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You are here: MacNN Forums > Community > MacNN Lounge > If I marry someone with a lot of debt, does that debt become mine?

If I marry someone with a lot of debt, does that debt become mine?
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Aug 5, 2007, 09:25 PM
 
Let's say I marry someone who has to pay off $80000 in student loans but I don't have any myself. Will I also become responsible for that too?
     
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Aug 5, 2007, 09:27 PM
 
Depends. If you decide to consolidate all of your money (or lack of) then, yes, it does become your debt. If you both choose to keep your own respective accounts, then no, it's not your issue. And $80,000 is a TON of debt.
     
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Aug 5, 2007, 09:27 PM
 
Why are you asking this question?

Will it affect your answer of whether or not you marry them?
     
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Aug 5, 2007, 09:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by Railroader View Post
Why are you asking this question?

Will it affect your answer of whether or not you marry them?
True, but by looking at somebody's financial condition you can tell a lot about that person.
     
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Aug 5, 2007, 09:29 PM
 
Run away...

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Aug 5, 2007, 09:32 PM
 
Prenup?
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Aug 5, 2007, 09:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by imitchellg5 View Post
True, but by looking at somebody's financial condition you can tell a lot about that person.
Having $80k in student debt tells very little about a person.
     
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Aug 5, 2007, 09:59 PM
 
I think it's wise to have separate bank accounts anyway.
     
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Aug 5, 2007, 10:01 PM
 
Originally Posted by Railroader View Post
Why are you asking this question?

Will it affect your answer of whether or not you marry them?
Nope. It was a thought and I'm curious.
     
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Aug 5, 2007, 10:11 PM
 
Keep your financial affairs separate. Not just because of the student loans, but if one of you has to file for bankruptcy, the other one's financial record is not tainted (unless (s)he is a guarantor).

From an American perspective, I don't think $80k in student loans is exceptional, well that exceptional as to conclude that someone is incapable of dealing with money. I remember that even back in 1998 when I was considering to study in the US, there were quite a few universities with tuition fees above $30k a year. Add books, housing and necessities, and $80k doesn't seem excessive.
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Aug 5, 2007, 10:24 PM
 
Student loand debt is meaningless. The interest rates are absurdly low. I'll have a massive debt when I graduate, but I'm not really worried about it. It's not like I'm going to buy a new shiny SUV or anything.
     
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Aug 5, 2007, 10:26 PM
 
You marry the person, you marry their credit.

If he/she defaults on the loan, you're next in line and now the creditors new best friend! Good luck
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Aug 5, 2007, 10:50 PM
 
Originally Posted by macintologist View Post
Will I also become responsible for that too?
Yes.
Yet another reason to have a prenuptial agreement.
A smart person would make each party responsible for debt they come into the marriage with. Her debt could allow creditors to come after community property if she defaults. Not only that but keep in mind that divorce courts tend to favor women over men and you don't want to be further penalized by having them count her debts against you in settlements.

Originally Posted by Aeternus View Post
Student loand debt is meaningless. The interest rates are absurdly low. I'll have a massive debt when I graduate, but I'm not really worried about it. It's not like I'm going to buy a new shiny SUV or anything.
Like hell it is. I came out with 6 figures worth of debt and while I make enough to cover my payments and then some it still meant I came out of school in the red. For my classmates who were unable to secure well paying jobs by choice or bad luck but still had comparable loans the repayment is quite a crimp in their lifestyles.
Plus you can't escape student loans even in bankruptcy.

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Aug 5, 2007, 10:56 PM
 
I think it varies from state to state, so if it's really a concern then go talk to a financial advisor in your state. But I believe that you're not generally liable for the debts incurred by your spouse before you get married. But that's a technical point, at best: once you're married, any creditors going after your spouse can go after any assets held jointly. If all your money goes away, it doesn't matter whether you were technically liable or not, the net effect is the same.
     
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Aug 5, 2007, 11:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by Aeternus View Post
Student loand debt is meaningless. The interest rates are absurdly low. I'll have a massive debt when I graduate, but I'm not really worried about it. It's not like I'm going to buy a new shiny SUV or anything.
Really? My Citibank student loans (Stafford) have an interest rate of %7...
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Aug 5, 2007, 11:43 PM
 
In this case of massive debt, I would strongly advise both of you to emigrate to a new country. Canada or the UK perhaps? That way you will not have to pay the debt and get married with a clean slate.
     
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Aug 5, 2007, 11:51 PM
 
Originally Posted by goMac View Post
Really? My Citibank student loans (Stafford) have an interest rate of %7...
I think you need to refinance those loans. My student loans are all fixed at 4.5%.
     
