This week: A couple wants a clean slate, but are they mucking up their nuptials?

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Question: I have got $12,000 in student loans, and coincidentally, my girl has $12,000 on her credit cards. So we’re both kinda screwed, but at least she has lots of clothes and tech, while I got a college degree and a job where I can’t use it.

(I was a PR major but can’t find work in the field, so I’m working as a substitute teacher.)

We want to get married, but we’re so loaded with debt, I’m thinking we should just declare bankruptcy before that. My girl thinks we should do it after the wedding, so we can have an amazing ceremony. Which way is better?

— Anton in California

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…when should i declare bankruptcy

Before you propose to your girlfriend, can I propose another solution?

First, let me talk you out of rushing right into bankruptcy. Student loans are notoriously difficult to discharge in bankruptcy. It can be done, but first you need to read this long, detailed article called, Are Student Loans Forgiven in Bankruptcy?

More likely, you won’t be able to get rid of your student loans. A bankruptcy court will simply put you on a payment plan. This assumes you have public student loans. Private student loans have their own bankruptcy complications.

If you’re thinking right now, “Wow, I didn’t realize student loans were so complex,” I don’t blame you. Unlike a car loan or mortgage, student loans are so very easy to sign up for. Alas, they’re not so easy to pay off.

Going back to my friend Steve Rhode for a moment: The Get Out of Debt Guy is known for his harsh opinion of student loans in general. Here he is, in my office for a visit, ranting about them…

Now that Steve and I have (hopefully) convinced you to try something else first, my suggestion is much simpler than bankruptcy: Call 1-888-472-0365.

You’ll reach a specialist who will walk you and your girlfriend through specific programs to relieve your debt. For her, it might be a debt management program, which could possibly reduce her monthly payments by up to 30 or even 50 percent.

For you, if your student loans are indeed public, you qualify for government programs that can greatly cut your monthly payments. You might even be eligible for student loan forgiveness. The specialist will see if you meet the qualifications.

Let me leave you with three points, Anton…

  1. You have less student loans than most people. The average debt per borrower is nearly $30,000 — and rising.
  2. Your girlfriend has more credit debt than most people. The average debt per borrower is just over $5,000 — and rising.
  3. You need to work through this together to stay together. Money is the major cause of marital stress, and debt just makes it worse. I’m concerned you’d both contemplate running up a big wedding bill and then declare bankruptcy. Even if that would have worked out perfectly for you, the underlying attitude could easily doom your marriage in the ensuing years.

Make that call now, Anton. I recommend you put it on speaker and have your girlfriend present when you speak to our specialist.

Need help figuring out if bankruptcy is the right option? We’re here so you can get the fresh start you need.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched I’m glad you’re here.

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