Dear Margo: Student Loans Versus Love

Money can’t buy love, but some financial security helps, right? Margo Howard’s advice

Student Loans Versus Love

Dear Margo: I’m a female in my late 20s living in a big city. My boyfriend is in his mid-30s. We have a wonderful relationship with good sex and great communication. We’re planning to move in together and want to eventually start a family and all that jazz. The problem is he’s broke — like 150 grand in debt broke.

Almost $100,000 of that is student loans. He has a master’s degree, but doesn’t make enough money to even begin his payments. He’s told me all this before, but I guess I didn’t realize how real it was until last night. He was explaining his financial stress, and I saw the future I want falling away. If I stay with him, I’m afraid I’ll be choosing a life of ongoing economic problems. I went to a very expensive college, but I’ve worked hard to make my payments on time every month since graduation and have been slowly chipping away at my debt. I have no credit card debt and an almost perfect credit score. I have a good job, but not enough income to support a family by myself or to help offset my partner’s debt.

I’m embarrassed to feel this way, but I’ve worked hard to be financially responsible, and now it feels like it will all go to hell if I start building a life with this man. I want us to be together, but I also want financial security, a kid, a house and a picket fence. OK, maybe not the picket fence. — Am I Being Awful?

Dear Am: The relationship sounds nearly ideal, so maybe there are things to be done that will allow you to continue without feeling financially threatened. Why don’t you take charge of the family finances since you seem more competent in that department? It is entirely possible that, in time, he will better his position, just as you likely could wind up in a higher paying job. Then, too, there is much talk of the government doing something about these crippling student loans.

While I understand your wish for financial security, I know of too many romances where the couple started out very modestly and then fortune smiled upon them. Yours needs to be a decision of the heart, and if the concern about money outweighs that, then there is your answer. — Margo, thoughtfully

When Things Just Don’t Make Sense

Dear Margo: I have a friend (honest, it’s not me) who had a years-long affair with a married man. My friend had been divorced for a long time. These people lived in the same apartment building!

Well, here’s what happened — which neither my friend nor I understand. The man’s wife became ill, and after a year and a half, she died. You’d think that they could have become a couple openly, but that did not happen. He basically dumped her. After a few months, a woman moved in with him. It really makes no sense. My friend wound up in psychotherapy, and who could blame her? What is the dynamic here? Her shrink isn’t having much luck helping her put this behind her. — Helpless Friend

Dear Help: I have known of instances where this has happened, and everyone is always surprised. I can give you no answer to a certainty, but I can offer a few hypotheses. The man’s guilt may be putting the dead hand, forgive the infelicitous cliche, on conducting this particular romance in the open. The wife he was cheating on is now gone, ergo the girlfriend needs to be, too. Maybe this man needs the illicit aspect to have an affair work. (He would not be alone.) Maybe, in the course of things, he tired of her. Or maybe the guy was just a jerk. — Margo, conjecturally

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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81 Responses so far.

  1. avatar blue tooth says:

    I would go with the jerk explanation. Basically, this guy slept with her on the side because he could. He used her for sex, additional comfort, support, and security, and got used to the idea that she didn’t need much from him. And when his wife died, and he started looking around for a new wife, she didn’t qualify. All those promises he made her, if he made her any promises and not just excuses, didn’t mean a thing. They were all part of the pipe dream that he’d built with her. A fantasy that he enjoyed but that he could walk away from without worrying about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if, after his wife died, he started to think of the girlfriend as cheap. After all, she slept with him, didn’t she?

    • avatar wendykh says:

      Yup. Basically, the woman a man has an affair with is not necessarily the woman he wishes to have as a partner. She’s essentially good enough to ______ behind his wife’s back, but not to be his real world partner. In fact, some are real pigs and precisely *because* she was willing to do him behind his wife’s back is why she is crossed off “why would I want a woman like that for a wife?!” Plus once he’s actually single, he can date far more openly and select from women who would have nothing to do with him as a married man. As a married man, he is simply limited to who is convenient for sneak sex and willing to sleep with a married man. Worse, many will tell their sneak sex partner she IS the kind of woman they’d like to be with permanently because what woman would continue to help a man cheat who said “ya know I like schtupping you but I wouldn’t actually date you publicly.” OUCH! 

      Does that sound rough? Probably. But I’m not “judging”, I’m sharing the insight of more than a few married men. And IMHO yeah that does qualify them as jeks to think they’re better than the woman helping them cheat! 

      Sleeping with a married person of either gender is pretty much almost always a loser’s game.

      Oh and cheating on your cancer stricken wife? EXTREMELY common. Just as some spouses cope (er, don’t cope rather?) by disappearing into a bottle, well, some disappear into some bedsheets. It’s an escape tactic. 

  2. avatar Kate Olsen says:

    lw1 – It is too bad that we are not counseled as young teen coeds about student loans. I have been paying off a $2,500 loan for 30 years – I have paid off over $30,000 at this point.  Several times there were points where I was disabled or not working but during those perods the interest piled up.  The IRS took my refund several times.  But because of the interest rate compounding even when i was disabled here i am at the age of 49 with over $9,000 in student loan debt and not even a degree – not even a semester finisshed due to my counselor.  I can document where i have paid the $30,000 – is that ridiculous or not – paid over $30,000 over 30 years for an original $2,500 loan which now stands at $9,000 – and all because the college “counselor” told me to withdraw and change my major – when I did I lost my state grant for money for books and had to leave college.  I was hospitalized for a week at end of term  and my professors would not allow me to take my finals.  But to pay $30,000 over 30- years and still have $8,000 to pay off for original $2,500 is ridiculous – and forget the promised loan rate – mine was a government guaranteed loan but once it was sold off -the interest rate went up to over 10% – thank you Sallie Mae – who currently has mine

    • avatar Lila says:

      Kate, your experience is a good demonstration of why the LW should not be lawfully joined in marriage with this guy, nor own anything jointly with him, nor entangle her finances with his in the least way.  This is one of those cases where, if she just must have this guy, she should just live with him noncommittally.  No marriage to a humongous debt like that.  Can you imagine his six-figure debt in the next 10 or 15 years?

      Marriages used to be much more about economics than about love, at least among the moneyed classes (still true in some countries).  I’m not saying that it is more important than love, but something like the LW is describing sure can sour love fast.  How loving or respectful is it to drag your intended into crushing debt upon marriage, and then condemn your children to a life of poverty and insecurity?  Protect your future family now… don’t marry this guy.

      • avatar Lila says:

        PS, the whole student loan business strikes me as really predatory.  No different from the practices that set the housing crash in motion, or the credit card billing practices that Congress finally forced to reform… Sorta.  Ugh.  

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          It starts with colleges offering degrees that have nothing but esoteric or theoretical value. IMHO, all degree programs should be rated with a factor that is based on the job market for that position, the average entry salary, and how many examples of that particular job are found in a 100-mile radius from the school. 

        • avatar wendykh says:

          It is. Why on earth are young people being counseled to take out SO much debt with NO promises of employment?! On the idea they MAY get a job? In what universe would this be acceptable for any other expense? And who makes money off of this? The banks. The loan companies. It’s a crap practice based on the idea of education as job training and nothing more. I don’t know what the right answer is but it shouldn’t cost more than a HOUSE to get an education. How are young people supposed to move out pair off buy homes etc and begin families with that kind of debt?!

