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April 10, 2009

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This doesn't surprise me at all. I think that even after marrage, people at first haven't adjusted to "thinking as a married couple", that they still think like singles. When both people start wanting the same resources for their ideas, that's when they start to clash.

I think a lot of the problem can be resolved by sitting down as a couple, and coming up with financial goals for the family.

When my daughter became engaged to a lovely man with a mountain of student-loan debt, my hubby and I invited them to go with us to a Dave Ramsey live event, our treat. ;)

They totally caught the vision for attacking that debt! They've been married almost two years now, and are on the same page about money. They've made tremendous progress and are hoping to become parents without debt. We're really proud of the way they buckled down and made it work!

I know that debt can lead to a lot of arguments in marriage and can lead to divorce, but it doesn't have to be that way. My husband and I have had some sort of debt (sometimes quite a lot) the entire 21 years we've been married, and we don't fight about it and are in no danger of divorce. I'm not saying not to pay down debt, but it's not inevitable that it leads to discord within marriage. My husband and I are working together to eliminate our debt once and for all, and we are still very happily married.

The more veteran married coupleI think that divorces due to money result from a failure to communicate. I took on a mountain (a small mountain, but mountain nonetheless) of student loan debt from my wife on top of my one credit card and car loan. While we could comfortably make all of the payments, we want a house down the road and we want to have the added cash flow to save for that so I wanted to get rid of all of our debts as quickly as possible and was willing to do without some things to pay it off quicker. My wife wanted more to be able to live on (we had just left the student life and she was looking forward to not having to live on a bottom-dollar budget) so we met in the middle. We have money to do things and we're on track to pay off all our debts by the middle of next year. I think if people just talked more they'd realize they weren't so far apart that divorce is what is necessary.

Debt really was one of our sources of discord. My husband's parents sacrificed and paid for everything for him, and I had modest student loans to fill the gap between my scholarship and my total expenses. I also had a credit card that I used stupidly. Interestingly, though, since I knew what debt was, I wanted to pay it of ASAP. My husband, though, used to having everything paid for, initially just charged things when we didn't have the money. Soon he had racked up more debt than I had brought to the table! It caused some strife as we tried to work through everything. But we made it through and here we are...

I believe from my own experience that debt is a huge issue magnifier. On its own, debt probably isn't a marriage killer. But when there are other issues in the marriage, debt just magnifies them and becomes a huge focal point. It's done so in my marriage, and the outcome is still in question. It also becomes a HUGE issue in divorce. I'm still paying the price from my first marriage because we are each responsible for paying off a credit card (which stupidly weren't closed at the time) and my ex didn't pay on his for 5 months (without telling me) and my credit took a HUGE ding and I got hammered on a vehicle loan interest because of it.

DEBT IS HORRIBLE.

I have 100k in student loan debt and am marrying into the same. If that isn't an equation for huge stress then I don't know what is.

Well I am getting married this summer we both have student debt combined about $60K that is the only debt we have. We are also planning on getting a mortgage so might have some extra debt added, but other than that we dont have CC debt or any other loans currently. I guess kinda lucky

When looking at what kind of debt creates turmoil my intuition is that student loans are not as dividing a factor as credit cards, for example.

If my wife were to have $50,000 in student loans I would --understand-- that. If she had $50,000 in credit card debt I would be more upset about that as I would view it as irresponsible debt.

The only disagreements we have had in regards to debt is the fact that I would like to pay it off faster than she would sometimes. But to her credit, they are for legitimate things like saving for improving our home or saving for retirement.

When I met my now-husband a decade or so ago he was a financial basketcase. I've always been a saver, and didn't have a penny of debt until buying our first house. He was always straight up about it and it was never a problem for us, no serious arguments or issues, although you'd better believe I became the CFO of the relationship very quickly. Matt's right, the problem is the lack of communication (or hiding things) rather than the fact of the debt itself. It's only money, and more money can always be made.

It sounds like you have some pretty healthy marriages reading this blog already. I'll include mine. My wife grew up with less than I did. So she learned early how to master spending wisely. To this day she is one of the only people I know who regularly uses coupons and makes buying decisions based on them. But that doesn't mean that she is afraid of debt - quite the contrary. She is comfortable carrying more debt than I am. Before we married she had a student loan, car loan, mortgage, and a 12 month interest free loan from Home Depot. Before we married I told her I was uncomfortable with her debt load, and together we were able to pay off everything but the mortgage prior to our wedding day. Today she is mostly a stay-at-home Mom, but works very part time doing something she is passionate about, but earns a very irregular income. So together we live off of my income, and are able to save a little. Our only debt is the mortgage for a house that is admittedly too big for our needs, but is perfect in every other way. I plan to keep it that way. I use Quicken and have always looked at our finances by focusing on that bottom line number that says "Net Worth". Is my net worth going up every month and every year? Yes, with the exception of this latest recession which has turned our 401k into a 201k. How are you supposed to grow your overall net worth in a huge stock market down swing? I plan to pay cash for a used car when I eventually need another one, and am saving regularly for my 2 year old's college education.

I took on an ex who had a desire to spend beyond her means no matter how many things I could say about it, in a loving, guiding way. It was never my business, so she said, and by some stroke of luck, it would be taken care of...yes, she said crazy things like that. I had to bail her out to the tune of about $8k and look at me now, single, content, and better for learning that lesson. I am once bitten, twice shy now, that's the only drawback, but I will be quizzing future girlfriends about their finances before they are destructive to my own.

It's important to be on the same page with regards to how to pay off existing debt and taking on new debt. I think that most people that fight because of debt get into that situation because they have different ideas about how to approach and handle debt. My wife and I communicated long before we were married about our debt, and went into our marriage with everything on the table and also knowing what we expected moving forward when it came to debt. So far, no problems!

The problem is that most youngster, get married, honeymoon and but a house all within 6 months of marrying, and next year they buy a car

I'm with Matt! I was with a woman who was way beyond 8K! I mean way beyond 150K! It's always going to be a struggle with someone like this. There's really no way around it. Even the Dali Lama wouldn't know how to stick it out with a person like this! The thing is he would never get involved with someone who doesn't know a thing about navigating through life, which includes resource management...AKA-MONEY.
I'm also single, more content, and quizzing women as well! I don't care what they think of me when I pry a bit. I'm not asking them how much they make...just trying to find out if they're screwed because of their debt. There are too many other women out there to find who are debt free than to get stuck with a bird with a broken wing.

This is a different day and age. Money does get in the way of relationships. I had a girlfriend that would lie, borrow money, collect food stamps, and was very employable!
Watch out for the signs of a relationship that is bound to fail. Extreme debt is one of them. Is a person in deep debt ever going to be happy? Nope! Their debt will drag you down. They dug their hole...no reason for you to jump in! Don't be fooled. Student loan debt is just as bad as credit card debt!

Heres my situation, So my Fiancee is 50,000 in debt...I am 20,000 in debt...I just graduated from 7 years of school and am currently looking for a job of which I studied so long for..She told me I have to marry her on July 24th or shes leaving the relationship. I explained to her that I need to get my feet on the ground (with a job, car etc. etc) so that we could help cushion the debt-load before marriage. She didn't like that answer at all, and gave me the ring back and wanted nothing to do with me. What are everybody's reaction to this...I would like to know...thanks...

Matt --

I'll post your question in a couple weeks and have my readers comment then. Good luck!

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