Marrying Debt

When MF #5 got married to an Ivy League-educated gentleman who planned to learn in kollel, I overheard her mother complaining.

“When we did our research we didn’t know to ask about student loans! She’s just starting out, and already she’s $20,000 in debt!”

“It could be worse,” her conversant comforted her. “I know a dentist who married a doctor. $300,000, and they think they got off easy.”

“Well at least they have good jobs. My future son-in-law is learning, and long-term he wants to teach. They’ll be living in a basement the rest of their lives.”

That was the first time I thought about debt as a factor in marriage. I am debt-averse to an extreme. Not everyone sees things my way, though.

“Take out student loans,” Done4 urged me when I was in college. “They’re the cheapest loans you’ll ever get in your life.”

“You’re still paying interest and committing future earnings,” I pointed out. “Earnings you can’t guarantee that you’ll have.”

The idea that my careful financial life might be thrown over by someone who thought education was a stage in life to pass through, like puberty, with no bearing on his future, was scary. And it was unbelievable how many guys I dated said they were only in college because their mother said so, and they didn’t want to do whatever they were getting a degree in, and kollel sounded nice, actually, yeah.

Sure it does. So does being back in the womb. But do you belong there?

So I wasn’t rolling my eyes when credit scores showed up as something people want to know before you go (out together). It’s a great way to get an idea of your partner’s fiscal responsibility. Or at least open the discussion about it.

 

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23 thoughts on “Marrying Debt

  1. My (then future) wife was very open about her debts while we were dating. Like you, I am debt-averse, so I appreciated her honesty. I would definitely consider debt as a significant issue. Money is what tears most marriages apart, after all.

  2. WOMAN! Because of my backlog you post all my interesting articles before me. My post on the credit scores is going up on February 4th.

    I am TERRIFIED of debt. I am also scared of a man dragging along his debt monster and it eating my savings. That’s MY savings! MINE! Get your own! That’s going into a house, not your checking account!

  3. When I wrote the “Agree with this or we’re going to end up breaking up” letter to my BF, 1/4 of it covered my attitude towards $, debt and bank accounts. Sure, It was only 6 weeks in, but the earlier the better to get through that kind of stuff. This way you can find out whether you’re compatible BEFORE getting too attached

  4. O – I don’t think it’s an urban legend. Note how he seems to think that his wife will work fewer hours, he’ll learn forever, and her parents will make up the difference… apparently until they drop dead. You can’t make that up.

  5. O, the worst part of that story is that he takes NO responsibility at all for his part in all of this. Student debt pays off for some people. But, debt or not, I would be extremely worried about any guy who is in college (especially an expensive one or going for an advanced degree) just because his mother said so, and without planning to do anything related to what he is studying. I would stay very far away from such a guy, even if he were independently wealthy.

  6. I stumbled across this blog a few weeks ago and its fantastic.

    While debt is never a good thing, there is good debt (mortgage, student loans) and bad debt (credit cards). Good debt usually has a low interest rate and actually shows creditors that you are responsible, In fact if you pay off your debts on time your credit score goes up. Credit card debt is never good.

    I got married in my final year in graduate school. If I payed for my schooling up front then I would have had nothing to live on for the first year that we got married. As it is we dipped into our wedding money but it would have been a disaster if I didn’t have some savings.

    Thats why people take out student loans. Because the money that I have now in savings when I’m in school, I might need before I get financially stable. Because truth is if you have that money when you graduate you could pay for all your loans in one shot (especially if the loans are subsidized loans, then it really doesn’t cost anything).

    But if you are dating a guy who is in school for his mom and no plans to pursue a career and has thousands of dollars in debt then run far away from that financial nightmare.

    And O, that story is so insane I think it has to be made up.

  7. O – that story was full-on weird. He pretty much admits he married this girl for her imaginary money, and for all his learning managed to never see the bits about being obligated to support his wife. I hope it is not a true story, since in no way is a desire to learn full-time a justification for divorce.

  8. I think it’s more accurate to say they got divorced because the deception ruined the relationship, than because he had to leave yeshiva.

  9. Ben, it goes both ways. He wanted what he wanted, and he didn’t care what it took to get it. And, he wanted to be supported “in style” Most of the decisions that played into that stupid story happened AFTER they got married. He was a full participant in them. He just figured that whatever the ramifications of any of those decisions were, HE would get to do his thing. When that didn’t quite work out, that “destroyed his trust”.