          And LW1 the top things that break up marriages are fights over sex and money. I don’t think it’s cold or foolish at ALL to not want to marry someone with that much debt. My husband and I have about $80K between the two of us. Looking back we would have done things very differently (we’d be together but would NOT have taken out those loans). Despite that he makes a very good six figure salary half our monthly income goes to these loans. Now luckily we can still make due living modestly and really we want for nothing (some would NOT be happy living as we do, however, still renting, in the poor section of the city, one very used car for the whole family, no new furniture clothes etc). But we also have a very sensible plan to have it all paid off within a couple more years. So it’s not the amount that would scare me as much as the inability to pay it. Where I live, marriage does NOT make his debt your debt. But in some places it does, and even if it doesn’t, it still effects your standard of living making it so basically you’ll tbe sole breadwinner because all his money will be going to the debt. This might be worth it for you. But it might not and being a sponge off you financially might cause serious issues between you two.

    • avatar toni says:

      You must have missed a awful lot of payments. Education can’t be repossessed like a car. Who else was supposed to pay your debt?

    • avatar bobkat says:

      OMG Kate! That’s ridiculous! This type of extortion, and that’s what it is, should be illegal. I hope that the student loan bubble will be the next one to burst. It needs to. I feel for you!

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I’m not exactly sure how you managed to accomplish this, unless you have significant late fees involved, and didn’t pay on your loan for quite a few years—like 10-15 or so. I deferred an $13K loan for nearly 10 years myself, and managed to only raise it to just under $17K. 

    • avatar lexi reads says:

      Wow Kate – is anything your responsibility?  You didn’t pay your debts because you were disabled “or not working,” because the IRS took your refund.  You didn’t finish your education “due to my counselor,”  your professors “would not allow me to take my finals” …  10-13% is not a horrible interest rate, it isn’t loan shark territory.
      Try this:  You lost your state grant money because you took bad advice.  You didn’t make the proper arrangements for your finals.  You left college without a degree.  You didn’t work consistently, and the ADA has a lot of success stories about people who are disabled who manage to have successful careers.  I also can’t tell if your disability is permanent or not.
      Your story doesn’t add up if it is Sally Mae, you can prepay at any time, make arrangements so it isn’t more than 15% of your income, and get loan forgiveness after 25 years.

  3. avatar Kate Olsen says:

    LW2 – any woman who “dates” a married man knows what she is facing, That the man’s wife died is too sad but really what did your friend expect.  He kept her in the dark for how long – did she really expect anything different.  We reap what we sow  And what does this say about the type of person your friend is?  I would be watching my backyard if I were you.  Anyone who would knowingly date a married man might not care who’s married man she dates. 

    • avatar blue tooth says:

      Well yeah, since LW2 (‘friend’) lived in the same building as the married guy, I don’t think she can claim ignorance, but I don’t think it’s necessarily always the woman’s fault. I knew many guys who hit on lots of women while they were married, and they never started out with, “Hi. I’m married.”

      Granted there are sharks (like Rielle Hunter) who just love them a married man, especially a rich, married man. A lot of these women, though, start out dating, then they fall in love, and then they’re stuck. Then it’s the whole “stand by your man,” “but I love him,” “if only he were free,” thing, with all the screwed-up thoughts that come from Nora Ephron movies.

      I knew this one woman who met this guy, dated him and fell in love, the whole starry-eyed, we-we-we thing. He was a we-er. We’ll buy a house. We’ll have three kids. We’ll take a vacation in Aruba. We’ll pack up and go sailing. This guy went to her father and asked for her hand in marriage. Real traditional. What went wrong? Well, his current wife, who he was still living with and married to and had kids with, and who he was happily still boffing by the way, showed up at this woman’s doorstep.

      She was horrified, but by then she’d been branded as “the other woman.” She broke it off right away, although the guy disappeared right quick. I guess he had some fence-mending to do with his wife, after all. What kind of conversation did this girl have with her father, do you think?

      The kicker behind all this? About a year later, this guy saw her in a restaurant. He was with another girl. The next day he texted her, asking, “Whatever happened to us?”

       Like I said, it’s not always the girl’s fault.

      • avatar LuckySeven says:

        If she keeps dating him after she finds out he’s married, it’s her fault as much as his, whether she’s in love with him or not. 
        I’m a woman.  I’ve been in love before with guys who didn’t love me on equal terms.  It hurts and it’s awful, but nobody dies from it except in fairy-tales.  Being in love needs to stop being an excuse to do moronic things and abdicate responsibility for one’s actions.  Yes, married people who hit on other people are creeps, but they can’t cheat if nobody will cheat with them.

  4. avatar Jennifer juniper says:

    LW1 – I say listen to your guy and get out now.  It’s not so much the student loan debt but 50K is a lot of other debt!  And he doesn’t seem to have had a plan to get a job that would pay it off.  And no bones about it – if you marry – that debt will become yours as well.  As he’s a bit older so you’d have thought he would have had a better handle on such things by now. 
    Prudie seemed to skip over a very important question – you say that you want to marry him and start a family.  Are you planning on staying home with that family?  Is one of you?  Because that’s going to put even more stress on this situation… tons more.  For some reason it’s become considered mercenary to weigh these things before marrying a man.  Women are called ‘gold-diggers’ because they actually might think about what their financial situation might be if the future if they have plans to start a family.  It’s not.  It’s entirely necessary.  The #1 thing that couples argue about is MONEY.  

    • avatar Lila says:

      Jennifer, spot on!  Kids are expensive, it takes money to just have the basics and even more money to really live, and this guy is starting life as a financial cripple.  If he were solidly paying down his debt and moving ahead aggressively in his career, I would see the debt as a “concern,” but since he is wallowing in it instead – well – I don’t think the LW should get into the business of burning herself out to rescue him, and herself, from this debt.

    • avatar julpfeif says:

      Er…Margo. Not Prudie.

      • avatar Kriss says:

        @ julpfeif:  LOL.  yeah, Margo hasn’t been Prudie for quite some time but she did give a bad Emily Yoffe answer for that first LW.  she might need to be lashed w/ one of her mother’s wet noodles for that one.

  5. avatar BC says:

    LW#1:  Run!  That $150,000 will keep piling up and will jeopardize your financial future.  The fact that he hasn’t made any effort to pay it down says a lot about his level of responsibility.

    LW#2:  It happens a lot.  An ex-friend of mine had an affair with her boss.  After a few years, his wife got cancer and died a few years after that.  My ex-friend was with him the whole time, but after his wife died, he started dating another woman and ended up marrying her!  He didn’t want my friend as his wife, he wanted her as his mistress.  The worst part is that she kept having the affair with him, even after he married the other woman.  He even went to see her the first night he got back from his honeymoon!  It wasn’t until she found someone else a few years later (another loser, but single) that she broke up with him.  

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      RE: LW 1- It might say something about him, but then again, with the economy over the past fiver years, there may be circumstances beyond his control in which he cannot get out of debt.   I see people everyday who are in debt quite significantly and in some cases, fault should not be attributed to them.  The information provided by the LW is not enough to determine whether he is irresponsible or not.

