Q. I brought about $15,000 in student loan debt into our marriage. I’m 26, my wife is 27, and we’ve been married a little over a year. During that time, our parents have helped us out with financial gifts occasionally. Whenever this happens, my wife and I get into an argument. She likes to use the cash they give us to have fun, but I think we should use it to pay down debt and get our finances in order. What is your opinion?
A. If your parents didn’t specify what the money is for, then it’s up to you guys to decide together how it will be used. In my mind, the fun needs to be put on hold for a while.
You’ve already told me you have at least $15,000 in debt. If there’s more debt in the picture, I’d advise listing all your debts, and begin knocking them out from smallest to largest using the debt snowball system. Debt is risk, and as long as it’s around it’s eating up your largest wealth-building tool—your income.
I’m sure your wife is a good, smart lady. But it’s time she started being a little more mature when it comes to financial matters. Let her know how important this is to you and why it’s so important to your future as a couple. You two should be working together and getting your financial house in order as a team.
I recommend treating the money from your parents just like a paycheck. That means including it in a written, monthly budget, and taking care bills, debt, and any other financial responsibilities you have first. Trust me, there’ll be plenty of time for fun later. The amount of student loan debt you have isn’t astronomical, but it does need to be cleaned up as fast as possible.
Once that’s taken care of, you’ll be able to really concentrate on saving and investing—and yes, some fun along the way!