Carolyn Hax: Debt a concern for marriage

The Washington PostApril 11, 2014 

Carolyn: I finished my undergrad a year ago, have a good job, and consider myself financially stable. My boyfriend is finishing his master's and will graduate with $200,000 in student debt.

We've been together for nine months and have not talked seriously about his massive debt. I know we both eventually want to be married and have kids, travel and live comfortable lives.

I don't see that being a possibility. Homeownership and kids seem impossible under that kind of debt.

I've considered talking to a financial adviser but doubt that will help much. I don't want to break up with him, but, the way I see it, he'd have to throw massive amounts of money into his loans, and what I make would support us. I would end up resenting him for that. Should I break it off?

NOT MY DEBT

Maybe. Probably. If you'd walk away over money without talking to him "seriously" first, then, definitely. But for his sake, not yours.

Debt like that will dog you, limit you, wake you up to stare at the ceiling at 3 a.m. if one's job is the least bit unstable. I sympathize with all of your misgivings. I also recognize this has become a too-common reality and, coldly I guess, hope others will read this and weigh the realistic return on education investments carefully before making them.

All of this is the responsible, predictable answer.

Here's the other answer that I can't shake: A lot of us would choose our mates, and their liabilities - education debt, chronic illness, (guano)-crazy family - over homeownership, travel … even comfort, depending on how you define it. Plenty sign on despite children from previous relationships at an estimated $241,080 liability per to age 18, in middle-class style (per U.S. Department of Agriculture).

So, break it off? If he's not the guy you'd choose over your preferred lifestyle, then, yes. If you're not sure yet, then talking seriously about money sounds like a fine place to start finding out.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at washingtonpost.com.

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