  6. avatar lincer says:

    Re: Ltr #2  I don’t believe there is any such thing as a faithful man.  I can honestly say that after my divorce at least 90% of the men who ask me out/made passes, etc. were married men.  Neighbors’ husbands, friends’ husbands, co-workers, bosses.  God,  I even had a therapist make advanced passes at me.  When I decided to stop seeing the shrink – he actually – believe this:  told me his wife had died and I was the only sunshine in his life.  Well a friend looking out for my best interests did a little research and discovered the wife was alive and kicking.  We joked about the MIRACLE for years.  I had one boss, who I refused to date, leave his wife and children, get an apt. hire attorneys and file for divorce.  This from a man I never even kissed.  What I finally discovered is the quickest way to get a married man (if that is your goal), is DON’T have an affair with him.  Men still love the hunt more than the catch. 
    Re: your friend, the line “he’s just not that into you” comes to mind. 

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      That’s interesting, because based upon your comment, I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a rational woman.  I wonder which statement is more foolish.

  7. avatar toni says:

    Lw1: run. Not JUST because of the date but because of his attitude towards it. As you’ve said, you’ve worked hard to pay your debt off. He is not that kind of person. And maybe he is waiting for the govt to do something. Which makes him a mooch.
    Lw2: your friend chose to have an affair. As someone else posted, he’s just not that into her. It doesn’t make him a jerk. She didn’t think enough of herself to ask for more from life. If she keeps blaming men for her choices she will have a lonely life ahead.

    • avatar brent finley says:

      Toni –
      You have nailed both answers!
      I suspect that the “man” is really not owning up to his responsibilities with regard to the debt.  I doubt anyone put a gun to his head; he voluntarily borrowed the money, and it needs to be paid back.  If she marries him it becomes her debt as well.  This may foreshadow a future where he throws up his arms and runs from his responsibilities.
      As far as the lady goes, I feel sorry for her, but she must accept that there is not future with the man.  And none was promised.  Both men and women have “people you sleep with and people you marry”, and this guy considered her a sleeper not a marry-er.  She needs to find a partner that will love her rather than sleep with her, and I humbly suggest she try a single one next time.

  8. avatar wlaccma says:

    My husband and I worked 3 jobs to keep our kids out of college debt.   My son then married a women with a lot of college debt, which has been a drag on them.  When you go to other countries and tell them what our kids have to pay for an education, they can’t believe it.  Anyway, we love our daughter-in-law and think she is the best investment our son ever made.

    • avatar Stampy says:

      It IS pretty “alarming”, for lack of a better term, when you see how expensive education is in America and other countries as an outsider. I live in Mexico, attend one of the best public universities in the world, according to several rankings, and my tuition per semester is the equivalent to US$ .02 (two cents). My particular major only requires me to pay once, so all in all my major (along with a language class) will cost me -since I’m paying for the bulk of my education on my own- less than $1000 dollars, considering textbooks, transportation and food -no lodgings, as I thankfully live not too far from campus. Some Masters and PhD programmes actually PAY you to study -I don’t know how this work in private universities, but at least that’s the way it does in mine.
      I’ve always wanted to study abroad, mostly for the experience, and have always been floored by the costs. Student loan or not, culturally, it doesn’t seem right t saddle a young person, or their families, with such a debt for education. If I didn’t have the chance I’ve been granted, I wouldn’t be able to attend university, simple as that.

  9. avatar Janice Haines says:

    LW1 Run for the hills, and save yourself.     This man is just a Peter Pan who’ll never grow up financially.    He increased his debt load from 100k to 150k, and will just keep going, and never even try to pay the loans back.    People who live in a financial la-la land never change, and you need to move on and find someone who’s a financial adult or you’ll always be waiting for the debt collectors to call, and for the next purchase he makes that puts you further in debt.

    LW2-Your friend (and I believe it’s not you) was just a piece on the side, who lived in the right location, and was willing to have an affair with a married man.     Your friend is now viewed by him as good enough for easy sex, and not a good enough person to commit too.    Now that he’s free the guy has moved to what he views as a ‘nice’ woman who is acceptable to him, and he’s making a commitment.    Your friend needs to move on, and maybe move too, so she won’t have to have the new relationship thrown in her face all of the time.  

  10. avatar Messy ONE says:

    LW#1 – Go ahead and tell your guy you’ll marry him – AFTER he pays off at least half that debt. Like one of the other posters, I find his attitude towards money disturbing. He might just be hoping that marrying you will ease his burden. If he truly wants to marry you, then he should be willing to take some real steps to make you feel secure. 

    LW#2 – I do wish that little girls who choose to mess with married men would get a grip and realize that to him, they are the bit on the side and nothing more. They are the warm bodies that exist to be used for one purpose only. The guy is a pig. 

    As to marrying one of these idiots…why would ANYONE want to do that? If he’s willing to cheat WITH you, he’s willing to cheat ON you. The very fact that he’s willing to crawl into someone else’s bed when he’s married to someone else is proof of what he thinks of women – disposable toys. 

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      “The relationship sounds nearly ideal, so maybe there are things to be done that will allow you to continue without feeling financially threatened. Why don’t you take charge of the family finances since you seem more competent in that department?”

      This is actually not good advice. In a relationship you should BOTH be responsible for paying the bills and understanding (and perpetuating) your financial health. I just ended a relationship where my ex told me at the beginning to take control, and I responded by telling him we both needed to be responsible with money, and that I would not be his parent. He didn’t listen. Things finally got so bad because of his utter unwillingness to spend wisely, and when I finally tried to seize control—he wouldn’t let me. Goodbye, boyfriend.

      Let me write your situation out in a simple equation: his financial burden = your time, your effort, your opportunities.

      You will never win this situation. In fact, you’ll never even tread water, and eventually it will destroy his—and by association, your checkbook. Get ready to pay for everything and put it all in your name if you stay together. It’s a VERY high price for you to pay to stay with someone whose poor decision-making landed him with an invisible house that he’s paying for (that is, until he decides not to or is unable and the government comes after him). And it IS poor decision-making, when you spend thousands of dollars on something that doesn’t pay off for you and get you the job you allegedly went to school for. Medieval French Lit, anyone? 18th Century Lesbian Studies? Unless hubby has a business degree or something to do with engineering/computer science/medicine—my advice to you is to continue the great sex until you find a new boyfriend.  

      LW2: I’m not sure why the guy mentioned in the situation is such a jerk. Your “friend” participated in an affair with a married man literally under another woman’s nose (not to mention that she died). 

      It amazes me that people don’t see the forest for the trees sometime. So here it is, bluntly: your friend got exactly what she deserved, and your efforts for feeling sympathetic are misplaced.  

      • avatar Messy ONE says:

        Oh, they both acted like a couple of jerks, but he’s the one that showed who he really is in that situation. He has shown to the world that he’s a cheater. She’s an idiot who seems to think that she can “steal” someone else’s spouse (why, did she hogtie him and *make* him have sex with her?), and that he’s any kind of prospect for a permanent relationship. 

        The guy is nothing more than a slimy cheat. It doesn’t matter who he’s with, he’s going to cheat. Hopefully his cookie learned a lesson, here, but I doubt it.  

      • avatar toni says:

        Bingo David.

    • avatar htimsr40 says:

      She also was willing to cheat WITH him, so why should he not also expect her to be willing to cheat ON him?  An affair requires two cheaters, not one.

