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The Price of True Love. Should a Debt-Free Man Marry a Girl With $340,000 in Student Debt?

Written by Gary North on August 24, 2012

This fellow has a question. What would you advise?

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By 27 years old I have saved very well on my own, pay my credit cards off in full every month, have an excellent credit score, hold a steady well paying job/career, have purchased and own multiple pieces of real estate, have a healthy 401K, have an active brokerage account I trade in frequently and other misc investments. Generally I am ALWAYS trying to learn how to invest and manage myself better financially; I have a spreadsheet for everything. I feel I need to give this brief background so that one can understand better, within a few sentences or so, the personal value that I place on managing one’s money.

The slap in the face came a few weeks ago when I made my girlfriend of 2+ years now, whom I love dearly and have planned to marry, start getting her college/student loans tallied up because she had just gotten a notice that one of them will be maturing soon and payment(s) due. I always knew she had student loans, and she always knew with 7 yrs of “private school” it’d probably be a larger but manageable number. Long story short, but it wasn’t long after going through her loans that my heart stopped and I went white as a ghost… but reality quickly snapped me out of the nightmare that we just recreated on paper, and I realized how extraordinarily dreadful her and now our situation truly was. Her student loans are in excess of $340,000… That’s almost $50k/yr on average, an unfathomable amount…

The worst part about all this is that no she has not been training to become a Doctor or Lawyer. She got her undergrad, master’s and is now just finishing up an Advanced Education Specialist Degree, all in Psychology, and all of which will put her into a public school system paying her next to nothing. She is truly a sweetheart, is always wanting to learn/challenge herself educationally and has never (since I’ve known her) been careless spending with credit cards or the like. Her only real desire career-wise is to help everyday and work with mentally disabled K-12 students, she truly is a saint. In saying that, now her loans are plentiful, come from every conceivable lender, are comprised of every loan type and amount & most of which are unfortunately private rather than federal. I have plenty of moral and personal issues with this whole situation, but none of which I am willing to render an opinion on personally until I can help her figure out and start to climb out of this egregiously deep financial hole she has somehow gotten herself into. The story stems even deeper back to incredibly naive and irresponsible parents that created this loan nightmare for her; they “withdrew” or took out every loan disbursement amount and paid her tuition/expenses for her through the 7 years… My girlfriend, now only 25 years old, truly believed that a portion of her college had been being paid for by them and other family means, and that they certainly would have told her years ago if it was ever becoming a problem as terrible as this. . . .

Any insight, direction or “miracle” would be wholly appreciated at this point… Please help!!! SOS!

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My advice: Run for your life!

This will be his debt the day they marry. He will never get out.

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32 thoughts on “The Price of True Love. Should a Debt-Free Man Marry a Girl With $340,000 in Student Debt?

  1. Tennessee T says:

    If you truly love this Girl and she truly Loves you, then both of you would understand her debt is the big problem.
    Good news is a problem an be resolved.If you marry, her debt becomes yours, all your hard work goes down the drain.
    With both of you understanding and excepting the fact you "can not get married", instead move in together and promise one another to live as a married couple.Set up a plan to pay her loans off, it can be done, "working & investing" she will gain alot of experience in finances, keep track by a journal, once you two accomplish yor goal to pay off her loan, get married and write a book about how you both scraficed to accomplish your goal.You both will be rewarded.
    Note; to do this you would have to take on all the living expenses, no big deal, your doing it now.

  2. Texas Chris says:

    If he marries her, his best bet is to sell his entire portfolio and pay off her debt. Then start over. He's built is once, he's 27, and odds are he can do it again, especially with a wife, no debt, and a whole lot of knowledge about how to do it.

    If he doesn't have the $340k, then don't marry her. Maybe even leave the country with her…?

  3. If you really love someone, it can be worked out. The young woman and her parents acted irresponsibly, and he has no obligation to help her out of debt, but why should she give up her right to happiness because of this? Maybe just live together. I do not necessarily agree with that in principle, but a possible solution. My husband had mountains of medical debt when we married, but I would never have considered leaving him over it.. Parents on Social Security are now having their checks garnished with student loans they signed for. Scary!

