Author Topic: Married into Student Debt  (Read 5940 times)

amyable

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Married into Student Debt
« on: July 15, 2012, 08:56:56 PM »
Hello Everyone--

There is no easy way to say this--I an living in student debt hell. 

I graduated from college in 2008 with a M.A. in Education and no student loan debt thanks to generous scholarships.  I immediately started working as a teacher, and I love almost every minute of my work.  I make $39,000.  I am 28 years old, and my only asset is a 2011 Honda Fit.

In 2002, I started dating my husband.  During my first two years of college, he was working to support his terminally ill mother and unable to attend school.  In 2004, he entered school, and during the first two years he made the Dean's List, but also racked up $10,000 in student loan debt.  We talked about it, and it seemed like small potatoes--I was sure he would be able to pay it easily. 
During the summer of 2007, my husband's mother died of cancer.  Everyone recommended that he take some time off, but he continued with school and, due to a major depressive episode, failed all of his classes for two years without telling anyone.  We married in 2009, and I thought he would graduate in 2010--I had no clue.  Instead, I ended up paying for the remainder of his school and subsequent treatment for depression from 2010-now.  He has been finishing about 6 hours a semester and will finally graduate in December 2012.

He has $40,000 in student debt that I now share, and I am pretty much broke after paying for his school and treatment.  Without a college degree, he is working an entry level job, making $25,000 a year.  I don't know if he will get a better job directly after graduation.  I love him and a divorce is out of the question, but I feel like I've been screwed.   I know his depression was a major factor, and I am selfish to feel this way.

We live off of about $25,000 a year, and I know we will finish paying the debt in the next few years, but I feel like I am "behind" in life and will never catch up.  I don't know how to deal with being 28 and broke.  I don't even really know what kind of advice I'm asking for, maybe I just want reassurance that it is possible to overcome this kind of setback--I don't know.

sol

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Re: Married into Student Debt
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2012, 10:07:33 PM »
Isn't marriage great?  For better or worse, right?

On the bright side, being broke at 28 is no big deal.  You're still young.  I didn't even get my first real job until I was 31.  You have time to right the ship.




gooki

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Re: Married into Student Debt
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2012, 10:33:04 PM »
1. Your not behind.

2. In just a few years of following MMM principles (keeping expenses low, begin a general badass) you'll be blazing ahead.

PS my wife married my $30,000 student debt. And we're out of it now, and in a good financial position.

twinge

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Re: Married into Student Debt
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2012, 04:09:05 AM »
I'll add to the you're not behind sentiment: 1. You love your job and your spouse. 2. As a couple, your savings rate is really strong--even if that savings is currently channeled into debt.  The debt may be helping you firmly establish a lower cost life as a couple than you may otherwise have had, which, is so, will reap far more rewards in the long run of life than not having started with 40K of debt. 3.  You're doing all this even before your spouse finishes college.


Sara888

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Re: Married into Student Debt
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2012, 05:08:16 AM »
Dear Amyable, I can see that you think that things are rather bleak with that load of student loan debt.  I had a similar experience 3 years ago when my marriage ended and then I lost my part-time job and it was during the financial meltdown of 2008 and man, there just was nothing for a woman that had been a stay at home mom in a family unit that was completely financially independent (no one was working for years until I took the part-time job and we were utterly solvent).  I had about $400 in the bank, some begrudingly given child support and spousal support equaling about what you are living on now.  My car was pretty much history and I ended up with a car loan.  And I live in one of the more expensive areas in the US with rents for two bedroom apartments going for a minimum of $1500 a month.  But, the amazing thing is, 3 years later, I have paid off my car loan ($10000), saved $10000, invested $5000 and given at least $5000 to the divorce attorney which paid off because we finally agreed on a decent settlement that will be complete soon.  I also graduated with my masters partially on a full scholarship.  If the $40000 is your only debt, you are likely to see that disappear faster than you imagine.  I used to find oddball part-time jobs that were mostly just fun and that money always went to debt, and now investing.  i ran a small on-line business, worked for local businesses that knew me, dog sat, tutored, whatever.  In the meantime, I maintained a very frugal household.  As a single mom, at first I put more in savings than in debt repayment so I would be okay in case I lost one of my jobs.  And I didn't worry about too much of it, I just kept living, going to school, making friends, playing with my kids.  The time went faster than I would have imagined!  I just graduated so I lost my stipend from the grad assistantship, so my savings rate is down, but I will go right back with the program as soon as I get a job.  You really will recover from that deft faster than you realize and when you do, you will think, well if I can pay off $40000 in 3 years and still have a good life, I might as well just keep on and put that money into investments and pretty soon I will be rich!  Believe me, you will get raises or find some extra work and so will your husband.  You will learn to cut expenses and find out that some things you thought you needed you don't really.  I wouldn't trade my experience for anything because now I know that I can be totally free to live without being beholden to the lifestyle that 99% of my peers engage in.  So you are NOT behind, you may very well be ahead of your peers and you have an amazing future to look forward to. 