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Aug 6, 2007, 01:19 AM
 
Originally Posted by irunat2am View Post
You marry the person, you marry their credit
Bingo
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Aug 6, 2007, 03:27 AM
 
this thread is a proof. ain't no true love no more. lol~
     
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Aug 6, 2007, 04:27 AM
 
Originally Posted by torsoboy View Post
I think you need to refinance those loans. My student loans are all fixed at 4.5%.
Yeah, Citibank isn't all that great. I generally pay on time (c'mon Citibank, can't you automatically withdraw from my checking account so I don't have to think?), and they just raised my rate from 7.1% to 7.2% (which is actually the first time they've raised my rates).
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Aug 6, 2007, 04:42 AM
 
Screw debt.

How to avoid payment....

Leave the your homeland.
Marry a foreigner.
Get a new nationality.
Change your name by deed poll.
Divorce foreigner.
Marry another foreigner who doesn't know about your former identity.
Have kids.
Re-enter your homeland as a foreign tourist on vacation with family.
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Aug 6, 2007, 06:07 AM
 
Originally Posted by Chooglin' View Post
In this case of massive debt, I would strongly advise both of you to emigrate to a new country. Canada or the UK perhaps? That way you will not have to pay the debt and get married with a clean slate.
Yes, and that would be the honest thing to do. That and it would also be taking responsibilities for your actions.

BTW that clean slate is imaginary.
     
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Aug 6, 2007, 07:20 AM
 
The simple answer is that you are not, in any way, responsible for debt that your partner incurred before you've married him/her. However, if a creditor sues the debtor and wins a judgment, in most cases the judgment can be executed against joint marital property, such as joint bank accounts. Therefore, a new spouse can be affected by the premarital debts of their partner. However, even if a joint bank account is in place, the lender has only claim to money paid into that account by the debtor, not by the spouse.

There are two instances when one spouse is responsible for the other one's debts incurred during marriage - if the account(s) are joint or if the married couple reside in a community property state.

Married couples who do not reside in a CP state and do not hold joint accounts are NOT responsible for each other's debts. Generally all debts and assets acquired during a marriage by couples living in CP states are owned and owed by both, however a few CP states have procedures for making an "innocent spouse" claim.
     
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Aug 6, 2007, 11:18 AM
 
I'm a little concerned by some of the advice here. The fact is that this is complex, and the rules vary by country and by US State. I would advise you to consult a lawyer on this - the couple of hundred dollars you spend understanding the situation will be well worth while.
     
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Aug 6, 2007, 11:45 AM
 
The best (and safest) way to protect yourself and your credit history from the debt of your soon to be spouse is to sign a prenuptual agreement and then keep your finances (bank accounts, credit cards, stock portfolios, etc.) separate. If you fail to do those things, her debt could become your debt if she defaults on her loans or credit card payments.
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Aug 6, 2007, 11:46 AM
 
Originally Posted by peeb View Post
I'm a little concerned by some of the advice here. The fact is that this is complex, and the rules vary by country and by US State. I would advise you to consult a lawyer on this - the couple of hundred dollars you spend understanding the situation will be well worth while.
Best advice by far. There is no simple answer... get legal advice for the jurisdiction in which you reside.
     
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Aug 6, 2007, 12:26 PM
 
It seems to me that unless you plan on getting a divorce(which I suppose is always something to keep in mind), then the debt will be your responsibility, even if not legally. While you might keep separate finances, her paying off that debt WILL affect your lifestyle. Things her money might have helped pay for will be paid for by your money instead. It's all one big pool of money in the end even if you keep things separate.

Generally, unless you're super wealthy, I think have separate finances causes more problems that it solves.
     
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Aug 6, 2007, 12:30 PM
 
And remember that if you move either yourself or an account into another state, then the rules change and you will need to consult a new lawyer. sam
Note that brokerage accounts may be held in another state or even overseas and other laws then apply.
     
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Aug 6, 2007, 01:03 PM
 
Originally Posted by torsoboy View Post
I think you need to refinance those loans. My student loans are all fixed at 4.5%.
Mine are fixed at 2.875% and will go down to 2.375% this winter after four years of automatic debit payments.
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Aug 6, 2007, 01:58 PM
 
Who do you guys have your loans through? I was doing some research last night, and I was seeing 7% across the board...
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Aug 6, 2007, 02:04 PM
 
Mine were from the govt. and various lenders. I consolidated through Sallie Mae four years ago. You're not going to find the really low rates like mine anymore. The Bush administration saw to the end of the low student loan rates.
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Aug 6, 2007, 02:25 PM
 
So, what is the future income potential of the person? If it is an $80,000 debt for med school, and he/she in on track to become a licensed physician, that might not be much to worry about.

