Should You Help Your Significant Other Pay Off Student Loans?

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Money is often a major source of strife between couples. The burden of student loan debt in a relationship certainly doesn’t help long-term partners build wealth together. Perhaps you’ve even considered helping your partner pay off student loan debt so you can enjoy a debt-free future together.

There is some disagreement about whether it’s smart for significant others to help each other pay back their student loans. It’s not uncommon for couples to want to combine finances with their partners, which might mean helping them pay off their debt once and for all. Others believe in keeping finances separate — if their partner got into debt, it’s his or her own responsibility to get out.

Why You Should Help Your Significant Other Pay Back Student Loans

As someone with $33,000 in student loan debt, I know how burdensome the numbers can feel. My husband does too, since he has more than $300,000 in student loan debt, much of it from medical school.

Even though he owes nearly 10 times more than I do, I still feel it is our debt to tackle together. We plan on helping each other pay it off in full. After all, we decided together that he would go to medical school. I know that if we also work together to pay it off, we’ll be debt-free that much quicker.

In fact, helping your significant other pay off his or her student loans has both financial and emotional benefits:

1. You Achieve Your Goals Faster

When one or both partners in a couple have debt, it holds them back from accomplishing what they really want to do together in life. Whether it’s going on a family vacation or saving for retirement, working together to overcome debt can help you achieve your goals as a couple faster, especially if one person earns significantly more income.

It can be a complete win-win: both partners are able to do what they enjoy, reach mutual financial goals quickly, and move on to new stages in the relationship, such as buying a house or having children.

2. You Can Strengthen Your Relationship

When two people enter a long-term relationship, the expectation is that they will work together toward reaching common goals. Yet money troubles are a chief cause of tension for many couples and often go unaddressed. Sitting down to have the difficult conversation about how you will pay off debt together can bring money-related issues to the surface and urge you to work together.

It’s also empowering to reach difficult goals together. By paying attention to spending, putting extra income toward loan payoff, and concentrating on maintaining a budget, a couple can generate the spirit of cooperation and learn what two people can accomplish together.

When Helping Your Partner Pay Off Student Loans Is a Bad Idea

Of course, every relationship is different and not all couples will find that helping each other pay off student loan debt is the best choice. There are a couple of instances when you’re better off letting your significant other tackle student loan debt solo:

1. You Maintain Separate Finances

According to a survey by TD Bank , 42% of couples who have joint bank accounts also maintain separate, individual accounts. The biggest reason for doing so? Couples wanted independence and the ability to make autonomous personal spending decisions.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping separate finances in a relationship. Some people feel restricted when they have to maintain a shared budget with a significant other, or as thought they can’t spend their own money as they please. It’s relatively common for couples to have separate accounts in addition to a joint account for shared expenses, such as mortgage payments and groceries.

If you’re part of a couple that likes to keep things separate, student loan debt should be no different. If you don’t expect your significant other to help pay your credit card bills or everyday expenses, you shouldn’t ask for help paying down student loan debt, either (and neither should they).

2. Your Partner Manages Money Poorly

A history of money problems is good reason to let your significant other handle student loan debt without your help. Poor financial decisions or a lack of money management skills won’t improve if you’re there to bail your partner out.

Instead, act as his or her biggest supporter and only give advice when asked. When it comes to reaching goals — especially money-related ones — it’s sometimes best to let a poor money manager learn the hard way and hone some personal finance skills in the process.

There are plenty of good reasons to help your significant other with pay off student loan debt, as well as to stay out of it. Your decision should be based on how well your partner manages money, what you’ve agreed to as a couple, and how significantly that student loan debt is impacting your lives.

Remember, the goal of any long-term relationship is to live a happy, prosperous, and pleasant life together. So decide what will best contribute to reaching that goal, whether it’s by helping with debt repayment or by allowing your partner to handle it independently.

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