tooqk4u22

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Re: Married into Student Debt
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2012, 08:05:30 AM »
I am sure from your perspective it is hard to take comfort in the fact that your young and thw hole could be worse, but its true and the examples illustrate this. 

More than anything else communication with spouse to happen and be open and productive - counseling can help with this if needed.  You say divorce is not an option but if your resentment/contempt builds it will starve off the relationship and it will go there anyway. 

Jaketucson

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Re: Married into Student Debt
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2012, 11:23:14 AM »
I want to add to the growing list of folks reassuring you.  When my wife and I got married, she was halfway through grad school racking up what I considered to be a large amt of student loan debt.  But I wasn't worried about it because we'd both be working full time and we'd pay it off no problem, right?  Well our honeymoon baby changed things pretty quickly from our original plan of waiting 3-5 years until having kids.  She ended up having an extra semester of grad school (funded by an additional loan) because of some pregnancy complications that caused her to have to take a semester off.  I was 28 at the time and had been wandering my way through life since my college graduation 5 years earlier and had only started a decent job with benefits just before we got married.  We were faced with starting to raise a child in 9 months, and my wife no longer wanted to work full-time so that she could raise our son.  I resented this a lot because she was the one that would end up with the better job and the one bringing the enormous debt to the marriage.  I don't roll with the punches very well and what could have been a joyous, exciting time was filled with an enormous amount of stress for us.  One upside is that it forced us to do some out-of-the-box thinking.  We made some drastic changes in our living situation (moved back to our hometown to be closer to family who wanted to help us with childcare) that enabled my wife to work part-time.  I was able to transfer within the state university system where I worked to a better job in our hometown.  We thought we'd have a huge childcare expense, but with our move that expense became zero because my wife and family were watching our kid.  As far as the student loan, we made decent progress for awhile, and once I started reading MMM we've really been able to take big bites out of that debt.  What could be a 25-year loan is probably going to be paid off in 3 or 4 more years. 

A second (and much more important) upside is that it showed us that our marriage can weather stresses and by working together on a solution we could both accept made us closer and stronger (both as a couple and individually).  Many couples don't face this type of relationship stressor until much later in their marriage.  In many ways, we were fortunate to have this early on. 

So enough about me...on to you:  You're the same age I was in this story, and your student debt load is about the same.  You're only "behind" in life depending on who you compare yourself to.  You're way ahead if you compare yourself to a different set of criteria.  You're married, you have a college degree and a job you love, and your husband will soon be done with his education as well.  If you know that you'll have this debt paid off "in the next few years" as you say, then you are light-years ahead of a lot of people.  That same money that is getting you out of debt quickly will skyrocket you to financial independence if you move to investing once the loan is paid off, assuming that is one of the ultimate goals.  The MMM blog and forum community has all kinds of ideas about how to maximize both finances and quality of life.  You don't answer to anyone else but each other as far your station in life goes. 

If your husband doesn't know about your resentment, you have to have this discussion with him, not with an internet forum, though we're all happy to give advice as best we can.  And if it comes to it, then with a counselor as others have suggested.  Nothing is more important than your marriage (assuming it's free from abuse, etc).  If you two aren't in agreement about that, then not much else is going to matter and what you don't think is an option (divorce) could very well become a reality anyway, as others have already said.  But the funny thing is, if you ARE in agreement that nothing is more important than your marriage, then all the other stuff still doesn't matter, but in a much more positive way, if that makes any sense.  Often you won't realize that until hindsight and after a lot of hard work and hand-wringing.  But that's the stuff that good marriages are made of. 

