Student Loans and Impending Marriage

Nate has been working on his debt snowball for a year. He may be getting engaged, and she has a substantial amount of debt from school. He isn't sure how to have the money conversation with her.

QUESTION: Nate in Louisville is 24 and has been working on his debt snowball for a year. He may be getting engaged, and she has a substantial amount of debt from school. He isn’t sure how to have the money conversation with her. What would Dave advise?

ANSWER: As your relationship evolved, you guys should have been having more and more of those conversations.

A good thing to talk about is how you grew up, how she grew up, what your goals are and your dreams are, and why you’re willing to be radical because you want radical results. I don’t want to live my life in the typical fashion. I don’t want to be average or mediocre. Instead, I want to do that and as a couple, I want to see us set goals for our marriage that are that way. I don’t want our marriage to be normal. I want it to be radical and to be excellent, which is different than a lot of marriages, right? We’ve got to be very intentional about that.

Then I think you just start talking about: “Were we to get married, what does the money piece look like?” The studies tell us the number-one cause of divorce is money fights and money problems. I guess it’s really important for us to talk about this and figure out what the common ground is and what we’re going to do from here. Maybe we need to go through Financial Peace University together even pre-engagement if you wanted to. Certainly, a lot of couples do it as a pre-marriage thing once they are engaged. That allows you to have a common ground—a common set of words and philosophies to discuss around.

So we’ve got a couple making—we’ll make up a number—$100,000 a year that has $100,000 in debt. That’s what we’re heading into. It’s doable but not if you’re not intentional. You don’t have any room to screw up here. This is tight. It’s a mess, but can you make it if you join hands and join arms and join hearts and agree to attack it? Yeah. You can wander into debt, as you know, but you can’t wander out. For you guys to make this a big deal in your pre-engagement discussions—yeah, it’s a big deal. It’s a huge deal because it’s going to become the thing that you talk about a lot your first year of marriage. If you don’t fix it, you’re going to talk about it a lot for 10 years of marriage because it’s going to take away all your choices until you get it cleaned up.

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