Is your student debt — or your date’s — a major turnoff? Having serious debt is among the biggest romantic deal breakers, according to a 2017 survey from SoFi, second only to being a workaholic.
If you have a lot of student debt or are concerned about your date’s student loans, it can be a tricky topic to navigate.
“Talking about anything money-related can feel awkward in a dating situation,” said Jessica Garbarino, founder and owner of Every Single Dollar, a personal finance site for single women. “Fortunately (in some ways), student loan debt is so common, especially among the millennial generation, that it shouldn’t feel weird to talk about it.”
To find out how to alleviate the awkwardness or alarm of dating with student debt, we explore when and how to raise the subject in a romantic relationship.
How much student debt is a deal breaker?
Most people you date will have some student debt of their own — and they’ll probably expect that you do too. After all, roughly 44 million Americans have outstanding student debt.
However, this debt can start interfering with your dating life or give potential partners pause as the balance creeps higher.
For recent college graduates, the average student loan debt is $39,400. If your debt is in this neighborhood or higher, you can expect it to raise some doubts with your date, said Shannon McLay, founder of the Financial Gym, a money coaching service.
Among her clients, McLay has seen both sides: those who say they would refuse to date someone with significant student debt and those who worry that their student loan balance will scare matches away.
“One of my clients who has over $250,000 in student loan debt told me that she felt ‘unlovable’ because of the size of her debt,” she said.
5 smart ways to discuss student debt when dating
While it can seem harsh to list student loans as a romantic deal breaker, there are some good reasons for it.
“If you marry someone with student loan debt, it becomes ‘our’ debt instead of ‘your’ debt,” McLay said. Even if only one person is legally responsible for it, “the monthly payments made to that debt represent less money that could go to building joint wealth and achieving joint goals,” she pointed out.
Some people might worry about how student loans could affect a relationship too. According to our survey on student loans and relationships, more than 43% of respondents reported that they fight with their partners about money at least “somewhat often.”
But if you have student debt, that doesn’t mean you should miss out on dating. “I don’t think that anyone should put their life on hold for student loan debt,” McLay said. Here’s how to discuss your loans while dating.
1. Be honest about your student loans
“You have to be honest about the student debt and reveal it at some point, especially if you are asked about it,” Garbarino said.
Failing to do so could be akin to cheating, McLay said. “Not disclosing significant debt to a significant other is a form of financial infidelity that you’re forcing the other person to accept,” she explained.
If you wait for the perfect moment to talk about debt, it might never come.
2. Bring up student debt early but naturally
One option is to be open and upfront about your debt with everyone you date. “I suggest people share their student loan debt right away,” McLay said. You don’t have to share your exact balance at first, but you can casually mention or joke about your student debt.
Or you might feel more comfortable waiting until you’ve established trust. “Like any sensitive topic, you need to gauge the level of the relationship before delving into student loan debt,” Garbarino said.
And there’s no need to make a big deal of the initial discussion. Simply watch for openings in conversations where it would be natural to mention your student debt. “There may be a conversation surrounding college, higher education, or even money habits where you can ease into the topic,” Garbarino said.
3. Gauge your partner’s attitude about student debt
“See how your dating partner reacts when you talk about the subject,” Garbarino suggested. “Body language can provide so much insight into how they may be feeling on the topic — it could be contrary to what they are saying verbally!”
A discussion about student debt should be ongoing too. That way, you can openly share concerns and compatibility issues caused by either person’s student debt.
“It’s better to gauge a person’s reaction to your debt before real feelings develop,” McLay said. “The person who doesn’t run from your debt early on is the person you’d want to stay in a long-term relationship with anyway.”
4. Take responsibility for your student loans
As McLay pointed out above, your debt is more likely to become a big issue if your partner is worried it’ll affect their finances too. So one of the best ways to prevent your debt from interfering with your dating life is to actively manage it.
If you can confidently and honestly tell your date that you have your student loans under control, it can go a long way toward addressing their concerns. That means researching your options, creating a plan to get out of debt, and sticking to it.
5. Decide how to handle debt as a couple
As a relationship advances, you might combine living situations or finances and start making money decisions together. That calls for a deeper conversation about student loans and money.
Discuss your attitudes about how to prioritize paying off debt with other financial goals. If only one of you has debt, talk about how it could be handled in the future. You might decide to pay down debt as a couple, for example.
While discussing debt isn’t the go-to icebreaker for a date, finding the right time and the courage to talk about your student loans can make all the difference. This honesty will help you and your date get on the same page — and weed out those who wouldn’t be a good fit.
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
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Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
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4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
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Citizens Bank Disclosures
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