      • avatar Messy ONE says:

        SHE is single. She was just dumb enough to think that he cared about her at all – the very fact that he chose someone in his own building to cheat with just proves that it’s all about his convenience. If he had lied to her and said he was single, would that make you feel better?

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          Yes, actually it would. She was Part 2 of a cheating couple. She knew what she was getting into. Period. 

          • avatar Messy ONE says:

            Oh sure. She was stupid, he was slimy. No doubt about it. The thing is, when a married man decides to cheat, he WILL, and it doesn’t matter who the cookie is that’s willing to have sex with him. 

            Her stupidity was in thinking that she actually mattered to him. She doesn’t. She was not much better than an *adult toy* as far as he was concerned.  

          • avatar Maggie Tenser says:

            She’s not just stupid, she did something that was wrong.  Knowingly participating in an activity that hurts another person is wrong.  Participating in cheating is wrong.  It doesn’t matter that a cheater will always cheat; they wouldn’t be able to cheat if they couldn’t find a person willing to help them do it.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      Re: LW1 Where in the letter is there information regarding his attitude toward debt?  It says that he has significant debt and that he is stressed by it.  That does not mean that he is irresponsible or not trying to pay it back.  There are many people in this country who legitimately try to pay debt back, but due to a change in circumstances outside of their control, they are not able to do so.  In addition, a large portion of that debt is due to student loans, which is a significant issue today.  I see people everyday who have significant financial issues and many are doing what they can to overcome it.  However, there are circumstances over which they have no control that impact their financial situation such as layoffs, illness, family illness, reduced work hours, reduced benefits, fraud by creditors, brokers or other financial advisers.  LW needs to discuss this matter with the guy in depth to figure out whether he is truly irresponsible or if there are other reasons why he is struggling.  The one statement that I agree with is your last one.  That will say much about his character.

      • avatar Messy ONE says:

        $150,000.00 in debt is a LOT for a young person, and it seems to the LW that he’s not as concerned about it as he should be. I’m with her – I went to university on student loans, too, AND I graduated in the middle of a nasty recession. I did NOTHING until those loans were paid.

        There were no vacations, no clothes shopping (outside the necessaries), nothing until I was out from under that debt. I took jobs that the LW’s boyfriend would no doubt sneer at, but I looked that that as a requirement. I waited tables in a greasy spoon, cleaned gum off school desks, did phone surveys for a research company, and a myriad of other things that most people in my situation could (and did) turn up their noses at the very though of doing. 

        The problem here is one of attitude. The LW can’t stand being in debt. I understand that. We have zero credit card debt. If we need a car, we wait until we can write a check for the full amount of a new one. All we have is a mortgage, and that’s small. We haven’t paid it off because the interest is our only tax deduction. If we were in as much trouble as the boyfriend, we wouldn’t be sleeping at night. He apparently looks at it as …no big deal.  

        Even if he does clear the debts, they still have a massive difference in personality to get past, and I just don’t think he’s willing to change. 

        • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

          You may be right, but she did not disclose much information about him, which is probably due to a lack of in-depth communication regarding his finances.  I don’t know when you graduated, but even since I finished school in 2003, the cost of obtaining a degree has exploded.  Further, the cost of living is quite significant such that some students borrow more during school than just the loans.  Even in 2003, the amount of loans that could be obtained did not cover the necessary living expenses of many of the people that I went to school with.  Unfortunately, for my line of study, it was an honor violation to work more than 12 hours per week in any type of job while attending school full-time.  I still think that is idiotic. 
          I think the more troubling part about the debt is the $50,000 in non-student loans.  Unless those are medical bills or he needed to use credit to help him pay for school/necessary living expenses beyond student loans, that is a lot of debt to incur

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            stateoflove: The “honor violation” is disturbing. Someone is living in the 1800’s, when only the too-too could afford higher education…or were allowed any access to such bastions of propriety (snort) and breeding (ah, breeding…). I worked full time throughout college…with a full load (18 hours) of courses…in the early 80’s, and still ran out of money because grants and financial aid were so tight. It can be very hard.
            Two things were bothersome about L#1: the first you pointed out: how has LW1’s boyfriend managed to accrue an additional $50,000 in debt if he cannot pay on his student loan at all, and barely cover his living expenses? Where is he living? What is he spending on? If he had a medical situation the debt is handled a bit differently (been there, done that…as a debtor and collector. Loathed the latter, only lasted 6 months, but do know the rules and laws)…so this sounds like he spent on…something. Spent a lot. It is fairly simple, even in a more expensive state, to live remarkably modestly when you have serious debt and a lack of funds.
            The second thing that no one, and I mean no one but me seems to have noticed is LW1’s attitude, and the “something” completely absent from her letter. She sounds less than heartbroken, and a bit flippant. Almost light-hearted…as if all she needs is the go ahead to have it all…well, not the white picket fence, whatever…sans Mr. I-told-you-I-can’t-pay-my-bills-but-it-suddenly-dawned-on-you-that-I-actually-meant-it. She may be financially responsible…but I have a feeling, based on her own words…that she is balking at another kind of responsibility. The kind involving Marriage. Children. Houses. And All That Jazz. You Know (I apologize, but I have a buzz cut, and wouldn’t be able to achieve an insouciant hair flip if I wanted to)?
            And she never mentions the “L” word. I Love him and this makes me sad. He Loves me and this will break his heart. No, she’s, like, embarrassed.
            It isn’t always the men who are along for the good sex and the fun…but then really don’t want to burden themselves with a potentially irresponsible (if completely honest) partner who was amusing while it lasted…and good enough for the sack and Starbucks…but who doesn’t live up to permanent relationship, societal/financial expectations.

  11. avatar Briana Baran says:

    L#1: It is not necessarily true that LW1 would be liable for the $150,000 debt if she married her boyfriend, because it was acquired prior to marriage, and her name is not on the paperwork. This is much the same as money earned before marriage not being considered as community property. What is disturbing is that he is in is mid-30’s, and has managed to accrue such an enormous amount of debt…and that he seems to have no means, or plans for paying it.
    It is impossible to be in a “perfect position” when marrying, purchasing a house, or having children. We don’t know how long the LW and her partner have been dating, but we do know that he has informed her of his situation before, and she’s not exactly been hearing him…until it comes to actually taking that next step. That doesn’t actually speak well of their supposed “great communication”.
    I think (my opinion) that it’s possible that for LW1, the great sex was a lot of fun, and they had a lot of wonderful conversations…but now that it’s time to get serious reality has struck and she’s saying, “No, I’m really a responsible woman, and I don’t need his dead weight dragging me down, and while, gee, I feel sort of mean (obligatory social response when dumping a wonderful guy who is a great lover) and embarrassed (gawd, I’m going to look like a jerk)…Would someone just tell me it’s the right thing to do?”. I noticed that she never mentioned “love”, as in “I love him, and this would really hurt me”, or “He loves me, and this will just kill him”, and that may be an important exclusion. 
    So, okay, it’s pretty obvious this is over in her mind already, so she shouldn’t go one step further. No condemnation at all…it’s much better to never start than to try to extricate yourself from a disastrous co-habitation, or marriage situation. And all that jazz.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      She may not be liable per se—but she will be liable in the real world, when the debt puts an immense strain on their finances. 

