Monday, February 5, 2018

Why it's not OUR debt

Today we both want to share another part of our story with you: why we don't share Ms. DebtFree's student loan debt.

Her Perspective

Many of my (Ms. DebtFree) friends and family have made side comments about why they think Mr. DebtFree should be helping pay off my student loans if we're planning our future together.  *big sigh*  Well first off, I'm always a bit taken aback that they feel the need to remark on this.  Second, I never really appreciate the subtle implication about the level of our commitment to each other.  Nevertheless, once I stop feeling butt-hurt I always struggle to articulate why we don't share my debt without sounding snippy.  I do not want to offend anyone at all and I know every person has their own unique situation.  What we prioritize and decide for our relationship is not always applicable or feasible for other people, but because we are at a pre-children stage in our relationship we have a few more options.

Here's my thoughts about my loans.  I didn't know Mr. DebtFree when I started college.  I was trying to escape my home life as quickly as possible and loans were the only way I could afford to move out of state.  No one ever taught me the basics of student loans and since my dad was still claiming me I wasn't qualified for any of the grants or scholarships I found.  I was feeling desperate and as we all know, that's usually when you make your worst decisions.  I could spend time dwelling on what I could/should/would have done differently, but that serves no purpose now other than wallowing in self-loathing and judgment.

My mom had stayed at home with us kiddos for 20-ish years and had little marketable job skills other than housekeeping and childcare.  While she could find full-time work in both of those markets, neither pay exceptional wages.  A good portion of our living expenses were budgeted out of the Parent Plus Loans.  The loans in my name usually covered tuition and most of my textbook and supply needs.  The loans in my mom's name covered rent, gas, emergencies, medical, etc.  I worked part-time off and on during the school years and full-time during the summers.  I rarely made more than minimum wage and tended to blow my money on going out with friends because I "deserved" to have some fun.  Yeah, I know...

So what's my point?

Those loans were used before I met Mr. DebtFree to cover living expenses for myself and my mom.  They also covered my personal education.  Not his.  Why should he pay for my poor financial decisions?  I liken it to the big government bailouts for certain corporations.  Where is the lesson in that?  If I do not face the repercussions of my poor financial choices, I will never learn to be responsible with my current and future money.  It's downright painful to think of all the time I will spend paying off my student loan debt, but it's a lesson I have to learn on my own.

Overcoming financial hardship on your own builds resiliency, wisdom, contentment, pride, and a strong work ethic.  Mr. DebtFree is here to give me sound financial advice, emotional support, encouragement when I need it, and constructive criticism when I need to get back on track.  He is not here to make my problems disappear.

I think sometimes people still have a "white knight" mentality. And that's downright dangerous.  Our goal should be to live with intent and be good stewards over what we have been given.  We should never expect someone to swoop in and rescue us from whatever tower of difficulty we are stuck in.  We must learn how to support ourselves because that will free us to seek healthy, balanced relationships with friends, family, and significant others.  Any relationship, but especially one with an imbalance of power, has potential for resentment, guilt, and over-dependence to build up and create strife.

And yes, we want to start a family one day.  But first I must take care of my responsibilities.  And that is a hard sacrifice to make, but one day I want the opportunity to work less (or even take a break for a year or so) when we have children.  At this stage it would not be possible unless Mr. DebtFree assumed full responsibility for my loans and that would be both completely unfair and incredibly selfish of me.

So I will work hard and shoulder this debt with him alongside me every step of the way.  The journey won't be easy, but oh so worth it in the end.

Nursing school pinning with Mr. DebtFree, my mom, and my aunt

His Perspective

Ms. DebtFree hit the nail on the head with her synopsis so I will be brief.

It's not about fishing for someone, it's about teaching them how to fish for themselves.  If I were to step in and take care of this problem, the underlying issues that caused the problem to occur would not be addressed.

Watching Ms. DebtFree learn about fiscal responsibility and budgeting over the last few months has been inspiring.  She didn't think about her expenses when we first started dating and once we moved in together those "only $5" coffees were a constant source of argument between us.  She has been learning so much about personal finance over the last six months and she gets it now.  This blog has been one of the best things for us because she gets excited to see what she's spending money on and where she could cut back.

We don't always agree on everything, but we agree where it counts. It would be cheaper in the long run for me to step in and wipe clean her higher interest loans, but I am willing for us to pay a premium now to change spending habits that will last a lifetime and set her up for success.  While she is on this journey I will be her biggest cheerleader, adviser, and emotional supporter.

Ferry selfies are serious business!

Closing Thoughts

We completely understand that our setup might not be possible for many of you.  We hope you understand our intent was to be transparent about how this debt is getting paid off.  We've had people act like it will be an easy feat to tackle these student loans because we're a dual-income couple, but that's not reflective of our approach.

We want to be open about our finances and we also want to inspire those of you who are facing tough decisions.  Personal sacrifices are just that: a sacrifice.  It's uncomfortable to be told we have to give up things we want in order to take care of the financial situation we are in.  But it's the truth and it needs to be said.  We must break out of our comfort zones to be successful in life.

Family Christmas photos are more fun with a bird and a dog!

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