It’s no secret to anyone in their 20s that student loans in the U.S. are at an all-time high. In fact, many of my fellow 20 somethings are putting their lives on hold becuase of student loans. One of the most common of these is marriage. With so much debt, who can afford to get married? And I don’t just mean the ceremony and reception, but really everything after that. But you can get married, regardless of how much you have in student loans. Here are some tips for how to get through them while paying off student loan debt. And yes, I mean pay them off. And who am I? If you haven’t read my about me, I’m 24 years old and my husband (age 25) and I had a combined six figures in student loans. And neither of us are in medical or law. I have been there upon graduation. It feels overwhelming at first. Looking ahead towards your life and thinking, “how can I get through this?” Let’s walk through some tips because you do not have to put your life on hold because of student loans. And while these tips are specific to student loans, they can be applicable to any individual debts that you and your partner may bring into a marriage.
Know and Share EXACTLY How Much is Owed BEFORE the Big Day
My husband and I got married before either of us had graduated college. We’d had some discussions on student loans, but to put it nicely, my husband actually had no clue what he owed. We found out after the wedding exactly how much was owed, and I nearly had a heart attack. That’s really a different topic for a different time, but I share that quick story because it’s important. This is true of any type of debt. Make sure your future spouse is aware (and that you yourself are aware!) of exactly what you are bringing into a marriage. Some couples put off or even avoid marriage because of student loans. While I’m not suggesting that, it goes to show the impact student loans have on our generation.
Ask Yourselves: Is this Debt, “Our Debt” or, “Yours and Mine” ?
While it is my personal opinion that marriage should include joining all things, including finances, that may not be the case for you. Many couples choose to separately pay off debts, and that can be okay, but it also could cause issues with buying a home and other future financial goals. It is important to have this discussion before “I Do” in order to come up with a complete plan. And this isn’t something that can be mostly clear. So will you work together to pay off both of your loans together, or will each earner be in charge of their own loans?
Why does this matter?
The common ways to pay off debt quickly are with either the Debt Snowball or Debt Avalanche. I won’t get into the full mechanics, but the debt snowball is paying off loans from smallest to largest by dollar amount. The debt avalanche works from highest interest rate down to the lowest interest rate. While there are merits to both methods, my husband and I actually used a hybrid method.
The reason it is vital in knowing if you will both work towards paying off student loans together or not is because it could drastically effect how your payoff is set up. It may also be hard on motivation. For instance, we had paid off over $40,000 in my husbands’ student loans before we put an extra dollar towards mine. I will not lie to you, that was HARD. I would go to work knowing that everything I worked for would go to loans that didn’t even have my name on them. That is a breeding ground for resentment, so not having a shared vision is critical. Also this is why the discussion needs to come up before and all amounts of debt are shared. Another important reason is that you can actually get stuck with your spouse’s student loan debt.
Paying Off Student Loans can feel like a marathon and a sprint at the same time. It should be a sprint to avoid paying more in interest, but if you have six figures that still requires focus for a sustained time frame. So during this time, also dream together and plan other fun (affordable!) things along the way. My husband and I have a dream to travel to Iceland together for our five year anniversary. We’d also love to live on a lake house. Those goals become easier with debt freedom.
Some Questions to Help You Dream:
- What’s one place you want to visit?
- What’s one band you’d love to see live?
- Who is your favorite sports team?
- Is there a type of house you envision owning?
- If you were handed $10,000 and told to “blow this on something fun, absolutely nothing practical,” what would you spend it on?
- Would you change your career path if there weren’t bills to worry about?
Be Content In the Process
Without sounding too cheesy, make sure to remember that YOU are in control about how you react to your situation. Do what you have to do to pay off your student loans. Invite friends over instead of going out. Drink the cheap wine (and less of it because you know it’ll give you a headache otherwise). Drive the same car you had in highschool. Just know that this is a season of life. The sooner you can get through it, the sooner it’s onto fun things! Marriage isn’t easy, but working through student loans can bring you both closer. It’s about perspective, a plan, and following through.