Marrying a partner with lots of debt?

31 Replies

I just read "Walking the Tightrope between Debt and Leverage" by @Anthony Gayden where he talks about an impressive dig out from crushing debt. What I found interesting was that when he married his wife, she brought $30,000 in debt into their marriage.

@Matt Millard also posted where he married into $120k in student loan and credit card debt.

My own brother married into $50k in student loan and credit card debt.

I got divorced after 20+ years of marriage and gave up half of all my assets, and then married into debt! (My new wife has a 2 year old, and owes $150k in child support over the next 16 years)

So I'm curious about all of you other married investors (or soon to be investors)... Did you marry into debt? (obviously I mean "bad" debt here.)

I'd like to hear from the women too, because it seems (so far) that it's the men who are the stupid ones!

Yeah, "stupid" is a strong word, but consider this: would you buy a property for $180k with rehab costs of $20k and your ARV is 150k ( market rent: $600 / month)? If someone on BP posts that they just did that, wouldn't we call them stupid?

@Steve Hall my wife married into my debt. I have anywhere between $30k and $60k in debt at any time, depending on what I'm doing, real estate wise. She does not love debt, and it's not the smartest thing for me to keep unsecured balances that high but if I pay them off, I have zero cash to invest. So I've chosen to carry the debt for now, and pay off when I can do so and still have a comfortable amount of cash on hand.

@Jason D.   I don't know about you guys but when I saw the title of the thread the then the dollars your talking about to me if was kind of funny at least as it relates to real estate .. those are hardly insurmountable debt amounts I thought you guys were going to say 500k to 1 mil. or more. 

not small under 100k amounts.. those can be handled quite efficiently in the real estate context in a matter of a year or a few .

if your W 2  now that's a whole nother kettle of fish.. at least from my perspective.

Does all my real estate debt count? Because if so, my wife is the one who married into debt lol. Her debt is in the 100kish range (student loans), but she has a solid w2 job with benefits. Well worth the debt. If it was a high interest rate, I would have paid it off already. But since it’s reasonable, I’m in no rush to pay it off.

Originally posted by @Jason D. :

@Jay Hinrichs I'm not talking real estate debt, just credit card debt/unsecured debt

 I know.. but being a lender for all these years on the private side and seeing many a credit report.

average debt is 30 to 100k in consumer debt and more if they have high end cars. 

I got engaged to my now wife , she had a good bit of debt . Told her we would get married when she was debt free . I took over her finances , gave her an allowance and 7 months later she was there .  The wedding was 4 months later .  Now I never told her she was out of debt , I invested her money and after 1 year she needed a car .  Her jaw dropped when she saw her balance . Over 15 K , which is a bundle since she had never had over 2 grand in the bank .  I taught her one thing they dont teach in school , basic fiscal management .

Originally posted by @Jay Hinrichs :
Originally posted by @Jason D.:

@Jay Hinrichs I'm not talking real estate debt, just credit card debt/unsecured debt

 I know.. but being a lender for all these years on the private side and seeing many a credit report.

average debt is 30 to 100k in consumer debt and more if they have high end cars. 

 Then i guess that makes me feel better about my situation... thanks! 😁

Debt is not a problem.  Having different values around spending is.

"Show me your checkbook (and calendar) and I will tell you what is important to you." -Unknown

@Steve Hall

I’m not sure how you call child support debt. If she was paying for everything for her child every day, would you call the kid a debt for the next 16 years? I pay child support, have 5 years left. I don’t consider it a debt, I’m just helping to make sure my kids have what they need, and doing my fatherly duty.

Originally posted by @Mike Dymski :

Debt is not a problem.  Having different values around spending is.

"Show me your checkbook (and calendar) and I will tell you what is important to you." -Unknown

 Very true!  My wife had student loan debt but I had spending issues but as Dave Ramsey says, I had a big shovel.  We became 1 and tackled both issues.  Just took too long to get into real estate.

@Matt M. So rather than answer my original question, "Did you marry into debt?" you figured you'd get all righteous and call me out, in my own thread, on how my opinion of what is debt, is wrong, because you don't consider a "government mandated judgment requiring payment from one person to another", a debt?

Why don't you go back and read my original post, try to stay on topic, and answer the question: "Did you marry into debt?

If you prefer to brag about how you think you are great father for paying a bill that you are legally required to pay, be my guest,  go start your own thread. Maybe you could call it "I'm doing my fatherly duty by paying child support."

I married my wife and she had no knowledge of how much school debt she had.  It wasn't until after we married did I have to force her worries and make her deal with her debt.  I married into 37k in school loans and we are about to pay it off in 6 months total of payoff time.  Now let me tell you, it has sucked in every way possible.  Will it be awesome to be done with it? Hell yes!  We could of bought a property with that!  There is really no way around it, either you love her or you truly don't.  Debt sucks but you got this!