    • avatar phoenix says:

      While she won’t be liable for the debt, if they file joint taxes and have a refund due, the government will take it (presuming some of this is government loans). It will become the proverbial albatross around her neck, too. though it honestly seems as though it isn’t one to him because he has no sense of financial responsibility.

      They need to go to couples counseling with someone who specializes in finances and see if they can find a common page to be on financially. As you said, it’s not as much the amount of student debt, but the continual accrual of other debt that is disturbing. He seems to have no motivation to find a job to cover his expenses or he is ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ on credit. Either way, not a good recipe for a marriage unless LW1 is willing to become the breadwinner.

      It’s so sad how the education industry preys on the young hoping to get ahead in life and saddles them with almost insurmountable debt. So many of these private colleges do not make clear what the debt will mean at the end of college and just says things like ‘oh, with this degree it’s so prestigious you’ll have no problem finding a job that will cover the payments’ without telling you that payments could be more than $1000 a month. And a lot of these young folk come from homes where they are the first in college. Thanks to the administration for trying to sell ‘higher education for all’ when all degrees are not created equal.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Yes, loans need careful perusal before one signs on the proverbial dotted line. So does one’s choice of a degree. But I have to say, it is up to the parents, and /or the student to be as diligent and realistic as possible when choosing what to major in, and whether or not to accept a particular loan package. It also helps a lot for the student to work while in school. Yes, this can be done. No, it doesn’t have to be some marvelous, grade A job. My husband did all sorts of work, and most of his college was paid through loans. He WAS the first in his immediate family, and one of the few on either side of his family (his mother had ten older siblings, and dozens of cousins), to attend college, much less get a degree. His parents had their loans paid in just a few years…without his help. Don’t just blame the “administration” and the colleges…blame people with stars in their eyes…instead of thoughts in their heads.
        I have been in financial difficulty before…but I am at a complete loss as to how a $2500 loan expands to $30,000 paid out over thirty years…and remains an open debt with much more to be covered. I had a simple labor and birth costing $2500 total escalate to $18,000 due to an emergency c-section…and was living on about $20.000 a year without insurance…with a house and a car payment…and a new baby and a lost job…and still had the whole mess paid off in two years. I am NOT a financial wizard by any means.  Maybe the issue is people trying to have it all, all of the time. We live in an extremely entitled society, with completely unrealistic expectations from life.

  12. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: That amount of crushing college debt is why I opted (in the 1980s) for business college. Have had a good career since. But he is in this level of debt and “things” might turn around, but you’re absolutely correct to be concerned about financial hardship as a result. Good for you on no rose-colored glasses. Now at age 47, with having undergone both good and bad financial times (currently bad), I can say (sorry Margo) that Fortune does not always smile on people; Fortune can be fickle. If letter-writer goes through with a long-term committment with this man I hope they will sit down, discuss and PLAN how to work around and with his debt. Which yeah — does pose a threat to paying against costs of raising children, mortgage, vehicles (and all the upkeep with those).

  13. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #2: I have no sympathy for your friend. She was a player, he’s a player; players only “love” you when they’re playing (Fleetwood Mac). My pity goes to the deceased wife. I hope your friend will learn from this and not mess around with married men in the future, but it seems lots of people DON’T learn.

  14. avatar butterfly55 says:

    LW1, Is the purchase worth the price?  He is costing you plenty in your future, not just in trying to help pay off his past debts but in not getting the life you deserve.

    LW2, I’m sure your friend could have an opportunity with her lover if she wants it, he most likely would love to have someone on the side again.  

  15. avatar Briana Baran says:

    L#2: Yes, Mr. Widower is a putz, no doubt. I would think that the friend, however, living in the same building, would have known that he was married, at some point, and I have very little empathy for individuals who decide to have affairs with married people, and end up seriously scorched. No, I have never had a spouse cheat on me…I’ve just had to listen to the wailing and moaning of too many people who have done this and sung the same pathetic tune: Why didn’t it work out? Why was I dumped?
    Why? Because you were having an affair with a person incapable of honesty, integrity or fidelity…and he or she treated you as a convenience, a cheap thrill, a bit of fun, a confessor, a wailing wall or all of the above. Good enough to bed, not good enough to marry. Because this person insisted on keeping your relationship clandestine…they made a thousand empty promises, gave you the material…but never the actual, forced you into the shadows and never let you see the light, because you left your common sense behind you and this jerk knew this and you probably did too…because you never considered that you were actually dating a loser, a fraud and a creep.
    I watched my sister have an affair with a married man for years. She refused to come to Houston because John hated Houston. Why? Because he got caught hawking stolen t-shirts at a concert and was thrown in jail. That was the fault of the police, you see. After 5 years, she finally asked for a decision…her, or his wife. Go ahead, take a wild guess who he chose. She was shocked. Devastated. Taken aback. Crushed. I’ve seen it dozens of times…and with men as well.
    The friend needs to move on, and move out of the building. Chalk it up to experience, and don’t make that mistake again. I wish her well.
    I have seen it work, once. Nobody sainted, or special. Just a man who found a married woman who was ready, and planning, to kick her husband out of the house, for good. Should anything have started before she was divorced? No. It was a surprise to both of them that it did. Wrong, a surprise, and somehow, it did work.
    Rusty and I were married five months after my divorce was final. It’s been 18 years. I’ve never been unfaithful to him, or vice versa. I was never unfaithful to anyone before, either, nor was he. We are nobody special…as I said. Go figure. Maybe the stars were right. Maybe because it was at the already determined end of my marriage. Maybe because we had been friends…no benefits…for nine years before. I don’t know. 

  16. avatar htimsr40 says:

    ” I have a friend (honest, it’s not me) who had a years-long affair with a married man. ”

    “Or maybe the guy was just a jerk. ”

    Yes, let’s feel sorry for the saint of a woman who carried on an illicit affair with a married man because (gasp!!!) it turns out he viewed her as an affair and not a wife-in-waiting.  Let’s be serious, people, if you have an affair with a married individual then they know one thing for sure about you … you don’t respect the bonds of matrimony … so WHY should they view YOU as marriage material?  They had an affair.  She had unrealistic expectations for the affair.  The affair ended.   Get over it.

    • avatar GabbyM says:

      Exactly this! I had a friend in a similar situation, except he was a single guy “dating” a married woman for over 2 years. When she finally divorced her husband, my friend thought they were finally going to be a couple, but she broke up with him shortly after. When I spoke to her she explained that while my friend was a fine affair he was not relationship material, nor did she want him to be. She eventually moved away, got remarried and had yet another affair.

  17. avatar htimsr40 says:

    Relationships typically falter due to compatibility in one of four areas:


    If LW#1 and her BF are not compatible financially, it is not a hopeful sign.  She is right to be concerned and justified in wondering whether this will be an area of major conflict if they stay together.  The BF doesn’t sound ready to handle his own finances … my big concern is not the $100K in student loans but the $50K of additional debt which is WAY TOO MUCH given his situation and probably indicates more financial trouble ahead.  

