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Love won't pay off debts from education

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By Allison Prang
The Kansas City Star
Newlyweds have always had to deal with a load of sometimes painful money issues when starting life together. Now, rising college loan debt has made it even more challenging for couples to get off on the right foot.
After all, who wants to start a marriage with somebody who owes $100,000 or more to a bank or the federal government?
Ann Hakan, who specializes in relationship counseling in Kansas City, sees evidence that burdensome student loan debt has caused some couples to forestall marriage. Besides the average $27,000 in student loan debt, many young people also owe thousands of dollars on their credit cards.
Hakan said debt was less of an issue in a relationship if it had been accumulated while working toward a professional degree, in occupations such as medicine or law where future earnings power could make it easier to pay off loans.
But if someone in the relationship doesn't think the other person is working hard enough or being realistic in paying off the loans, that can raise a red flag, she said.
Lack of communication is often the underlying issue, experts said. Dealing with debt is often the first issue that couples should put on the table when dating gets serious. Knowing what you are about to get yourself into can help you decide how to deal with credit problems, experts said.
Arguments about money have always hampered relationships. A recent survey by Chase Card Services and XO Group reinforced the notion that money was the No. 1 cause of conflict between couples, especially while planning their wedding, starting off married life and deciding when to start a family. So the first years of marriage can set the tone for financial and marital bliss.
Sandi Weaver, a financial planner and president of Financial Security Advisers in Prairie Village, Kan., said young married couples need to understand their money personality. For example, is one person a spender and the other a saver? Does one handle the finances more than the other?
Weaver said couples need to figure out how to deal with money and financial problems before they say, "I do."
"A lot of young couples don't even talk about it," Weaver said of couples' financial situations. "They just think love'll figure that out, but it doesn't."
Story tags » Personal FinanceColleges



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