My Wife Has Student Loans?

Wife with Student Loan Debt

My Wife Has Student Loans?

“It looks like I actually have $29,093 in student loans I didn’t really know about…” my wife says way too early on a Saturday morning. I haven’t even had my first sip of coffee.

“What…..?” I must still be sleeping. “Did you just say….” She stops me before I say anything else. “Yes”. It hits me deep in my stomach – $30,000 more in student debt. I spent 5 years paying off my own debt and I knew that my new wife had some debt (maybe $5,000), but not this much.

“This has to be a mistake,” I said. She gave me the login to her account and I jumped on my computer. I was awake now and forgot about the coffee. It was true – my wife owes $20,093 in student loan debt – with interest rates between 4.75% and 6.8%. How could this have happened?

Student Loan Debt

Student Loan Debt

How did my new wife have $29,093 in student loan debt that I didn’t know about?

This was my mistake. It might even make the list of my top money mistakes. I knew that I was marrying into student loan debt, but I wrongly assumed I knew how much student loan debt my fiancé had. But the truth is we really only talked about it a few times in passing and I thought she owed approximately $6,000 in student loans – but $29,093 is a different story. That’s more than the down payment I made on my condo.

Why is it hard to talk with my wife about money?

I recently got married in August and up until that point my wife and I have largely kept our finances separate. While we have had conversations about money before they honestly are tough to have.

The two primary reasons we don’t talk about money are because of the large difference in income between us and my wife just wants me to handle it. She clearly knows how obsessed I am with investing and personal finance, so she trusts I’ll make a relatively good decision when it comes to money.

I have always paid the mortgage and managed all of our expenses, while my wife’s income she uses as her spending money for whatever she wants after contributing to her retirement accounts. It’s worked well for us so we don’t really talk about it. Was this why I didn’t know about her debt?

Student Loan Debt

Student Loan Debt

The mystery of the $29,093 in student loan debt

When I asked her where the student loans came from she said she had no idea. “Seriously???” How can you not know that you owe $29,093 on something? My wife is an incredibly honest person and has never lied to me or intentionally tricked me about money. In fact, some of the qualities that I love most about her are that she’s generous and not greedy about money (very important potential life partner traits!).

So why didn’t she know about the debt? It had to be fraud! I was convinced. Either some kid in Florida took out $29,093 in loans and blew it on Minecraft and Mountain Dew or it’s an organized crime network. I went all Forensic Files on it and started digging into what we did and didn’t know.

It didn’t take long. After a bit of digging we found out that my wife had actually co-signed on student loans with her family, which now were her responsibility! (Note to self: never co-sign anything ever!).

The student loans showed up in her account unexpectedly after more than 10 years. She’s never received a bill for them. She doesn’t even remember signing them. I don’t remember much from when I was 18 either, but still. I let the reality sink in – we went just inherited $29,093 in student loan debt.

Alright, deep breath. I know what’s up. I can crush these student loans like I crushed my own. Marrying into student loan debt doesn’t scare me.

Marrying Into Student Debt

Our strategy to pay off my wife’s student loans

1. Check the StudentLoans.gov website: On this website I can see if there are any other student loans associated with my wife’s social security number that we don’t know about. This is the easiest way to figure out if someone has fraudulent taken loans out in your name. Although, when I looked up my wife’s loans the information was there, but some of it was out of date. It’s definitely worth checking.

2. Request More Information: I am going to call Navient to get the background on all of the loans that have showed up in her account. I am going to request the background paperwork that they have on the loans (since we don’t have it). Ask for as much information as possible and copies of all original loan documents.

3. Refinance the loans: I am going to start shopping for refinance rates at SoFi (where student loan refinance rates start at 2.12%), a lot lower than my wife’s current average rate of 5.37%. While I have the cash to pay off her loans completely right now, the simple fact is that I didn’t plan for this unexpected $29,093 expense for the end of this year. I also have other plans for that cash that I am confident will generate a higher return over time than the percentage interest over time.

4. Schedule a regular money convo with my wife: This “new” student loan debt has been a big wake-up call for us. We are both committed to having more focused and productive discussions about money. Neither of us really want to have these conversations, but I am going to push for it even though my wife has no interest in managing our finances. I think it’s important for her to understand the saving and investment decisions I am making for our future.

So what’s next?

Stay tuned to see how I tackle my wife’s unexpected student loan debt over the coming months. And to see how our money conversations go.

Do you have any recommendations for me? What have you done when marrying into student loan debt? How do you have conversations with your partner about money?

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Grant @MillennialMoney
grant@millennialmoney.com

Grant is the Founder of Millennial Money and reached financial independence at the age of 30. Coined "The Millennial Millionaire" by CNBC, Grant is a successful entrepreneur, speaker, and consultant. He loves helping others reach financial independence and is addicted to Personal Capital.

12 Comments
  • Biglaw Investor
    Posted at 00:13h, 16 November Reply

    That’s pretty awful. I’m about to get married and I think we have a handle on her student loan debt (unfortunately, much higher than $29K but it’s not unexpected). Seems like you’re really going to want to dig down here and make sure the debt is legit. What happened to the primary borrower and why aren’t they paying off the loans?