  10. He was up front about what his expectations were, and she and her parents indicated that they were in sync.

    His trust was destroyed not because things “didn’t quite work out”, but because she hid the significant debt from him. Once she hid something big like that from him, how could he trust her to be honest and open in the future?

  11. Other people manage to pay off their debt – that was not the whole story by a long shot.

    By the way anyone who doesn’t recognize that having children can change things in a big way, even for someone who never thought it could happen to her, is an idiot. (Yes, before he got married, I can see is as just a bit naive. But afterwards?)

    Again, he found out about the debt fairly early on. Why did he go along with the other decisions that they made together? There are lots of “whys” about his behavior.

    Not that I am defending hiding significant information. Not at all! It’s just that in this particular story, that’s only a drop in the bucket of the problems. And the total failure of the storyteller to own his share of the story is not the least of the problems.

  12. Student loans should not be considered “good debt”.

    They may be necessary, but they are by no means good, not in the current legal climate.

    Student loans are completely undischargeable. They will garnish your Social Security to pay them if you haven’t paid them off (or are disabled).

    Unlike other debts, which can be discharged in bankruptcy, there is pretty much no way to get out from under a student loan.

    Many of the people who will advise you on how “student debt” is “good debt” took out their loans when school was considerably cheaper and before the law was changed.

  13. O- the story was horrifying. I don’t think they got divorced because of deception. I think they got divorced because of the stress of their lives. Also, they don’t seem to have been working on or even had a very emotionally close relationship to begin with. If you actually have a good reason for marrying someone– such as: this is a person who fits with my innermost thoughts, feelings, goals, and beliefs, as opposed to: this is what everyone does– then you are highly motivated to work on the relationship you have. This couple seems to be living a play-life, in which the are the actors in a play of what is expected of them. That’s how I feel most frum people in that area live life, anyhow. Cut off from their true self that was squashes so long ago in childhood they don’t know how to recall it and claim their personhood.

  14. If my wife sprung a student debt on me after we were engaged; I’d be out the door before you could say “pesach pasuach matzasi”.

    I’m always completely upfront about my debt. I casually mention in conversation sometime in the first few dates that I’m about a down payment on a house in the hole. (Takes way longer than that before I mention the salary I’m bringing in after graduation–I’m not digging for any gold-diggers.)

  15. Wow wow wow! That was the most ridiculous story I have ever read…EVER! First let me give you some background.
    My wife and I got married 5 years ago. I learnt in Kollel for the first four years of our marriage. We didn’t take a penny from either her parents nor mine (except one time where I took $100 from my parents because the kollel check came late). My wife worked hard, and I found as many side jobs as possible so that we could continue learning (yes i said we!). We were doing ok financially for the most part. Then as our family baruch hashem got bigger and i saw that it was getting a little overwhelming for her, I went out and GOT A JOB!!!(yes i was a top learner, yes my rosh yeshiva was upset, they always are, no i didn’t care ). I still learn almost the same amount of hours I learnt when i was in kollel, the only difference is now I get up earlier to do it and go to sleep a bit later. Why did I do this? a few reasons 1) I actually knew what my kesubah said 2) I think for a torah home to flourish, its more important for the family to be happy than for the husband to learn all day if its at the expense of his family 3) I am not a spoiled brat and didn’t have any expectations!
    That last point is where this story comes in. The protagonist is a spoiled brat who thinks life goes according to some preordained plan. If that plan somehow gets messed up then he must blame someone and in this case it was his eishet chayil of a wife. He is an immature baby which doesn’t realize that life changes, challenges come, and sometimes you’ve got to change your plans. He has absolutely no emunah or bitachon in hashem. All gaaveh, gaaveh gaaveh!
    I feel so so bad for his ex wife, i really really do, my heart breaks just thinking about it. A young woman which literally sacrificed the best years of her life for some loser who only thought about himself. As if the world owed him something, as if his parents in law owed him something. I’m getting more and more worked up as i write this, this isn’t torah, this isn’t yahadut, this is simply one of the saddest things i have ever read cause this guy is so self righteous about being the biggest jerk to ever walk this planet. I don’t envy him in the world of truth. I’m going to stop typing now cause now I’m just ranting.

  16. ben: maybe, or maybe i think that my actions were normal and anyone in my position would have done the same thing, as opposed to the guy in the story which is a jerk. on the other hand, if i came across looking like that, i apologize that wasn’t my intention, and especially since i am anonymous, i wouldn’t see the point of making a show of being morally superior to other people.

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