cause distress to the community than add anything of value.
To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

Locked