By Dave Ramsey
Q: 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?
A: 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.
Q: My fiancée 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?
A: In my mind, they don’t have a say in what happens or who attends if they don’t contribute. I understand how your parents feel though. How nice the ceremony is or who’s invited can be a painful discussion, but in this case their opinions should only count as long as they fall within the confines of your budget. Be courteous and gentle when you explain how much you’ve budgeted and what that means in terms of who can come, how many are there and just how fancy this event will be. Now, it would be really nice to involve your fiancée’s mother in the planning. But at the end of the day, she does not make decisions. I know your parents love you, and they want it to be a wonderful day for everyone. But this is your wedding, not theirs. And by the way, this would be a really good time to consider premarital counseling.
Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.