With almost 45 million Americans currently holding student loans, chances are at some point in your dating life, student debt — either your own or your partner’s — will become a puzzle piece that you’ll have to consider. Dating someone in debt can have consequences on how you spend time together and shape the decisions you make as the relationship progresses.
Finances can affect everything from what kind of an apartment you can qualify for together, how you travel together, or even just where you’ll eat on Friday night. Let’s look at the following topics and how best to deal with this sometimes sensitive topic:
- Dating someone in debt: How to approach student loans in your relationship
- How to deal with a partner in debt
- Dating if you’re the one with student loan debt
Whether you’re dating someone with a lot of debt or dating someone with financial problems that seem relatively minor, one thing is certain: Finances are a major component when it comes to measuring your compatibility long-term.
Not even the bedroom is safe from the impact of student loans — survey results show 32% of student loan borrowers report having a decreased sex drive. Here’s what to know about how to approach the subject of debt in your dating relationships.
Here’s how you can begin to face the topic of dating and finances directly so you can work toward relationship health in this area:
1. Talk candidly about your finances
2. Assess your partner’s attitude about their student loan debt
3. Keep an open mind, but recognize your boundaries
4. Consider how student loan debt will impact your future together
Financial transparency and honesty in a relationship is crucial when it comes to building a serious partnership that both members can equally engage in. “It should be part of the conversation because it is part of life. Debt is normal, it happens,” says Leslie Tayne, founder of Tayne Law Group, a debt solutions firm headquartered in New York City. “Just as it is important to talk about if you’re having children, want to live in the city or suburbs, how you feel about travel, the financial piece is a huge part of your relationship.”
But knowing how to find out if someone is in debt in a tactful way that doesn’t damage the relationship can sometimes be a struggle. “I’ve only been remarried for two years, so these topics came up often when I was dating,” says Tayne. If you’re wondering how to check someone’s financial status, here are some ideas that Tayne has used both personally and professional in her work with clients:
- Begin the conversation with your goals: “One way is to talk about where you’re at,” says Tayne, adding that you might start the conversation by saying something such as ‘‘I rent my apartment, these are my goals, this is what I’m looking to do.” This could be an easier way into the conversation instead of opening aggressively. “It’s really important to be non confrontational about it and find the right environment to talk about [finances]. It’s really more important to talk and ask questions,” says Tayne.
- Dig into potential patterns: It’s important to understand how your partner got into debt and whether it was strategic debt, such as taking on a mortgage or student loans or unorganized debt, such as consumer spending on credit card bills. “I once dated someone who had 75 pairs of jeans,” said Tayne. “To me, that is a little bit of a red flag.” But Tayne also cautioned against jumping to conclusions. “Do you have the same pair [of jeans] you had in your 20’s and you never got rid of anything?” While that might signify it’s time for a closet overhaul, it doesn’t necessarily point to out of control spending. Asking the right questions and getting honest about spending habits is the best way to the bottom of these potential red flags.
- Be respectful: Different opinions on personal finance can cause emotions to flare, which could be one reason student loans factor into the divorce rate, but Tayne cautions couples to take the conversation slow and make sure it’s healthy for both individuals. If discomfort arises she suggests asking something along the lines of, ‘‘I sense that you’re being super-hesitant, is this not a good time or is this not a topic you’re comfortable with?” If your partner is never comfortable talking about personal finance, this could be a deal breaker.
Not all debt is necessarily bad debt, and often the reason your partner got into debt may be informative. For example, did they plan carefully for an advanced degree or overspend student loans in college? Have they been responsible about paying off their loans on time? The reasons people get into debt are varied. If your boyfriend has financial problems, understanding what led to the problems and if he has a plan to get out of them could make the difference on whether or not you feel comfortable proceeding with the relationship. Here are some ways you can assess your partner’s attitude about their debt:
- Use a questionnaire: Magdalena Johndrow, a financial advisor at Johndrow Wealth Management, often has couples fill out the same questionnaire separately before coming together to review their answers. “When you understand why we have a relationship with money, you can be more empathetic to your partner,” says Johndrow. “If debt really scares you, and your partner told you they have student loans, you might have a visceral reaction because debt scares you.” Understanding your history with money and your partners, can help illuminate your respective attitudes about financials. If student loan debt is an overwhelming concept for one person in the relationship, a questionnaire could be a straightforward way to uncover that.