  18. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1: Nearly a half century ago (gawd!) I dated an intellectual fast tracker (MIT, with big grad school/career plans). After a couple of summers, he dumped me, mostly because his parents thought I wasn’t in his intellectual league. I eventually met my true love within my career path, which turned out to be more exciting and global than I’d ever dreamed. Life continued, although my love died. Five years ago, Mr. Intellectual looked me up via Internet. As planned, he’d gotten the masters and doctorate, but his career in the real world never had materialized on a golden platter for him as he had envisioned. Instead, he stretched post-doctoral study out over years, amassing huge student loan debt, while stalling repayment. To this day, his snowballing debt can’t be discharged through bankruptcy. Now he’s pushing 70, lives in SSI, food stamps, and other aid programs for heating bills, etc. He’s a walking encyclopedia on government giveaway programs, and is forever working the angles. Apparently I was one of his newest angles when he contacted me. He seemingly convinced that any day now U.S. bankruptcy rules will change and he’ll be able to dump the debt. When we briefly reconnected, he whined endlessly about life having done him wrong. As an aside, I suspect he’s a borderline schizo. I am comfortable enough financially though years of saving, investing, and always, always, always living within my means, but (forgetting the rest) there’s no way I could take him on (or in) given his financial issues alone. Some people can be too smart for their own good.  

    Here’s my take: Your guy’s poor financial choices in the name of education are definitely a potential deal breaker. But at least he leveled with you. If he has low-interest student loans, there’s hope. But if he got saddled with exorbitant loans from some shyster vo-tech school, he’ll likely never dig himself out without major intervention. As a couple, get your guy’s financial burden under control with extreme budgeting right away, or prepare to go your separate ways.  

  19. avatar Sita says:

    I know this guy who cheated on his wife with a very predatory woman. He caught hepatitis B from her, luckily the wife didn’t get it. Then he felt guilty and left his wife so he can “pursue” a relationship with this predator of a woman. After a while the woman dumped him because she felt smoothered (she’s only interested in being his mistress) and he came crawling back to his almost ex-wife and she took him back. I started to get to know the wife at this point and love her to pieces. See when I was introduce to this guy he was with his mistress and I thought they were a couple. So everybody keeps his secret (I don’t think his wife ever found out) but I swear to myself if this ever happened again I will go straight to her and tell her everything. So far he is in his best behavior, they are planning to adopt etc. etc. Oh, and here is the kicker. After breaking off with this guy the woman started in on my husband. He and this guy used to be good friends and she would talk to him about her “relationship” challenges. So hubby thought she really needed him and felt flattered. But I knew she was trouble and shed the light on my husband. So the point is an affair requires two people, who don’t have any respect for the institution of marriage and if one of them feels he/she has been burned it’s just the nature of the game.

    LW#1 : When my husband and I started married life, we were without debts. We had a big savings account and good jobs. Now, in this economy, our jobs are dwindling down, our saving is almost gone and we are living on a very tight budget. Even with a good start like ours things can still go wrong. We are able to still make our mortgage payments, but forget about home improvements, dining out and vacations. Even our only child is now accustom to not ask for anything except the basic needs. So how do you think you can start way down there and hope to be way up there in the future with your boy friend’s attitude toward money?

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      Oh, barf. That whole “predatory woman” nonsense is what wives tell themselves when they don’t want to admit that they married a cheating creep. What did this evil chick do? Grab him from work, shove him in a van and turn him into a sex slave against his will?

      Bull. He CHOSE to look for someone to cheat with. He CHOSE to sleep with her. He CHOSE to lie to his wife about it. He CHOSE to act like a cheater, and he may very well do it again. He might already have another cookie on the string right now.

      No woman can “force” an otherwise good guy to cheat. He has to choose to sleep around, and apparently your friend’s husband did exactly that. Why would you give him a free pass? He’s the one bringing potentially fatal diseases home.  

      • avatar Sita says:

        Ha..ha..ha.. Messy One. No she didn’t grab him and force him to cheat. But at the time she was looking around too. And NO I didn’t give him a free pass. Like I said it takes two to have an affair. And believe me that I know a thing or two about this woman that I don’t care to repeat here. The point is even though I’m a woman I can’t always vouch for my sexes’ innocence when it comes to sex and relationships.

        • avatar Messy ONE says:

          *Whew*, now that’s a relief. I see far to many women who will spend the rest of their lives blaming the “other woman” for their cheating spouse and I’ve gotta say, that’s just a crock. People make choices, and these men are adults, after all. 

          My father was a champion cheater, btw. One of his cookies actually showed up at the funeral with a 9-year-old child demanding back child support. I had her removed and my mother never saw her (a good thing, Mom would have laughed in her face). She looked a little peeved when I told her that Dear Old Dad had contracted mumps as an adult, thirty years previously, and was sterile. Funny, I even offered to dig him up and take a DNA test, but she passed on that.

          Whenever my dad’s latest “girlfriend” confronted my mother demanding that she “let him go”, Mom’s answer was, “Please, take him if you want him! I’ve been waiting for him to take off for YEARS!” 

  20. avatar animelily says:

    The thing that bothers me about the debt is not so much the fact that he has it or even how large it is. (My MD friend has 6 figures of student loan debt too.) The issue that bothers me is his age and how much time he could have used to chip away at it. It shows a real lack of fiscal responsibility.
    You won’t be liable for his student loans if you get married, but any debt he takes on afterwards you will be responsible for. If he is already irresponsible, then expect to be saddled down with consumer debt unless he gets his act together.
    That’s not to say, don’t give him a chance. Some people just haven’t learned how to deal with money. I was one of them. My hubby (boyfriend at the time) told me it was a deal breaker for him. So I read a bunch of Suze Orman books and have a subscription to Kiplingers and now I’m giving advice to my sister about investing.
    Give him a chance, and if he shapes up, keep him. If he doesn’t, it’s a good time to say goodbye.

  21. avatar sueb1997 says:

    LW1:  I second what others have said, that the debt itself does not need to be an automatic dealbreaker, but it is essential that a couple’s attitude and approach to money match.  So LW1 ought to think carefully about how her BF has displayed his financial style in the acquiring and “management” (or lack thereof) of his debt.  If he’s got the same approach as she does, then it might be possible to manage the debt in a way that feels acceptable to them both.  But that doesn’t sound overly probable, given how she described her own debt and how hard she has worked to be financially responsible (highlighting her lack of the same words when describing his approach to his situation) .  Discuss openly and think very carefully about this — as others have pointed out, finances are one of the primary realms of disagreement in relationships.

  22. avatar juliem says:

    Way off for LW#1. Best advice: slow down, take a deep breath, and think about this rationally. The heart should NEVER trump the head. This woman has doubts for a reason: six-figure debts do not go away overnight, and at the very least, she should be considering a pre-nup with her boyfriend (although I am not sure even that would be enough). Also, she mentioned only about two thirds of it is student loan debt – meaning this man has about $50K in personal debt as well. No matter what Congress and the Supreme Court decide about easing student loans, it doesn’t address her whole situation. Finally, this woman needs to understand that her boyfriend got himself into this mess because of who he is. Leopards do not change their spots, and people do not often change their financial habits. The boyfriend appears to have a less firm grasp on good financial sense than she does, and she needs to decide if she wants to shoulder the burden of managing the finances. I manage the finances for my husband and myself, soup to nuts, and it is a lot of extra work and we have to be very careful not to step on the other’s toes: my husband has to understand that he needs to work with me on his purchases, and I have to make a huge effort not to nag him to death in the process. It will be like that for the rest of our lives, and she needs to decide if she’s willing to do that.

