Debt: A Barrier between Love and Money

Looking for love is a challenge, and what complicates this challenge is the added element of finances. Today, not only do you have to evaluate your (potential) partner for things like similar tastes, long-term plans, and compatibility with his or her family, but you may also want to take a look at finances and whether he or she can pay off debt. That’s what a lot of people are looking at in the dating market today, but women with debt are taking a particularly hard hit. According to a recent study by Fenaba Addo of the University of Wisconsin, women in debt are less likely to get married. Of course, this doesn’t seem fair, but it’s the reality of our current financial climate. So, let’s dig a little deeper and figure out what’s going on and why it’s becoming increasingly difficult for women to tie the knot before they pay off debt.

Women Who Are Not Able to Pay Off Debt

This study looked at debt and how it affects different steps in a relationship. One big step couples take is to move in together. The study suggests that debt does not have much of an effect on moving in together. In fact, women with debt are more likely to move in with a partner than they are to stay single. This probably has to do with the fact that women with debt are of a certain age (this study looked at women in their late 20s) and are looking to settle down. The women in this study are probably already dating, and moving in might just be the next logical step in their relationships.

What’s more difficult is tying the knot, taking what most couples consider to be the final “big step.” This is where things get interesting. The hypothesis of this study was that women in debt would have a harder time getting married, period. The results of the study revealed a surprising conclusion. As it turns out, certain types of debt are worse than others when it comes to a woman’s chances of tying the knot.

Student Loan Debt and Marriage

Credit debt does not decrease the likelihood of marriage. That’s right, women with credit debt are about as likely to get married as their debt-free counterparts. Like we said before, this came as a big surprise. Student loan debt, however, seems to have a major impact. Women with student loan debt are less likely to get married, even less likely than women who are carrying around credit card debt.

Average Student Loan Debt 2012

This is alarming because student loan debt has exploded in recent years. In fact, the national level of student loan debt is over $1 trillion dollars. The average for a student who graduated in 2011 is $26,600. Not only are these numbers substantial, but they represent burdens that come at a really bad time. Graduating students are being tossed into a crippled job market and might struggle to make repayments. Then, add the stress of relationships, wanting to move in together and, just maybe, wanting to get married. Marriage doesn’t seem affordable when you have over $20,000 in debt, does it? Keep in mind, the average age for people entering into a first marriage is 28.9 for men and 26.9 for women. The problem is, 14 million people under 30 years old are student loan borrowers. Like we said — really bad timing.

student loans and marriage

Pay Off Debt to Become More Financially Attractive

Student loans affect men and women, but for some reason they have a greater effect on women’s chances to marry. Some think this is because men traditionally initiate marriage, but we are really just left to guess at the reasons. What’s not a guessing game is how women (and men) can pay off debt and become financially healthy while also becoming more likely to marry.

overdue student loan borrowers

When it comes to student loans, you will need to budget wisely in order to at least make all the minimum monthly payments. Missing monthly payments will make you “delinquent” and at risk of default. Unfortunately, about 5.4 million student loan borrowers are past due on at least one student loan account. If you are really facing a hardship, you can apply for deferment or forbearance. This is certainly not an ideal situation, but these accommodations can help certain individuals.

Let’s assume you can make the minimum monthly payments. Then what? We suggest that you put more toward your high-interest loans. Getting rid of or reducing these high-interest accounts will make your student loan debt more manageable. You can use our guide on How to Pay off Student Loans for more help with this. And read this guide on private student loans, if your struggles are with Sallie Mae and other private lenders.

Debt and Marriage… What’s the Connection?

Think about it: You are getting ready to settle down for the rest of your life with someone. Do you want a future of responsible credit use, budgeting for monthly expenses, and smart retirement saving? Do you want to afford (and we mean really afford!) vacations and other luxuries? To us, this all sounds better than debt that can weigh you down and take away your independence. If you can pay off debt, you will have more freedom and less stress, more to celebrate and less to argue about. Whether you are male, female, married, or single and looking, we hope you take the steps necessary to pay off debt and create a healthy financial future.

We Can Help!

Our counselors are experts in helping people make a financial game plan, and we’ve seen first hand how this can make a huge poistive impact on relationships. Say “I do” today, and give our free credit counseling a try.

Thomas Bright is a longstanding Clearpoint blogger and student loan repayment aficionado who hopes that his writing can simplify complex subjects. When he’s not writing, you’ll find him hiking, running or reading philosophy. You can follow him on Twitter.

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