Have you ever worried what your student loan debt might do to your future or current relationship? It’s not unusual for money to throw a wrench in a couple’s future plans, but just how big of a problem is it?
We wanted to find out, so we asked more than 1,000 borrowers about their experiences with student loan debt and relationships. Here’s what we learned.
Relationships and student loans: key findings from our survey
One of the biggest hurdles of serious relationships is trying to get two individuals on the same page on nearly every important topic under the sun. Inevitably, clashes happen.
But is student loan debt the barrier to relationships we seem to think it is? Maybe not.
Most couples work on student loan debt together
More than 43 percent of survey respondents said they fight about money with their partners at least “somewhat often.” Given the fact that debt is a large source of stress among individuals, it’s no surprise that it can lead to strain for couples.
Unfortunately, a money-avoidance pattern arises due to this stress:
- More than one-third (36 percent) of respondents admitted to having lied to a partner about money.
- What’s more, 24 percent have kept their student loans a secret from their partner.
- And 18 percent said it’s okay to lie to a partner about money.
On the positive side, being open and honest about student loan debt has helped some couples work together:
- Partners are jumping in, with 55 percent saying their partners helped out in making debt payments.
- They’re also working together on their finances, with 39 percent saying they pool their money into one main account.
- And still another 29 percent said they have both joint and separate accounts.
Couples report a decrease in their sex drive due to debt
But even working together on student loan debt can take a toll. After all, federal student loan repayment plans can last anywhere from 10 to 30 years. Even if you pay off your debt early, you could be in for a long haul.
The stress brought on by this kind of debt can take a toll on mental health. And one victim of that toll could be your libido. Approximately one-third of respondents claimed to have experienced a decrease in their sex drive due to student loan debt.
Student loan debt isn’t the biggest financial deal breaker
As in my case, many people carrying student debt fear that their loans could singlehandedly destroy their relationship. The results of this survey, however, show something quite different.
More than one-third of respondents said that when it comes to deciding whether to get serious with someone, how they handle their debt could be a deal breaker. Less than one-quarter said having a high amount of debt would be a deal breaker.
Perhaps even more encouraging, only 29 percent said the most appealing trait in a potential partner’s financial health is “zero student loan debt.” Compare that to the 72 percent who said the ability to budget properly was the most appealing financial trait.
As for other financial factors that student loan borrowers found appealing:
- Having a high credit score came in second place with 53 percent of the vote.
- Holding a retirement account came in third with 40 percent of the vote.
All of this points to a desire to see a strong financial foundation — and how having a plan for the future can be far more important to potential partners than not having debt today.
But student loans are, in fact, delaying major relationship milestones
It’s important to mention that, although student loan debt isn’t necessarily a ruiner of relationships, it can cause a delay in major life and relationship milestones.
One-quarter of respondents put off moving in with a partner because of student loan debt. Another 35 percent delayed “the marriage talk.” And 46 percent delayed starting a family.
How to overcome the challenges of student debt together
So what can you do with these findings? Know that, although student loan debt can strain you, your love life doesn’t have to suffer for it. Instead, show that you have a plan of action for the debt — that way your partner (or future partner) can feel encouraged that the situation is under control.
Here are a few tips from marriage and couples counselors to help.
Reframe the situation
To start, banish the emotions that can so often come with student loan debt, such as feeling burdened, frustrated, angry, scared, or ashamed. Know that having debt does not make you a failure — and delaying certain life milestones might not be so bad.
Erin Wiley, a licensed professional clinical counselor, explained how you and your partner can find the positive in your situation:
“Instead of bemoaning not being able to buy a home yet, or start trying for a baby, celebrate the freedom of not having to mow your lawn or fix your gutters, and of being able to go out with friends at a moment’s notice. … Enjoy the time you have without commitments like a house and kids, and embrace the freedom it gives you.”
Be open, honest, and vulnerable
If you haven’t told your partner about your debt, and the relationship is getting serious, now’s the time to put your cards on the table. Financial behaviorist Jacquette Timmons encourages leaning into the vulnerability of that first financial talk:
“The goal with these types of conversations shouldn’t be to avoid the fear and awkwardness that comes with it. That’s natural! It goes with the territory of being vulnerable — whether you’re the person initiating the conversation or not.”
But she also mentions why you should be confident about your ability to resolve the debt:
“Even if you feel bad about your debt, you don’t need to defend yourself. I think that is a mistake that too many people make when it comes to sharing information that doesn’t shine the most positive light on them, or about which they feel self-conscious.”
That said, if you’re still too worried about sharing the truth about your debt, understand the gravity of not doing so if you’re planning a life together. Shawna Young, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said that it’s critical for couples to have an open-door policy when it comes to finances:
“Financial infidelity can lead to mistrust and be as harmful as physical or emotional infidelity. Therefore, an honest and open policy is of the utmost importance in a relationship, especially a marital relationship.”
Seek help together if you’re feeling overwhelmed
Let’s say you had the talk, or have been having the talk over and over again, and you’re just not getting anywhere. It might be time to look for help.
One way to get help is to talk to a marriage or couples counselor. Wiley explained why doing so sooner rather than later is best:
“Most therapists agree: Couples usually show up in counseling about seven years too late for the state their marriage is in. If you’re struggling, don’t wait — get help now.”
Besides a marriage counselor, you can also seek out a qualified financial planner to work out a road map for your money. Once you have a direction and steps to follow, it’s a lot easier to turn frustration into empowerment and see real progress as you work together for your future.
Finally, know that being in it together is your best chance of success. Don’t hide in feelings of shame if you have debt, and don’t pass judgment if your partner has debt. Licensed clinical professional counselor Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin emphasized the strength in working as one unit:
“Couples who are committed to making it work can weather even the most challenging of financial times. It’s not always easy, but with the right tools and the desire to make it work, they can stop the stress of debt from torpedoing their marriage.”
Remember, this is just one of many hurdles you’ll have to overcome in your lives together. Learning how to do it with money matters will only strengthen your relationship. Work out a financial plan as a couple, speak honestly about your feelings, and seek help if you need it.
There can be a time when all this is a distant memory and you’ll be able to enjoy the real prize: a happy life together.
Student Loan Hero conducted this survey via Survey Monkey on Oct. 8, 2017, and collected responses from 1,011 student loan borrowers living in the United States, with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. The screening question was, “Do you have student loans?” for which the target answer was “yes.”
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 9 lenders of 2022!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|2.49% – 11.72%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.30%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|4.13% – 7.39%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.99%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.99%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.24% – 8.24%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.48% – 7.98%||Undergrad |
|1.74% – 7.99%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.69% – 9.92%8||Undergrad & Graduate|
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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. Fixed loans feature repayment terms of 5 to 20 years. For example, the monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 5.47% for a 12-year term would be $94.86. Variable loans feature repayment terms of 5 to 25 years. For example, the monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 5.90% for a 15-year term would be $83.85.
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).