- Understand the purpose of the debt: “You have to think about, ‘What sort of debt do they have?’” says Johndrow. “Student loans in many ways are considered good debt because you invested in something that ideally will get you a more lucrative career. If you have credit card debt, that tends to be seen as less good debt.” She recommends asking why the debt was taken out. “I think the underlying reason for the debt is very important. Was it because of an emergency or one-time expense or is this a pattern that you wouldn’t be OK with?” Having a debt management plan in place can also help show the attitude your partner is taking toward dealing with their debt.
- Look for honesty: Even though you would hope your partner would be forthcoming about their financial situation, not everyone feels comfortable discussing particulars which could cause them to omit details or mischaracterize circumstances. “One guy I dated had trouble getting a car,” says Tayne. “I finally realized it’s because there’s a financial issue.” Tayne cautions that not everyone will feel comfortable detailing why they’re having trouble taking certain financial steps, which illuminates their attitude toward their debt and finances. “That person might not be willing to discuss why they’re having trouble getting a car. They might not be 100% honest with you.”
Knowing your partner’s attitude toward student loan debt can give you an idea about how they’re likely to behave with their finances later on. If their attitude shows a pattern of poor money management, it’s likely that this will continue even if you take on the role of managing the finances in a relationship. It could lead to problems sticking to a collective budget later on in the relationship.
Figuring out whether you are comfortable dating someone in debt, especially if you have different attitudes about it, is an important step in creating your own boundaries. While it helps to keep an open mind when it comes to financial situations, finances can also be a valid reason to end a relationship, especially if your partner seems irresponsible about their debt. Breaking up with a boyfriend because of money is a reality many people experience. Here’s how to develop boundaries that tell you whether it’s safe to proceed or if you need to figure out how to get out of a bad relationship financially.
- Respect your own life circumstances: Understanding what your goals are in life can help determine your financial boundaries in dating. “I’m a successful business woman, I wasn’t willing to take on a situation where someone needed significant help,” says Tayne. “That’s not where I wanted to be and not where I was in my life.”
- Assess how much help you’re willing to give: Not all partners with debt will want or need your help, but on the flip side are those partners who expect or demand it. “What level of help do you feel comfortable offering and where is the line in the sand?” says Tayne. If your partner has a significant amount of debt and there is an expectation that you will help with it, this could be a red flag. “Then you might want to take a step back and ask, ‘Why is there an expectation?’ Someone could take advantage of your willing nature to be helpful,” says Tayne.
- Understand the impact of debt on your life: Helping someone deal with their debt could significantly alter your lifestyle and you should be prepared for these changes if you decide to go down this road. If you get married, you could become legally responsible for your partner’s student loan debt. “Even though couples sometimes have separate money and everything is kept separate, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t impact the other,” says Tayne. “That means if you’re splitting things, one part of the couple might not be able to do what the other person can do.”
Developing financial values and boundaries can make your decision about staying in the relationship increasingly clear. If your partner pushes your financial boundaries, this could be a sign that it’s time to exit the relationship.
Your partner’s debt will impact your future, and someone else’s bad financial situation — whether it’s a low credit score or an overwhelming amount of debt — can hamper your own. What happens if you marry someone with bad credit? “The question becomes, what’s the impact on your life? Your family? Your finances? Are you going to be able to maintain a house, children, other expenses?,” says Tayne. “Those are things that have to be discussed.” Here’s what you should consider before heading toward marriage with someone who has significant debts:
- Will student loan repayment plans change? If your partner is on an income-driven repayment plan, filing joint taxes could affect their payments. If combining your finances is an important financial value for you, there could be some further necessary discussions about how you’ll navigate student loan repayment.
- Will your credit be impacted? Dating someone with bad credit and marrying that person are two different ball games. There could be certain purchases or expenses you’ll want to take on together after you’re married that might be difficult if one partner has bad credit. For example, if you want to put both names on a lease or mortgage, your partner’s bad credit could significantly impact what you qualify for. Also, joint credit card payments could pose a problem. “If your partner has a low credit score because they have been missing payments or not making them in time or racking up interest, if you take out a joint credit card and they miss a payment, your credit will be affected,” says Johndrow.
- Can you reach your financial goals? Your financial goals will change depending on what stage of life you’re in. If you have children nearing adulthood, for example, you might already be focusing on how to help them with student loans and adding your partner’s debt onto your plate could change the way you help your children. “If someone has debt, you have to decide ahead of time what you’re going to do with it,” says Tayne. This includes understanding what financial goals might be untenable for your partner’s risky financial situation begins to impact your own. If your partner has bad credit and you haven’t taken your financial goals into account, this is important to do before your big day.