If the debt is for a decade long major in philosophy at a community college, run away.
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Aug 6, 2007, 02:32 PM
 
I like the Australian graduate tax. You get free college degrees (paid for from general taxation), and when / if your income goes above the national average income you get levied an additional income 'graduate' tax until you have paid off your college tuition. If you go into charitable work, or never make any money, you never have to pay it back.
     
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Aug 6, 2007, 02:37 PM
 
Very cool.
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Aug 6, 2007, 06:15 PM
 
Originally Posted by Calimus View Post
It seems to me that unless you plan on getting a divorce(which I suppose is always something to keep in mind), then the debt will be your responsibility, even if not legally. While you might keep separate finances, her paying off that debt WILL affect your lifestyle. Things her money might have helped pay for will be paid for by your money instead. It's all one big pool of money in the end even if you keep things separate.
I agree with the general message conveyed here. If you're marrying someone and you intend for the marriage to work, you're going to have to shoulder each other's responsibilities. If you're asking whether the debt she has will show up on your credit report, it should not. But even if you don't have legal responsibilities toward that debt (others have covered that aspect better), the fact that you're marrying this person means you're making the most serious interpersonal commitment one can possibly make; you have to assist your spouse. You cannot very well say, "Hey, you racked up the debt, so you should be the one to pay for it" and expect anything short of a hostile response in return. I think you and your fiancee should sit down with a qualified financial professional and come to an understanding regarding the situation, which likely should involve a pre-nup.

Generally, unless you're super wealthy, I think have separate finances causes more problems that it solves.
I disagree with you there. I'm not married, but I think there are benefits to be gained from separate finances, and I know that's the course that personal finance guru Suze Orman suggests. Certainly it's appropriate to have joint accounts (checking, savings, credit), but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to get rid of individual accounts. I know I would be averse to giving up my freedom in that respect, and I would hope my spouse would value her freedom enough to agree with me. The only reason I can think of to have every account be joint is if the person you're married to makes bad financial decisions. And if that's the case, it would be good to know that prior to getting married.
( Last edited by Big Mac; Aug 6, 2007 at 06:25 PM. )

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Aug 6, 2007, 07:45 PM
 
with 80k of education are they doing anything with that? Then I think it says a bit about a person, but by no means the whole story.

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Aug 6, 2007, 09:09 PM
 
I have no prenupt... I figured no prenuptual= good incentive to keep your relationship in a healthy state. We also have shared accounts, because it's just less paperwork and less hassle.
     
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Aug 6, 2007, 11:35 PM
 
Just to put $80K into perspective, Estimated cost of attending USC for instance, is $35K a year. Granted, that's probably a little high (I find that college estimates for living expenses are generally a little high) It's easy to accumulate $80K in 4 years of attending a prestigious school. Do I think it's necessary to accumulate that?

Paying for college can be a tricky thing. I had a friend who didn't qualify for grants because her family just barely made enough money to be out of range, but she's the 4th of 6 kids and in the end, the government's math of paying for college didn't work for her. Student loans are pretty easily obtainable.

If it were $80K of consumer debt, I would be VERY concerned. All in all said, I married my wife knowing that she had debt, and she knowing that I had debt. We don't have a lot, but we got married knowing that our financial situations were part of what we were getting into. (As an additional note, she was previously engaged to someone else, who was in quite a lot of debt, and I'm very glad she didn't get into that.)
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Aug 7, 2007, 12:24 AM
 
Most of this has already been said.

Unless you signed for the loans you are not responsible for the debt. Student loans are not bankruptable.

This is my blunt opinion - What kind of question is that? IF this is a deciding factor for getting married then I think that you need to wait for a long while before you get married, otherwise you will probably end up getting divorced. Money problems is one of the leading causes of divorce.

Why even get married if you are not going to work together in the good times and the bad.

Sorry but this is the first thing that ran thru my head when I read your post.

B.
     
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Aug 7, 2007, 02:14 AM
 
Originally Posted by Big Mac View Post
I agree with the general message conveyed here. If you're marrying someone and you intend for the marriage to work, you're going to have to shoulder each other's responsibilities. If you're asking whether the debt she has will show up on your credit report, it should not. But even if you don't have legal responsibilities toward that debt (others have covered that aspect better), the fact that you're marrying this person means you're making the most serious interpersonal commitment one can possibly make; you have to assist your spouse. You cannot very well say, "Hey, you racked up the debt, so you should be the one to pay for it" and expect anything short of a hostile response in return. I think you and your fiancee should sit down with a qualified financial professional and come to an understanding regarding the situation, which likely should involve a pre-nup.
Quite frankly, I don't agree with this.