I'm hopeful that you can come up with creative solutions that you can both live with.  The key is that it doesn't matter what other people think, or where other people are at in their lives.  What matters is that you create a life that you can both live in (and since you're married, love each other in).  We can give lots of suggestions.  Someone suggested separate finances.  My wife and I both get paid biweekly, so that means two extra paychecks a year for both of us--we've built our finances around two paychecks per month, so when we have that extra third paycheck, it's major debt reduction time, plus some "fun" money  (Having two kids now, date night is very important).  Sorry this response is so long, but your question really touched my heart because there seems to be a lot in between the lines.  My circumstances were somewhat different than yours, but the stakes are the same: a good marriage.  You cannot have a good marriage without challenges and I'll be keeping you and your husband in my thoughts as you go through this together.  What you are calling a setback is really a HUGE opportunity for you and your husband to work together and build something good together.  I hope that doesn't come off as really sappy:)  But even if it does, who gives a shit?  I hope it helps:)

velocistar237

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Re: Married into Student Debt
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2012, 11:42:27 AM »
My wife had $100K of school debt when we got married at 27, and at that time, we made only a little more than you and your husband. She has only worked part-time jobs since then, even though she had a higher earning potential, and she is now a stay-at-home mom. I have dealt with and still sometimes deal with resentment on this issue, but really we are doing great, set to become FI around age 40. I don't think you need to separate your finances. I do think it would help to improve your perspective. It's easy to compare yourself to MMM and feel like you're way behind. It's much better to realize what twinge said--that you actually have a lot of assets.

amyable

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Re: Married into Student Debt
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2012, 03:56:31 PM »
Wow--thank you so much for your incredibly thoughtful replies.

KGZotU-  I have definitely felt like the "responsible party," but thankfully, he is starting to become very interested in our finances.  At first, I think he was afraid to really look at the situation, because he felt so much guilt.  He comes from a family with very poor money management skills, and he realizes how terrible ignoring finances can turn out in the long run.

Sara88-  What an extremely inspiring and impressive story!  It's really good to know how far you can come in 3 years with such extreme circumstances.  I appreciate your advice to use this as a sort of learning experience.

Tooqk4u22-  We communicate about it often--maybe too much. 

Twinge, velocistar, gooki, sol-  Thanks.  I needed to hear that.

Jaketuscon-  It definitely does not come across as sappy.  Thank you for your extremely thoughtful comments.   We do talk about the resentment, and I feel really lucky to have very open communication with him.  I think working to see this as an opportunity is important for us.  We really do have a lot going for us relationship wise, but it's easy to get bogged down and lose focus of what we do have.

 

   

tooqk4u22

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Re: Married into Student Debt
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2012, 07:25:09 AM »
You were some looking for advice and more so reassurance - well it looks like you got all the reassurance you were looking for about it being possible to dig out.    I am glad you are communicating but just be sure that it includes productive communication -  don't let the issues or past cloud the discussions and it shouldn't be something you talk about everyday. 

Now that you have your reassurance its time to take action. Its time to sit down with spouse and set short, medium and long term goals and create a plan to get there.  The expense side of your equation is pretty good so big part will need to focus on the income side.  In the big picture you don't really owe that much so you will be able to get out and ahead quicker than you think if you set and stick to a plan.

mustachecat

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Re: Married into Student Debt
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2012, 10:15:57 AM »
My wife had $100K of school debt when we got married at 27, and at that time, we made only a little more than you and your husband. She has only worked part-time jobs since then, even though she had a higher earning potential, and she is now a stay-at-home mom. I have dealt with and still sometimes deal with resentment on this issue, but really we are doing great, set to become FI around age 40. I don't think you need to separate your finances. I do think it would help to improve your perspective. It's easy to compare yourself to MMM and feel like you're way behind. It's much better to realize what twinge said--that you actually have a lot of assets.

velocistar237, it sounds like you have a great story. Overcoming $100K of student loan debt and being on the path to FI in 13 years on less than 1.5 salaries? Yowza. Could you share how you guys are doing this?

velocistar237

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Re: Married into Student Debt
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2012, 12:07:54 PM »
velocistar237, it sounds like you have a great story. Overcoming $100K of student loan debt and being on the path to FI in 13 years on less than 1.5 salaries? Yowza. Could you share how you guys are doing this?

We're not doing anything special, just the normal MMM way. Our story is not quite as impressive as -$100K to FI in 13 years, but we're doing very well. I had a bit of savings from working for 3 years before we got married, and, well, you can see my interpretation of "around 40" in this journal post.