  23. avatar lebucher says:

    LW#1, rather than marry him now, discuss with him his firm plan to pay down that debt.  If one job isn’t enough then he needs to get a better paying job or a second job, cut his living expenses, and suck it up for some years to pay it down.  It can be done but it will require sacrifice on his part.

    Most likely he is just bad with money and that is unlikely to change.  But advise him he can either do something about it, or that will be a deal breaker that ends your relationsihp.  Let him choose.  DO NOT listen to empty promises – he has to make behavioral changes and stick to them.  

    I find it most disturbing that he amassed all this $100K debt pursuing a line of education that did not lead to a job that pays well enough for him to pay those loans off.  WHERE was his advance planning?  I took all those details into account when I took on student loans for a computer science degree.  And $50K of consumer debt is just insane… if that was amassed after the college years then it truly shows his lack of self control and would be the death knell in your relationship as he continues to spend more than he makes.

    I was married to someone like that – and I am financially conservative – and those money issues were a large part of the conflicts we had in the marriage.  There were other problems as well but the money part was highly stressful for me, as he ran up huge debt and stayed in denial of it, and lied repeatedly to me about financial details.  Oh, and left me holding the bag financially more than once.

    DO NOT marry this man as the situation current exists.  You WILL be sorry. 

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      There has been a significant shift in the job market in the past ten years.  When I entered college, being a lawyer was still a professional path that would allow for a comfortable lifestyle even with large student loans.  Over the past 5 years, a significant number of 3Ls are finding that the jobs just are not there anymore.  Two things happened in the legal field.  Firms began to cut jobs rather than create jobs and law school attendance expanded.  I was lucky that this happened about 5 years after I entered the job market.  It does not help that law schools fudge their figures regarding jobs either.  You cannot just look at the outcome and assume that he did not plan well.  More facts are needed.
      She needs much more information from this guy than just what she presented in the letter.

  24. avatar Erin says:

    LW1: I registered especially to address your situation. I couldn’t disagree with Margo more! You are obviously a responsible, mature, fiscally intelligent woman. That has earned you spotless credit, which is more than worth its weight in gold in the event of an emergency. Your boyfriend, however wonderful he may be, has demonstrated a complete inability or desire to manage money. Getting $150K in debt takes some doing, even these days. You will not be able to change him, but he could very well jeopardize your financial security. Finances are right at the top of the list of the things most married people fight about. Even if you take over the family finances, he will drive you crazy by continuously buying things without telling you, “forgetting” to mention ATM withdrawals, acquiring more credit cards (yes, he can probably still get them), etc. You can’t control someone like this, and you shouldn’t have to.

    If you just can’t imagine life without him, insist that he put his financial affairs in order before you marry him or in any way entangle yourself in his problems. He probably needs to declare bankruptcy, but before doing so, he should check with Consumer Credit Counseling Service in your state. If there is a way to fix things without bankruptcy, they will help him find it. If he refuses to take any action, then he doesn’t love you as much as he loves his “financial freedom,” which is really a prison.

    Finally, I speak from experience, experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Money may not be everything, but debt can be, and not even love can make things right. Good luck. 

  25. avatar bochon says:

    LW#1 should maintain the relationship if she loves the man. However, marriage is a legal and financial partnership that should not be entered into lightly. If she wants to marry him, they need to engage in counseling; perhaps financial counseling for him. There are already existing plans for those with federal students loans to pay a small, income-based amount per month. After working for ten years full time in a non-profit setting and making 10 years’ on-time payments, the man can apply to have his remaining student loans forgiven; a good option if he is an educator or social worker or hasa job where the salary does not repay the amount of education needed. He should be VERY cautious about bankruptcy. It will not make the student loans go away and will only add to them with legal fees and interest if they are payed through chapter 13.

  26. avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

    I think LW1 needs to have a more in-depth conversation with her boyfriend regarding his finances before she makes any decision.  Are his problems the result of poor planning, excessive spending, circumstances beyond his control or some combination of factors?  That could give her a good idea as to how her marriage with this man would be.  If he likes to spend, she should not marry him until he shows some restraint and improves his situation.  Otherwise, she will likely be dragged down with him.  If his circumstances are due to circumstances beyond his control, then she still needs to develop a plan with him, but it may not be a situation that will persist or repeat itself.
    Anyway that she looks at it, it will not be easy.  However, she needs to realize that everyone’s situation is different.  His situation MAY not be due to financial irresponsibility.

  27. avatar Anais P says:

    I usually agree with Margo 100 percent, but not on the advice to LW1. Money is the subject that most stresses marriages can lead to divorce, so the LW is NOT awful and in my mind is quite right to be concerned about her boyfriend’s nearly six-figure debt. If she marries him with that debt, she could very well be responsible for half of it if the marriage does not work out. This is not merely two recent grads with starter jobs starting out modestly. I mean, this is debt of nearly $100,000! Here’s my two cents’ worth of advice: the LW should go with her boyfriend to a debt counselor so they can both learn strategies for reducing his debt. He may be frittering money away on lunches or dinners out, an apartment that is too large and expensive, or hobbies and gym memberships that also require a financial outlay. Then the LW should give her boyfriend 12 to 18 months to reduce that debt and possibly even help him to pay his bills and end any expensive activities. If he makes no headway, I would say the relationship is doomed because he is making no effort and the LW should seriously consider leaving him. If he at least makes some progress, then she might consider marriage after another period of time in which the debt should be further reduced and the wedding should be financially modest.
    On LW2 — Margo is as usual 100 percent right! 

  28. avatar sandra b says:

    When are people going to take responsibility for purchasing debt? Why is the lender always at fault & predatory? They are selling pipe dreams and the interest rates reflect the write offs. Subprime mortgage, student loans, 25% credit card interest, paycheck advance companies… people buy debt toturn it into what they want and when it turns out they can’t afford it, the lender is at fault. Grow up, read the fine print, do the math, and see what it will really cost. Buy the education, house, car, wedding, whatever, you can afford. Build on it of course, but it’s just plain stupid to think you can invest $150K in anything and get payback in a couple of years.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Thank you, sandra b. We backed out of the first house we chose, and had put earnest money down on, the very same night when we reassessed our finances. One small slip would have left us in dire straights because of the size of the payment…even with an excellent mortgage rate. The seller fully understood, and we got our earnest money back. Three months later, we found the house we currently own…at less than two-thirds the monthly payment and an even better interest rate. We read every single piece of paper we were given…whether to sign or not…and asked every question that popped into our heads both before and at the closing. We’ve refinanced twice…for better rates.
      The first house was beautiful…”perfect”, if you will. We might well have lost it. We have been diligent about cars as well…no $60,000 luxury vehicles or mammoth, gas-guzzling SUV for us. We got into trouble with credit cards once and learned our lesson…never again…and have completely recovered. We live modestly.
      It’s something anyone can do…it’s a question of will.