  4. Hope the guy doesn't throw it all away based on "true love". Especially with the divorce rate in this country being what it is. He'll be trapped for life, lose everything he's built up and they will end up hating and blaming each other anyway.

  5. Trusts to hold his assets & a pre-nup where she waives all rights to his assets.

  6. The way a person spends money is the second influence on a person's character, right after the way they worshp God. If you are fiscally responsible, marrying this lady would be like a Hatfield marrying a McCoy.

    There is a reason why many arranged marriages work well. Parents don't hook their children up with completely incompatible mates, and then just expect sexual attraction to be the universl bandaid that fixes everything. My parents didn't have an arrangd marriage, but my father met my mother when she was two years old. They didn't even start dating each other until twelve years later, after they were both grown and had dispensed with their adolescent crushes on inappropriate (but conveniently near) individuals.

    If this couple has known each other for only two years, I'm wagering that the poster will end his life in deep regret. Ten years after these two are finally divorced, the poster will hear a family member casually recall his first wife, and simply say, "How did you ever get mixed up with her? She ruined your llife." Truth is, if this man deliberately chooses to marry this lady, he is ruining his own life.

  7. In brief, this is not a partnership of equals, (a merger,) this is an acquisition. And since women resent being "acquired" like property, the poster will discover after several years of marriage that he got absolutely nothing for his 340,000 + interest, other than the right to pine for this lady's affection – something he could have done without marrying her at all.

    The applicable adage is this: Never sleep with anyone who has less money than you, and more problems. If you do, not only do they end up with your money, and you end up with their problems. Divorce courts have no problem saddling a husband with his wife's debts; however, collection agencies like the IRS, who seize tax refunds for student loands, don't even care who was assigned sole payment of joint debts.

  8. ermiller320 says:

    When you marry it can mean taking the good with the not-so-good. If he truely loves this woman and wants to marry her then he needs to come to the realization that he has a new challenge on his plate, helping her to pay off the debt and not accumulate any more debt. He sounds very versed at making and saving money so he needs to apply these skills in helping his fiance pay off these loans and make her understand the error of her ways. If he chooses to not go through with the marriage then I question his dedicated to marrying this woman and if he is simply using this debt as an excuse to not go through with the marriage.

  9. Wherefore, a man leves his wife better than father or mother. Yes, many men have become desperate because of women, and become slaves because of them. Many also have perished, have erred, and sinned, for women. I Esdras 4:25-27

  10. Bob with 2 t-shirts says:

    I agree with Sutekh. The financial environment the young lady has grown up in will be a very large influence on the way she conducts herself in the future. The old saying is" you can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl". Her, and her parents, will continue to do the things they have always done. Look into her parents finances and you will learn the bitter truth.

  11. steve in dc says:

    Can she declare bankrupcy? How did she and her parents get that much unsecured debt from the bank? Some states or inner cities offer to pay off school debt in exchange for a committment to teach for several years. Military? What would Dave Ramsey recommend?

  12. This story will not likely end well. The young woman has shown a great deal of irresponsibility thus far. To accumlate $340k in debt and not be aware of the debt, nor have a plan to repay it is irresponsible. This young man needs to find another woman to love who is not deeply in debt. he should walk away from this situation before he becomes encumbered with her debt and her reckless spending. he should also look at the young woman's parents financial situation to see what is likely if he marries her.

    The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree. I suspect that the woman's parents are not financially responsible. No responsible parent would allow their child to rack up $350k in debt with no way to repay it.

  13. This will be a very unhappy marriage. This woman isn't going to be satisfied when she finds that after 5, 10, 15 years of hard work she still cannot afford to buy anything nice for herself. She may not care about a mani/pedi every week right now, but I promise you that when she hits 35 years old and her youth can no longer camouflage flaws, she's going to want the same pampering that other women her age get. And she won't be able to afford it. She will resent everyone and everything… and a woman like that isn't very loving.

