Question: My family is well off. We live in a big house on the water, and my parents drive his-and-her BMWs. I graduate from college this December with no student loans, but my boyfriend has around $20,000 in loans and come from a hardworking family that can’t afford to help him out.
Here’s the issue: We want to get married in the next couple years, but my parents are not supportive. They say his poor financial position will hold me back. The thing is, he’s quite frugal and my parents are not. I remember growing up hearing plenty of fights about money, and fetching the mail and seeing many FINAL NOTICE statements.
How can I convince my parents that my boyfriend may not have any money right now, but he’s actually quite good with the money he does have?
— Morgan in Florida
Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…
You hit on a problem that I’ve been talking about for decades. Namely, debt isn’t just a poor person’s problem.
Sadly, with nearly $1 billion in credit card debt and more than that in student loan debt, this country is hurting across the socio-economic spectrum.
You’re quite right to look at more than just income, Morgan. I’ve counseled many families who earned six figures but also had six figures in debt. I’ve even counseled indebted families who receive a massive inheritance — only to see them again a few years later, after they spent every dime and gotten themselves back in debt again.
Last month, I told NBC News…
Let’s be honest, any debt is toxic to your love life. I’ve counseled couples on their finances for more than two decades, and I’ve seen debt nearly destroy their relationships — especially when one partner has a lot and the other has little or none.
Notice I said “debt” and not “money.”
Here’s what I recommend you try with your parents. First, sign up for PowerWallet or Mint. Both are free online money management tools. Debt.com partners with PowerWallet because I think it visualizes your money better and is a little easier to use, but it doesn’t really matter which you choose.
Once you input your data, you can click a button and see your finances laid out in stark terms. Show your parents and your boyfriend how to do the same.
I have a sneaking suspicion that once all three of you call up your PowerWallet accounts side by side, your parents will see they have just as much debt, if not more, than your boyfriend.
Of course, they’ll argue their income is much higher, which is true. Then again, they’re closer to retirement, and I doubt they’re well prepared. As you can see, this is the beginning of an honest conversation about debt, one your family never has had before. That’s a good thing, both for the present and the future. If it helps, show your parents this column, and if they wish, they can call Debt.com at 1-800-810-0989 for a free debt analysis.
Bottom line, Morgan: You got a good head on your shoulders, so follow your heart.
Have a debt question?
Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.