Her Secret Inheritance

Mike recently got engaged. He just found out his fiancée has a sizable inheritance. Mike has a lot of debt from student loans. How do they handle this?

QUESTION: Mike in Louisville recently got engaged. He just found out his fiancée has a sizable inheritance. Mike has a lot of debt from student loans. How do they handle this? Do they throw their day job salaries at this or use some of the inheritance to knock it out? She has about $900,000. He owes $160,000. Dave would pay it off, but he advises them to do it carefully.

ANSWER: Here’s the dilemma. I would pay off the student loans in 20 seconds. However, I don’t want that bringing weirdness to your relationship. The weirdness to your relationship could come from outside people who love her and are concerned that you’re a gold digger. It could come from you feeling like you should have carried your weight and somehow she bailed you out. It could add weirdness to your relationship. The good news is you’ve been dating a long time, which is a good indicator statistically for your future marriage, by the way. You didn’t meet her three days ago.

At some point in the marriage, it is no longer her inheritance. Emotionally and relationally, it needs to be our money we’re managing for the good of our family and our future because we’re in this for 100 years. In the early days of a marriage, it’s a little tougher to get there because this is all brand-new. What if we compromised and set a date in the future at which point you suck it up and say, “I married a rich girl.” At that point, she’s going to say, “I married an attorney who makes a lot of money.” All of this is going to balance out because this is not about money. It’s about your marriage anyway. What’s yours is ours, and what’s mine is ours. That’s probably not in the first year of marriage, because you guys have a pretty extreme situation. You’re going to handle your budget that way. Your income is her income, and her income is your income. It’s ours once you’re married. We’ve got $110,000 a year to work with. We’re going to combine everything there, but in terms of using her inheritance to pay off your student loans, it may be two or three years into the marriage. Whatever you haven’t paid off, you just knock out the rest of it or something like that. I want you to join all of your assets emotionally and relationally at some point.