DEAR DAVE: My niece just graduated from college with $20,000 in student loan debt. Her boyfriend graduated as well, and they're talking about getting married. He has $115,000 in loan debt and wants to go to graduate school. They both want to be teachers, and she's currently job hunting. The idea of all this debt hanging over their heads bothers her. Do you have any advice on how she can come to peace with the situation?
DEAR DENISE: This is a really interesting question. In a way, I'm glad she's conflicted about the situation. At the same time, I wouldn't want it to be a deal breaker where their relationship is concerned.
Here's my take. You don't pass up a great, lifelong relationship just because of debt. You do, however, walk away from a relationship based on things like laziness, irresponsible behavior and immaturity. These are flaws that usually don't go away. Any girlfriend or boyfriend who goes into a marriage thinking, “I can fix this person,” is in for a rude awakening.
I'm glad she's looking for a job, but her boyfriend also needs to be working — especially if they're planning to get married. There's no excuse for either of them being full-time students with $135,000 in combined student loan debt hanging over their heads. Besides, lots of people hold down real jobs and further their educations on a part-time basis.
If she were my niece, I would encourage her to have an open and honest discussion with her boyfriend about their future, how he plans on paying for graduate school and her feelings on the situation. If his answer is simply to borrow more money, then she'll have some potentially difficult decisions to make. But if he realizes how damaging picking up any more debt could be to their finances and their future, then they can start off on the same page. And things will look a lot brighter.
DEAR DAVE: My fiancee and I are planning our wedding. Our parents don't want to contribute financially, so we've budgeted $7,000 to cover everything. The problem is both sets of parents still want to make decisions regarding the ceremony and how many people attend. How should we handle this?