@Steve Hall no I didn’t personally marry into debt but I’ve counseled many others about this. Here is my advice/thoughts: the amount of debt is not nearly as important as one’s attitude toward the debt they have. For me, debt is not a marital deal breaker. If one’s attitude toward it is healthy, they will move toward dealing with it, ie getting rid of it. It’s not as important where one is financially but where they are going. Therefore, if the trajectory of one’s finances is heading in the right direction as gaged by their attitude/current actions, it’s not a deal breaker imo. Of course there could be an outlier example: ie should I marry into an insane amount of debt (ie $250k, $500k, etc.) or what if my fiance is financially responsible for another household, each of these outliers must be carefully dealt with on a case by case basis so but in general debt is not a deal breaker imo.

@Steve Hall child support is not debt, it is the responsibility of raising a child. She is only paying child support, because she is not the primary care giver. If she was primary, then you would be getting child support or just paying to raise a kid.

It is possible with her being married now, that you could go to court and push for a 50/50 co-parenting arrangement, where she no longer pays money. 

@Steve Hall

My now husband had school loans and cc debt. Only about 15K....and he’s actually really good with money. He just got complacent.

BUT...I came from nothing, and brought 8 properties and zero personal debt into the relationship. I worked my butt off, and I wasn’t about to pay his debt for him. Could have pretty easy, but I wanted him to feel the pain of getting rid of it.

I told him that he would need to pay it off before asking me to marry him. He did. And we have been debt- free (other than properties) ever since.

I have MANY girlfriends who were in the same boat. I do have very successful ladies that I spend time with though. THEY clean-up a pretty big financial mess when they get married.

In today’s world, I bet it’s pretty even. I am a mental health therapist specializing in couples counseling, so here’s what I think it is:

People don’t talk about money until it’s too late and you are engaged. Money and the way people handle it speaks volumes about who they are. Not that being bad with money makes someone a bad person; but it tells a story about their childhood, life experiences, personality, goals, etc. I encourage dating couples to really talk finances very early on in the relationship. Get on the same page about what money MEANS. What are your financial goals? And no; I don’t believe one person should rescue the other from their poor choices. The world won’t come to an end if you wait another year to get married while working down the debt.

Intriguing post... I can personally attest to what others have said above. Knowing what I know now, I would have done what many of you did and had her clean it up beforehand. But you live and learn...long story, short... have them get it together before diving in and things get complicated or just don’t do it is my best advice. Save yourself the headaches and stress of having to get your partner financially stable in the long run. I was naive in thinking our setup of separate accounts, etc. would insulate me because now that we have a child it’s been a struggle and I’m just now getting to kick off my REI journey (something I’ve been aiming to do for almost a decade now)

@Steve Hall I’m about to marry into $25,000 worth of debt. I think me coming to the relationship with absolutely zero debt and him having a car payment and student loans has opened his eyes to how freeing it is to not have debt weighing you down. We’re both working towards paying off his debt entirely in the next 12-18 months so we can have more flexibility when it comes to investing in real estate. All in all I think it has solidified the fact that we want as little debt as possible (preferably only mortgages) while investing in real estate.

Originally posted by @Mike Dymski :

Debt is not a problem.  Having different values around spending is.

"Show me your checkbook (and calendar) and I will tell you what is important to you." -Unknown

This.  I'd be more worried about their views on debt and spending than the amount of debt (within reason) they are bringing to the marriage. 

Together you can move mountains.  But if one's a prince or princess thinking they can buy whatever they want?  Won't work. Your values must be aligned. 

Originally posted by @Casey Weiter :

@Steve Hall I’m about to marry into $25,000 worth of debt. We’re both working towards paying off his debt entirely in the next 12-18 months...

That's awesome you are both on the same page and working to pay this debt off, Casey! That's the most important thing.

I would just caution anyone paying down debt for another prior to marriage.  If anything happens, you could be out legally.  

Dave Ramsey recommends piling money up in your savings acct, then paying it off when you get back from the honeymoon.  You won't be losing much ground and you will be protected.  Congrats on your engagement! 

@Steve Hall

@Steve Hall

When I was in grad school there was a really pretty girl that got a lot of attention. I asked a buddy about her once and the response was "She's cute but she has 200k in student loan debt. Probably best to steer clear." It was solid advice.

Pretty sure "marrying for love" will only tolerate 100k in non REI debt. Unwritten rule.

On a serious note, if a partner-to-be has major consumer debt, it's definitely worth exploring what bad habits might be associated with it. Very difficult to build wealth when one partner can't control spending habits.

@Andy Brown I broke that rule handedly with over $120k in debt. But I also gained a best friend, partner & lover & about $34k in income after taxes & forced retirement plan. We have a good plan to work together & pay it off while outearning it with investment income from syndications. We are so proactive that we are refinancing the highest rate loans prior to graduation & before payments would normally begin into a 3 year loan with $700 monthly payments at 3.75% vs. 6.25%.

We are in this together & aren’t going to let 6 figures slow us down for long. It’s just a shame that college costs have tripled & a $60k phd from a decent school is now $180k. At least we are lucky to have a great house hack & some scholarships as well as being down to final year!

@Matt Millard

Remember, you make your money going into the deal. You could have easily gotten a lover/partner/best friend, for well under 10k of debt (though admittedly this is market specific). I'm currently working on the "BP marriage calculator" (included with Pro membership) which factors in total debt and net worth and then calculates the ROI/viability on the marriage. ; )

But obviously finding a great life partner is invaluable. And glad to see youre getting ahead on the pay-down. Best of luck!