Carolyn Hax: Concerned about boyfriend’s massive debt

04/12/2014 6:26 PM

04/10/2014 11:48 AM

DEAR CAROLYN: I finished my undergrad a year ago, have a good job, and consider myself financially stable. My boyfriend is finishing his master’s and will graduate with $200,000 in student debt.

We’ve been together for nine months and have not talked seriously about his massive debt. I know we both eventually want to marry and have kids, and live comfortable lives.

I don’t see that being a possibility under that kind of debt.

I don’t want to break up with him, but, the way I see it, he’d have to throw massive amounts of money into his loans, and what I make would support us. I would end up resentful. Should I break it off?

– Not My Debt

DEAR DEBT: Maybe. Probably. If you’d walk away over money without talking to him “seriously” first, then, definitely. But for his sake, not yours.

Debt like that will dog you, limit you, wake you up to stare at the ceiling at 3 a.m. if one’s job is the least bit unstable. I sympathize with all of your misgivings. I also recognize this has become a too-common reality and, coldly I guess, hope others will read this and weigh the realistic return on education investments carefully before making them.

All of this is the responsible, predictable answer. Here’s the other answer that I can’t shake: A lot of us would choose our mates, and their liabilities – education debt, chronic illness or whatever– over home ownership, travel … even comfort, depending on how you define it.

So, break it off? If he’s not the guy you’d choose over your preferred lifestyle, then, yes. If you’re not sure yet, then talking seriously about money sounds like a fine place to start finding out.

DEAR CAROLYN: I’m due with baby No. 3 in May, and we picked a name after the place my husband and I fell in love. My mother-in-law told my husband we couldn’t name our daughter that because she hates the name.

She later told my husband that if we named our baby something she didn’t like, she wouldn’t call her by it. She’d make up a name she liked because she’s a “free spirit.”

Carolyn, it would be so great if you could respond with a letter I can give my mother-in-law.

– M.

DEAR M.: This letter’s for you: Stick with your name and ignore your mother-in-law. Per your description, she’s just being herself, fighting hardest for the spotlight when it’s focused on others. Since that’s about her, not you or your family, the only things on your to-do list are to resist the urge to take offense and calmly ride this out.

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