My husband and I got married when we were young – 22 and 25, respectively – and we both came into our marriage with debt. We both grew up in households where our parents had joint checking accounts, so we followed suit and combined what little we had and that was that.
We worked together for several years to pay off credit card debt, and now we’re trying to pay off our student loans together. It never crossed my mind to not help him pay off his student loan debt. It also never crossed his mind to ask me to pay my own student loans off by myself.
That said, many people today get married later in life after they’ve worked for several years, started their own careers, and more. Many couples also like having their own individual bank accounts. According to TD Bank, “Thirty-eight percent of individuals in relationships who maintain separate accounts said they do so for independence.”
Although it’s important to talk about feelings of independence, it’s also important to talk about happiness in your relationships as well. According to a study by the University of Arkansas, “Newly married couples who bring debt into their marriage are less happy than couples who bring little or no debt into marriage.” Furthermore, according to the study, “couples with debt are less satisfied in their marriage.”
Getting rid of debt can be critical to the happiness of your marriage. So, now it’s time to decide just how you’re going to get rid of debt in your marriage. Should you help your new spouse pay off their debt or not? Below are some pros and cons.
Pros to Helping Your New Spouse Pay Off Their Debt
- When you work together with your new spouse to pay off debt, you have to practice a lot of teamwork. Keep in mind that teamwork doesn’t necessarily mean getting along every day. It does, however, mean having a common goal. Teamwork can strengthen a brand new marriage and teach you how to work together.
- There’s no doubt about it: When two people put their minds together, you can reach your goals faster. It’s no different than getting your spouse to help clean the house or rake the leaves. When you put two heads together, things get done faster. By helping your new spouse pay off their debt, you’re going to get to your debt-free date quicker.
Cons to Helping Your New Spouse Pay Off Their Debt
- Slow savings. If you help your new spouse pay down their debt, that means you’ll be allocating money to their debt and taking it away from somewhere else. This is money you could use to build your savings, to travel or to invest in retirement. Although you can reach your debt payoff goal faster by working together, you also put a lot of other financial goals on pause by taking this route.
- Loss of independence. For people who really want separate bank accounts, you might feel like you don’t have independent finances if you help your spouse pay off their debt. Instead of having autonomy over the money that you have, you might feel like their debt is dictating where money should go instead of you getting to make those decisions.
Ultimately, whether or not you help your new spouse pay off their debt is completely up to you. There are many ways to tackle debt and to work together with your spouse.
You could pay your joint bills while they pay off their debt. You can focus on saving and investing while she knocks out her own student loans. Or, you can join all your money together but also keep separate accounts for fun spending. Lastly, you could join your finances 100%, create a budget together and stick to it.
There are many different ways to manage money in a relationship. While my personal preference is to help my husband pay off his debt via a joint account, not every couple feels the same way.
However, what’s most important in the end is that you keep the lines of communication open, avoid hiding debt and update each other on your progress. After all, the goal is to enjoy your life together with a sense of financial independence. So, however you achieve it, the quicker you get there the better.
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