    We meet monthly to “run the numbers” where I update her on net worth movement, spending, etc. Like your situation, she is generally fine with me managing everything, but it’s important that we’re on the same page which is why we have the meetings.

    • Grant @MillennialMoney
      Posted at 01:07h, 17 November Reply

      Yeah unfortunately the loans are legit. I’ve spent the past few days digging and received the original loan paperwork. The loans were for my wife’s education, but taken out by one of her parents with her co-signing and she didn’t remember signing. So nothing fishy going on here – but definitely completely unexpected! Will keep everyone posted on how our new monthly meetings go – glad to hear yours go well! Thanks for stopping by Biglaw.

  • Go Finance Yourself!
    Posted at 02:53h, 17 November Reply

    Oh man. That’s rough. A similar situation happened to me several years ago. When my wife and I got married, her parents said they would pay her student loans. An incredibly nice gesture. She didn’t have a lot. Just a little over $10k. But it was a very nice gift. Fast forward about 5 years later and I get a call at work from a collection agency. I thought it was a mistake. My wife had recently gone back to school and we took out some student loans just to float us for a few months, but these had all been paid off. After talking to the collection agency for a while, I found out they were her original student loans. The ones her parents said they would pay. Luckily it hadn’t gotten to the point where it would hurt her credit, so I brought them current and had her call her parents to see what was going on.

    Her dad had recently retired and had decided their cash flow had changed and they couldn’t pay them any more. Rather than telling us this, they just ignored the issue (that’s the way they are, drives me nuts). I was pissed because it could have damaged her credit score had I not decided to answer a random 800 number. How they got my work number I have no idea. It was only about $11k, so not nearly as much as yours, but it still irritated me how they handled it. We just paid it off a little over a year ago. Really glad to be free of all student loan debt.

    • Grant @MillennialMoney
      Posted at 20:19h, 18 November Reply

      Yeah man, that’s also rough. Ha ha I would confront her Dad in person! Congrats on paying it off though. Yeah, one part of my wife’s debt comes from a similar situation to yours. I think it makes sense for everyone to go and check their own (and partner’s) social security number on StudentLoans.gov to see if there is anything fishy going on. There are also a lot of fraudulent student loans taken out.

  • Mustard Seed Money
    Posted at 02:59h, 17 November Reply

    Hey Grant – First off congrats on getting married!!!

    Sorry to hear about the bomb that got dropped on you. I think I would have had the same reaction that you did but you handled it much better than I would have. Sounds like you have a plan of attack and will be able to knock these out in no time.

    I would definitely start holding at least monthly meetings so you all can get on the same page. If you got hit by a bus tomorrow she would at least be able to pick up the household finances and take care of things.

    • Grant @MillennialMoney
      Posted at 20:20h, 18 November Reply

      I hope I don’t get hit by a bus – then who would do our taxes? Haha. Yeah I agree – we have our first meeting scheduled in 2 weeks and I will keep everyone posted on how well it goes!

  • Gary @ Debtfreeclimb
    Posted at 19:57h, 13 December Reply

    Nobody likes these types of financial surprises, but it sounds like you have a good plan to take care of it.

    My girlfriend of 2.5 years has about 60k in Student Loans and is currently on IBR. I have been paying off my Student Loans aggressively the last few years and will finish in March. She is unable to make bulk payments at this time, but it’s a conversation that I keep trying to have with her to increase her payments.

    I try to encourage as much as I can now but can only do so much until we are married. When the time comes I’ll follow a similar strategy as you outlined above. Interesting topic for sure.

    • Grant @MillennialMoney
      Posted at 22:40h, 14 December Reply

      Thanks Gary. Yeah definitely a big surprise and a tough topic. So when you are married are you planning on taking on the payments yourself, or will you still rely on your wife to make her own payments? That is a tough choice many newly married couples have to make! Thanks for stopping by.

  • Penny deSaver
    Posted at 01:33h, 09 January Reply

    OMG! That’s terrible to have that sprung on you guys like that! The good thing is, it’s better to find out the way you did rather than have your bank account raided or something. It sounds like a good plan of action. Good luck!

    • Grant @MillennialMoney
      Posted at 21:19h, 09 January Reply

      I know right?? Thanks Penny deSaver

  • JulianT
    Posted at 11:14h, 16 February Reply

    Student loans suck, but when reading the comments and seeing these stories, I’m not understanding how some people are surprised by huge amounts of debt. It’s not something you kind of just let fly in the wind. Everyone should know “how” they paid for school. They send you an invoice each semester.

    With all the issues facing millennials, I think debt is a major thing that is reducing the marriage rate. I don’t think I’d be able to marry a chick who was financially irresponsible or had more than 1 or 1.25x her salary in debt. I have seen friends’ relationships end because their significant others are in their mid/late 20s just coming out of graduate school with debt that is 2.0x their salary with no major career prospects like that of a doctor or lawyer. Not only do you have crushing debt, but you have no savings, and you’re at the age when you want to have kids and buy a house. It’s madness, really.

    • Grant @MillennialMoney
      Posted at 08:08h, 18 February Reply

      The madness!!! I agree, the situation with my wife was pretty unique and thankfully not that much debt. It’s gotta be super tough to be in a relationship, fall in love, and then figure out your partner has $100K+ in debt. Ouch. But hey…. love > money

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