  29. avatar D L says:

    Re: LW#1. I have a good friend who was/is a frugal person. When she was single, she was a saver. She clipped coupons, shopped at sales only or thrift stores, always paid any credit card purchases on time, she would even berate herself if she bought a new pair of jeans. She married a man who is an impulse buyer and is very lackadaisical about finances; more of a buy it now, pay later type (although he rarely pays later). Well, after 10 years and 2 kids, they are in a huge amount of debt. He works, she’s a stay-at-home mom. They bought a house 8 years ago that needed major work done (new roof, foundation problems, new electric) that never seems to get done. Money that was borrowed from her parents for their wedding is still not paid off (after 10 years!). They took out a 2nd mortgage on the house to pay off bills yet are still piling up debt. Any money that does come their way, he spends… on himself (new motorcycle, new clothes). My friend gets so upset by this but accepts it (I should say, given up). Her credit is in the toilet and she knows it.

    The LW doesn’t mention what the BF is doing about his debt. Is he paying any of it off? What are his current spending habits? Does he have a timeline for when he thinks he may be able to pay off a portion of his debt? The point is, do NOT marry this man the way things are. And, if he has zero plans for paying off his debt at all, do NOT marry him period. With a wedding, house buying and possible kids, your situation will only get worse.

  30. avatar mabel says:

    #LW2, the dynamic is that your friend fell for the old “I really want to be with you but too bad that my mean, nasty wife is in the way so I can’t” line. He’s an adult and it’s a free country. If the guy reeeeaaaallllllyyy wanted to be with your friend to begin with he’d have gotten a divorce. It boggles my mind how badly “other women” want to believe that their man really wants nothing more than to be with them but is so helpless that he can’t figure out a way to get out of his marriage.

  31. avatar Debt Free says:

    LW #1.  If you really love this guy and he loves you, then give him a chance.  I was in his situation back in 1995, although my total debt was closer to $20,000.  That seems paltry compared to his but I was scared and didn’t know where to begin as far as tackling my debt after college.  Some people just aren’t born with those instincts.  But what you need to know about him BEFORE you enter into a legal entanglement with him is whether he is willing to learn.  I knew nothing about budgeting, debt, investing, etc. before meeting my husband.  Those things weren’t discussed in my house growing up.  Approach your BF concerning his debt.  He may be relieved to have somebody help him navigate through his financial mess.  I certainly was and learned so much as a result – not to mention that I am now passing along everything I learned to my children.  It will be a good test of your relationship and will either bring you closer or break you up.  If he wants a future with you as much as you want one with him, he will make the sacrifices necessary to eradicate his debt so you can have a good future with him.  Will he pack lunches for work instead of blowing his money on eating out?  Will he drive a cheaper used car instead of a new one?  Will he get another job to supplement his income?  Will he consider paying as much as he can towards the loans with the highest interest rate instead of the lowest minimum payment?  If he cannot do these things for the next six months then you should leave him.  If he is willing to do these things then sit down with him monthly and show him how much progress he is making.  Print it out in black and white so he can see it and be inspired to pay it off even faster.  There is hope for him and your relationship if he is willing to listen to you, learn, and make the sacrifices necessary while he is young and physically able.  But he needs to begin these changes NOW and if he won’t then you need to move on immediately.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      She never mentions “love”. Not once, in any context. I think she is embarrassed because she was doing what so many women accuse men of doing…dating someone for the sex and fun of it. Now HE’S getting serious…and she wants out.
      Just my take…but I get it from her words and the tone of the letter. Not “I feel bad”, but “O, my gawd, it finally dawned on me and I’m totally embarrassed”.

  32. avatar Frau Quink says:

    Ltr. 1: Why should you feel embarrassed about your being capable and able to make sound financial decisions?
               Instead, give yourself a pat on the back. Before moving in with BF, I would get a clear understanding about  his financial goals. 
               Financial counseling for BF should be mandatory. Debt of 160 grand? Did he drive a Mercedes to school?
               You will be in for a life of stress and woes with this man.

  33. avatar Stampy says:

    LW2- When I was 19, I ended up “dating” a man whom I didn’t know was married – by the way he behaved, the fact he spent more time around me than at home, didn’t really give me a clue. In retrospective, there were several facts that should have given him away -but naive and “in love” as I was, I didn’t really want to see it.
    Point is, now that I look back, I realise I fell for it because my self-esteem was on the ground, and I was surrounded by people who were just like him -who didn’t really think twice about cheating, and didn’t feel sorry about it. The way this man behaved towards your friend actually does make every bit of sense -he didn’t love her, he didn’t want a relationship with her, but he thrived on the hidden nature of the affair. And there’s also the fact that having two women (or more, who knows) around for him is simply an ego stroke. Once those aspects are gone, so is the interest… and it’s a harsh thing to face. Perhaps what your friend needs is to think about whether or not she would have liked to be with a man who, in the past, had had no trouble cheating on his wife with her. As much as it hurts now, these affairs rarely end up well… hopefully, with time, she’ll realise that too.

  34. avatar lexi reads says:

    $100,000 in student loans is scary, but what is the other $50,000 in loans about?  I wouldn’t say it is a deal breaker, but don’t co-sign any loans with him and keep your accounts and credit cards separate. I wouldn’t marry him until he gets some financial sense.

  35. avatar OldColoradoGuy says:

    LW1:  Run for the nearest exit!!!  It’s not just the debt, which will hang over you like a black cloud forever if you choose to marry this guy – – it’s what the debt implies about the guy’s character.  Anyone who would run up these kinds of debts, then settle into a career by his mid-30s that did not allow any debt amortization has some character flaws.  He lacks one or more of the following: intelligence, foresight, responsibility, accountability, ambition.  This debt will crush him, and you along with him, if you choose to marry.  It will preclude attaining the life you envision.  BTW, I’m sick and tired of the overt or implicit suggestion that people who run up student loans are the victims of some evil plot, and should be rescued by a government bailout. 

  36. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1:  I have a couple of questions here.  First, you say that he’s $150,000 in debt and $100,000 of it is from student loans.  What is the other $50,000 of debt?  Also, is he in default on his loans?  These are questions that you need to get answers to before you continue with this relationship.  If his credit is trashed, your credit will get lowered simply by marrying him.  In addition to taking Margo’s advice about taking over the finances I would also suggest that you both go to a credit counselor about this debt so both of you are aware of exactly what needs to be done to pay down this debt.  That will give you both a realistic idea of your future together.   
    I will say this though.  When I graduated I was almost $60,000 in debt.  My husband, who I was dating at the time I graduated, helped me pay down that debt.  We moved in together and he took over the majority of the bills.  With his help at home, I got a second job and paid everything I made at that job extra towards my student loans.  5 years later I have paid off almost $36,000 of my debt, we both have an almost perfect credit score, and we just bought our first house.  If it wasn’t for him, I would’ve been tempted to just pay off the minimum amount per month and spent the rest of my life in debt.  If all goes well, within 4 years we should be student loan free!  Keep that in mind. 
    It won’t be easy and it’ll take awhile but ask yourself if he’s worth putting off all of your wants for 5 to 10 years.

  37. avatar GG1000 says:

    Student Loans: I’m afraid I do NOT agree with Margo on this one. This man is in his ’30s and he still doesn’t have his financial act together? If he doesn’t make enough to pay off his student loans, then he needs to fix that. He may need to get a second job to bring in enough money. But you are absolutely right that $150k in debt is a disastrous way to start a marriage. He needs to downsize his lifestyle and up his income by whatever means are available to him and begin paying off those loans!