    And have you considered the kind of women she will be working with in the public school system? Mean, spiteful gossipers all of them. The nice ones don't last because they either leave or become one of the pack.

    This is a very late point in the game to find the worm in the apple. Any break-up now is going to be devastating for both of these kids. But better now than after a couple kids have entered the scene.

  14. As a woman I say RUN. Don't even think about her on the way out the door. Although a pre-nup stating she will work until it's paid with all her salary going to the loan and if their is a divorce he is free from her debt might do the trick. Otherwise the poor sap will be paying for the rest of his life. If not on the loan on other poor spending habits of hers.

  15. Michale CrackMonkey says:

    It seems there is a lot of wise counsel coming from the readers and most of them are saying run. I find it hard to believe she did not know about these debts because her parents supposedly took out the loans. If they took out the loans then they are responsible unless she signed the documents which is what would have happened. You cannot start a marriage off with untruths and deception. If she is so irresponsible that she allowed her debt to get this far simply because she wanted to get a masters and additional credentials before she has even entered the workplace then no doubt she will be irresponsible when your income comes into the mix. Are her parents liberals? Is she a liberal? sounds like it and liberals are not nice when they don't get what they want so I'd say listen to the words of all those here with experience in life.

  16. Exactly…and if they divorce, she'll get half of HIS income and assets…not to mention the child support, if they have kids.

  17. 2WarAbnVet says:

    Unless rules have changed greatly, it used to be that 10% of the student loan was forgiven (up to 50%) for each year of teaching in public school. Since that is what the fiancée is trained to do, this may be a means of ameliorating a considerable amount of this debt.

  18. Jim O'Connor says:

    If she's paying off the debt she isn't raising kids. The opportunity cost of a woman being in college and building up debt is the family that will be smaller or less well cared for. The truth is men work to support a family, all of the rest of the social status is to shore that up. Most men will never be captains of industry, great inventors, but by providing for a family the drudgery is worthwhile. A girl who comes into a marriage with a lifetime's worth of accumulated debt has negated the key lasting value she brings to the marriage. Emotions won't erase that fact. Turning 40 with no children or children raised by strangers will lead to a lot of regret and resentment. If this guy is certain he doesn't want children and will never want children, then maybe.

  19. Jim O'Connor says:

    The education system is the mechanism for fleecing the middle class.

  20. Marry her but make a prenuptial agreement that she keeps her debt and you keep all that you have. After you are married, help her pay off her loans. A woman you really love is worth all the money in the World. I was married for 64 years and I KNOW.

  21. A prenuptial agreement will not work. The agreement only can be enforced by one spouse against the other, not by a collection agency. Once they marry, the debt becomes community debt, and if she makes no money, or not much money, the creditor will come after him — for twenty years or more even after the divorce is final. And there will be a divorce. We no longer live in the middle ages, where a woman's wishes count for nothing. After he saddles himself with her debt, she will eventually grow tired of him, and go off after someone else.

    What should be considered here is her major. A lawyer goes to law school to make money. A doctor goes to medical school to make money. And a psychologist who spends 340,000 on a psych doctorate/degree went to school to make money. However, she is going to use psychology to get it, and it may very well be that she has been using psychology on him.

    A man does not marry a woman to "save" her. More women try to save men than men women, but the end result is the same. The "saved" is not grateful in the least, and passion wears very thin in a very short time.

  22. I was married for 20 years to a woman who was a financial, emotional, and social disaster. Her parents were so happy that we got married, because they were no longer stuck with her. And after we were married, I discovered first hand why she had all these problems.

    The marriage could not survive. In fact, were I to have remained married to her, I would have had to have locked her up and kept her under observation 24/7, and even then she would have found a way to cause trouble.

    A woman under the age of 30 who has never been married, has never owned a business, and has never had cancer treatments, or mental health care services, but owes over a quarter of a million dollars is very bad trouble. And like things that "almost" happened to you, the only way you can find out what is really going on is to let it "happen," and then you'll know first hand. But then, of course, it's too late.

