I Due: How To Tackle Student Loan Debt Without Sidelining Your Marriage
Getting married soon? Congratulations! Just be warned—there comes a moment in many weddings when half the guests suddenly slip away to watch a big game (just follow the cheers to find your wedding party).
Football especially is a pretty good analogy for a wedding – after all, in both football and marriage, you’re either tackling things together or you’re being tackled by them. Money is a common example of this (in marriage, not football), as the growing number of couples dealing with student loan debt can attest.
Whether the loans belong to you, your spouse or all of the above, once you get married it doesn’t really matter anymore. Paying off debt is now something you can tackle together. It may be tough, but with open communication and planning you can work as a team to get that student loan linebacker off your, er, back.
So what’s the best strategy for taking down student loans without letting them clobber your marriage? Here are five tips for proactively – and collaboratively – running a play that could help lead to the big pay-off: a debt-free happily ever after.
Tip #1: Create Your Big Financial Picture
Preparing to take on a big financial goal usually requires some conversation and preparation upfront. Before making any decisions, sit down and talk about your short- and long-term financial objectives, and make sure you’re both on the same page (or as close to it as possible). This can be an overwhelming topic, so see if you can break it down into chunks.
Have you established a household budget? How do student loans (and paying them off) fit into your long-term and short-term goals? Should you start aggressively paying off debt, or might it be better for you to ramp up over time? What other factors (e.g., buying a home, changing careers, having children, etc.) could affect your decisions?
Not only can this exercise help give you more clarity to create an action plan, it can also actually be kind of fun – after all, planning a life together is part of the reason you got married in the first place. The key is to listen to each other and remember that you’re both on the same team.
Tip #2: Take Advantage of Technology
Once you’re clear on the big picture, it’s time to get into the weeds. Many people have more than one student loan, often with multiple lenders, so a good place to start can be to gather all of your loan info in one place. You can use an online student loan management tool to collect this information, compare student loan repayment options, and even analyze prepayment strategies.
After crunching the numbers, your debt payoff strategy may include putting extra money toward your loans each month, which means creating and sticking to a budget that supports that goal. Platforms like Mint and Learnvest can help you aggregate household accounts and track spending.
Note: tracking your spending so precisely may feel like ripping off a bandage at first, but over time, this kind of discipline can help you better see where your money goes and help you make conscious choices about your spending. And once you have your budget in place, these apps can be set up to alert you both when spending is getting off track.
Tip #3: Define The Who, What, When
Whether your finances are separate or combined, you’ll probably want to come to an agreement on how to collectively pay all of your financial obligations. Many couples address this based on each person’s share of the total household income.
For example, if one person makes 40% and the other makes 60%, the former might pay 40% of the shared bills and the latter might pay 60%. Others find it simpler and more cohesive to have one household checking account and pay all bills from there.
However you decide to split things up, it could make things much easier to agree upon a plan that accounts for everything, because missed payments can potentially impact your credit (and/or your spouse’s), making your future financial objectives that much tougher to achieve.
Tip #4: Look For Opportunities to Optimize
Okay, so now you’ve established a plan and a budget, and you know who’s on point for each bill. You’re on the path to getting student loan debt off your plate. Is there anything else you can do to speed up the process?
Short of winning the lottery, the most common ways to accelerate student loan payoff are prepayment (meaning, paying more than the minimum) or lowering the interest rate, the latter of which is most commonly accomplished through refinancing.
If you qualify to refinance your student loans, you have a few possibilities: you can lower your monthly payments (by choosing a longer term) or lower your interest rate (which could also lower your monthly payments) – or you could shorten the payment term, and that means you could save money on interest over the life of the loan – money that could come in handy for those other financial goals you’ve both agreed to pursue.
Tip #5: Be on the Same Team
Living with debt is stressful for any couple, but being part of a relationship has its advantages, too. There’s a reason that weight loss experts often recommend finding a “buddy” to help cheer you on and keep you honest in your diet and exercise journey – and the same applies for achieving a big goal like paying off student loan debt.
Keep it positive and keep the lines of communication open, and you may even find that the journey to being debt-free makes your marriage even stronger – so you can take the hits that come your way as easily as your favorite team does.
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.