Coming up with a plan to handle each of your student loan debt burdens is important. If you predict a future together, you’ll need to know how you’ll tackle debt and handle money together as a couple. Here are some strategies that could help.
- Talk about whether you’re willing to help financially. Many people wonder, “Should I help my girlfriend financially?” or “Can you pay off someone else’s debt?” While you might want to contribute something financially to your partner’s debt situation, if that contribution becomes an expectation that could be a red flag. Remember, there are ways you can support each other beyond a direct financial contribution.
- Motivate your partner to stay on track. “Something I equate money to is sticking to a diet,” says Johndrow. “They always say, if there is high caloric food in your home you’re more likely to eat it. They always say to get your partner involved in your diet. Similarly, talk to your partner about cooking at home more, sticking to a budget together, it’s much easier when your partner is on the same page with you.” Supporting your partner by finding low-cost activities to do together is one way to help keep them motivated instead of tempting them away from their budget.
- Look into refinancing. Refinancing your debt or your partner’s debt could help you repay your loans sooner. If you refinance your loans at a lower interest rate, you direct the money you’re saving toward paying the principal on your loans. If you go this route, be sure to factor in the cost of any prepayment fees on your old loan or origination fees on your new loan. Compare loans online to make sure you’re getting your best deal.
- Schedule a recurring meeting: When it comes to dealing with debt as a couple, it could help to set aside time regularly to work on it together. “Put them in your calendar and leave your home — go to a library or coffee shop, wherever you feel comfortable talking about it. Treat it like you would a meeting with a personal trainer or a client, a doctor,” says Johndrow. She recommends a cadence of no less than once a month.
- Seek professional help. When you’re looking at how to help someone in serious debt, it could help to use a third party’s knowledge and resources. Tayne says some clients are referred to her by their partners who don’t want to directly give money to their significant other but are willing to help them seek professional help. She also recommends couples therapy to proactively deal with financial issues. “I’m a huge fan of therapists. There’s no reason why you can’t go to a couples therapist when everything is great.
If you’re on the other side of the equation, the partner with student loan debt, it could be intimidating to be open about your finances in a dating relationship. However, you might find that your partner is empathetic and open to your circumstances, especially if you’re upfront and motivated to work through your debt. Here’s how you can approach the situation if you’re the one in debt:
- Be open and honest: Build trust with your partner by leading the debt conversation and revealing as much as you feel comfortable. If there are areas that don’t feel right to talk about just yet, let your partner know why and when they can expect additional information from you.
- Create a plan for your debt — and stick to it: Taking ownership of your debt can go a long way in assuring your partner that you’re also on track to reach your financial goals. Take responsibility for your finances and make it clear to your partner that you value their support but don’t expect them to contribute to your repayment process.
- Get outside help, if necessary: Don’t be afraid to reach out to a financial planner or therapist if there are elements of your debt that are emotionally overwhelming or that you don’t understand. A supportive partner should respect your efforts to better yourself in this way.
Dealing with personal finances while dating can feel awkward, but finances are an important part of your daily life. Finding a partner who is compatible to you when it comes to financial values can help alleviate friction later in the relationship.
Elyssa Kirkham contributed to this report.
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of September 6, 2022.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $9 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 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.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 09/09/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 4.13% APR – 7.39% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.99% APR – 9.93% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
4 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 3.99% – 8.74% APR (3.74% – 8.49% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.74% APR to 8.24% APR (2.49% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.
5 Important Disclosures for Navient.
6 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
Fixed rates range from 3.99% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 3.24% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.
7 Important Disclosures for Purefy.
Purefy Student Loan Refinancing Rate and Terms Disclosure: Annual Percentage Rates (APR) ranges and examples are based on information provided to Purefy by lenders participating in Purefy’s rate comparison platform. For student loan refinancing, the participating lenders offer fixed rates ranging from 2.73% – 7.99% APR, and variable rates ranging from 1.74% – 7.99% APR. The maximum variable rate is 25.00%. Your interest rate will be based on the lender’s requirements. In most cases, lenders determine the interest rates based on your credit score, degree type and other credit and financial criteria. Only borrowers with excellent credit and meeting other lender criteria will qualify for the lowest rate available. Rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice. Terms and conditions apply.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%-9.92% (3.69%-9.92% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49%-10.11% (4.49%-10.11% APR).
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 6.39%- 9.60% (6.39% – 9.60% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.58% – 9.79% (6.58% – 9.79% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).
Education Refinance Loan for Parents Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%- 9.09% (3.69%- 9.09% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.28% (4.49% – 9.28% APR).
Medical Residency Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).