Dear Monetary,

I have known my wife for over 8 years and am married with a newborn baby. We both make a good living ($ 100,000 per year), but we pay a significant amount of student loans. I have several jobs and we get help from my parents and scholarships. My master costs 3 times less than his master. She owes over $ 200,000 in federal student loans and another $ 20,000 in private student loans (one is at 12%).

I had no idea at the time that my wife’s loans were double our mortgage payment and while I think we’ll get there, it really took a toll on an already eventful marriage with our newborn baby. I don’t know where to turn for advice and I feel like we have become economic slaves. We’re paying $ 1,000 every month just to keep his big federal loan from bearing interest. She is highly educated, but money is a handicap.

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I recently started to manage her debts and realized that she had not made payments for a few months due to forbearance and a misunderstanding of her loans. Unfortunately, those few months added $ 5,000 to the accrued interest of the total we already owe. I’ve started to learn as much as I can about debt and student debt, but I know I’m not where I need to be. Please help.

Economic slave in Chicago

Dear Chicago,

Ideally, it’s a conversation you should have had before you got married. But you are not the only one leaving the financial reality of married life until after marriage. Only 65% ​​of couples discuss their finances before getting married or becoming common-law partners, according to this survey. And yet, most couples say they understand that it is a discussion that is important. There is still a taboo about debt and money. It can also explain why nearly half of couples argue over financial matters. Almost 40% of couples say they would delay the wedding until the student loans are paid off, but the grievances won’t help you now.

It was not a debt incurred by lavish spending. Your wife was studying. The good news: you are tackling this problem together, without regret or blame. Yes, there was a huge breach of trust. Your wife should have told you before you were married. You have a decision to make: go away, decide to deal with it together as a family, or work on a plan where your wife pays off her loans. Unlike credit card debt, federal student loans taken out prior to your marriage are the sole responsibility of the recipient, even when married; if your wife died, the debt would die with her.

What do you do after? Assuming your wife doesn’t work in the nonprofit sector and doesn’t qualify for a loan forgiveness after 10 years, it’s time to find a way out. You have to complete the boring, but ultimately rewarding task of planning a budget, cutting out all unnecessary expenses, and making a goal of paying off at least the installments each month. Ideally, more. You’re not alone. This couple repaid $ 125,000 in debt (including $ 89,000 on credit cards). They got rid of cable TV, worked for four years, and didn’t take a vacation. None of this is pretty or easy. They did not sell their house. And neither can you.

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I always think of Kandy and Russ Hilderbrandt when I read stories like yours. When Russ told him about their debts, Kandy didn’t blame him. She asked him how they could fix it as a family. “It actually made us stronger,” she told me. “It could have been detrimental. During this debt management plan, there was no money for extras. It really made us grateful for all the intangibles. We were faithful to family dinner time. It was our time with Russ almost every night. He told childhood stories. It was time for us to release some stress and laugh. It has become huge for us during this time, and it is still important to us.

Fear is a terrible thing. Your wife was clearly afraid to tell you. Contact the National Credit Counseling Foundation and / or seek the advice of a financial advisor.

You have chosen to build a life together, but you must also address the issue of trust. Start this hard work today.

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