  23. I see the proposed wife here turning into simply a female roommate that he is obligated to support, and can't get rid of without difficulty, and her debt turning into his albatross that he can never get rid of. If welfare drives the federal govenment into bankruptcy, why does this young man think that he can run a private "bail out" in exchange for martial bliss. It has never happened that way in the history of the world.

  24. Yes, Dawn. As soon as the two of them get married so as to make the child his by law, she will have one. And maybe another. That was the technique used on Paul McCartney. The lady married him, had a child to provide public proof that seh had been a dutiful wife and had consummated the marriage, and then Paul's tail was in a sling. But he had money to buy his way out. This wanna-be groom has only the slavery of his labor for the rest of his life to pay for whatever dalliance he has with her. Any marriage that lasts less than 7 years for any reason other than death, sadly, turns out to have been nothing but a legally recognized dalliance.

  25. The "good with the not so good."? Marriage is "for better or worse." What that means is the spouse may get better or worse, not if the economy gets worse. The spouse is already "worsest." That isn't marriage, it's spiritual, emotional and financial suicide.


    "Louis may die, or I may die, or the horse may die, or the horse may talk."
    Punch line to a joke told to Henry VIII by Lady Jane.

  26. Mr Bad Advice says:

    If she works she will have about 10% of her salary garnished forever. Double check the 10%.

    If you want a wife that stays at home and raises the kids, your uncle Sam is giving your wife an incentive to say home, in effect a 10% tax on all on the books income.

    If it is possible for her to assist you in your work, for example book keeping, maintaining your schedule, thank you notes to clients, whatever, that will increase your income but not created taxable income on her part.

    She will have very little financial incentive to divorce you, as any property she gets in a settlement goes to uncle Sam.

    Potentially having insurmountable debt can be an advantage. For example if she were to operate a business and that business were to injure someone, it would not be a financial problem as the liability from that would just be added to the already insurmountable debt. She can confidently maintain the lowest possible limits of insurance, and offer the highest possible guarantee to (possibly gullible) clients, as she has no net worth to protect. She might even be able to act a a female (affirmative action) front for a high risk business.

    If you marry her you really need to get the legal stuff straight so that if you die the children get everything. Her insurance settlement should be an annuity that will likely be garnished. But you need to talk to first rate insurance agents and lawyers about that.

    I think it is somewhat like the situation in the past where a freeman married a slave or indentured servant.

  27. I believe Tom Cruise recently discovered the true value of a pre-nup. Zero.

    A girl with 340K in loans who didn't even know it? Staggers my ability to comprehend the deliberate focus it must have taken her NOT to notice.

  28. If she spent that many years being brain-washed with Christ-hating psychologists, then she has more problems than finances.

  29. I hear all the same type of responses, but this is the most thoughtful and intelligent. Everything happens for a reason. Take this challenge and turn it into a huge success to be proud of! Stay possitive. Don’t listen to these negative Nancys. Wait to marry and work together to resolve this. If she’s truly the right person for you, you will triumph and she’ll still be by your side.

  30. I think I owed ≈7k on a student loan & a car in 1992 when I was dating my husband. Ask him abt it today, & he'd tell you more than you care to know. Lol! Your story just might help put it to rest. (& good luck)

  31. Debraraes says:

    I worked for a top of the line credit reporting agency for several years. And I saw many a young man and a young women get married only to have their spouses destroy their credit. My advice, is to work through her finances first.

    IF she refuses …than RUN!

    BTW when got engaged to my future husband; the first thing we did was to work through our finances. We became debt free, with the exception of the wedding expenses which we paid off in installments. As of Febuary 2014 we'll have been married 21 years.

  32. debraraes says:

    If they got into debt because of medical expenses (such as Cancer) …I could understand the problems. But if it was due to reckless financing, and spending; I say ..a financial responsibility class would be in order. And I also say that she should be able and willing to work on getting rid of her debt 'before' she marries this man.

    If she and her family aren't willing to do this, I would hardly consider her a worthy wife to any one.