Ideally one should discuss all finances with the spouse, but if one person ends up racking up some credit based on iffy decisions combined with bad luck, then it can be in the other spouse's interest AND in the couple's interest to wash his/her hands of it.

Sure, one person's credit rating gets screwed, but the other's remains intact, which can be extremely important.

eg.

Let's say Betty has $120000 in a rental property mortgage, with minimal equity but several hundred a month in expenses, and $21000 in credit card debts, partially because she had to pay for flights on short notice for her and her mom to be at her dying dad's side in Zimbabwe, and for some of his hospital bills. She also has a $300/month car lease. And she just lost her job as a factory worker because the factory exploded, so she has no source of income. She has no savings.

Her husband Archie has the mortgage in his name, with about $50000 equity in the house, and remains gainfully employed although he's kinda just scraping through.

They have no joint accounts.

Financially, they have two main choices:

1) Archie takes out a big loan for to pay off her debts, by taking out a 2nd mortgage.
2) Sally declares bankruptcy, and Archie keeps the equity in the house.

No question, I'd take option two. Her credit rating is fscked, but as a couple, they're probably much better off. But yeah, don't listen to us... Get a lawyer.
( Last edited by Eug; Aug 7, 2007 at 02:27 AM. )
     
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Aug 7, 2007, 02:20 AM
 
Originally Posted by REVBCO View Post
This is my blunt opinion - What kind of question is that? IF this is a deciding factor for getting married then I think that you need to wait for a long while before you get married, otherwise you will probably end up getting divorced. Money problems is one of the leading causes of divorce.

Why even get married if you are not going to work together in the good times and the bad.

Sorry but this is the first thing that ran thru my head when I read your post.

B.
It's a question. I wanted to marry my wife, but she had student debt. I wanted to know if her debt would affect my loans horribly. If so, it would have been financially smarter to put off the marriage until later, even though we wanted to be married. Fortunately, our **** worked out fine so we got hitched anyways. It's just a question.
     
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Aug 7, 2007, 09:55 AM
 
It certainly varies per state.

My sister has horrible credit for a shoddy divorce a few years ago. She was recently remarried, and they decided to buy a house. The home they were interested in was $500K, and her husband wrote a check for half of it as a down payment. Even though she wasn't on the mortgage for the other half, the bank denied the loan simply because he married her, and she has bad credit.
     
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Aug 7, 2007, 11:16 AM
 
^ That's possible? Colour me surprised. As far as I know that's none of the bank's business.
     
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Aug 7, 2007, 11:14 PM
 
Originally Posted by goMac View Post
Really? My Citibank student loans (Stafford) have an interest rate of %7...
Definitely refinance those. Interest under 5% is more like it.

Only make the minimum payment when you pay them off. You'll make more money by investing what else you have in an index fund (though you'd probably be better off with a retirement fund).
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Aug 7, 2007, 11:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by Stradlater View Post
Definitely refinance those. Interest under 5% is more like it.
Where? Are student loan rates currently really that low in the US?

Only make the minimum payment when you pay them off. You'll make more money by investing what else you have in an index fund (though you'd probably be better off with a retirement fund).
I would say that this is not necessarily good advice in today's market.
     
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Aug 7, 2007, 11:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
Where? Are student loan rates currently really that low in the US?
I know a grad from a few years ago with that rate through Merrill Lynch.

I would say that this is not necessarily good advice in today's market.
Eh, today's fallings are tomorrow's skyrocketings.
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Aug 7, 2007, 11:39 PM
 
Originally Posted by Stradlater View Post
I know a grad from a few years ago with that rate through Merrill Lynch.
Yeah, but if he got the loan a few years ago, that's completely irrelevant.



The US bank prime rate is 8.25% right now, vs. less than half that 3 years ago.

Eh, today's fallings are tomorrow's skyrocketings.
Yes, but paying off student loans is a guaranteed rate of return (even if the interest is tax deductible in the US).
     
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Aug 8, 2007, 01:03 PM
 
If you are talking about money, the act of marrying can be a much higher financial risk than 80 000$, more so for the man, and especially if he is the sole earner. After all, many, if not most, marriages end in divorce.

That someone has student loan debt means, that he or she thought education such an important thing that he or she would even shoulder the problematic situation of having high debts to get that education. For me, that says something positive about a person.

Anyway, I would, under no circumstances, take any advice on such a tricky theme from people I do not know personally. The advice to check the state of law in that matter excluded. It's always good advice to say: check your rights, check your responsibilities, check the law.
     
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Aug 8, 2007, 01:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by Veltliner View Post
... After all, many, if not most, marriages end in divorce.
Actually, it's about 31%. It's the people who have multiple marriages and divorces that skew the statistics.
     
   
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