My partner (EB) and I live together and he has always been supportive of my decision to pay off my debt. While I have 6 figure debt, he carries little more than his car note and 2 small credit card accounts of less than $500, which he could pay off, if he wanted to. It wasn’t until recently that I divulged just how much student loan debt I had, because I’m pretty sure it would be scary to just about anyone.
But to his credit, my partner did not really think too much about it, which I think says a lot about his perspective on debt being just a natural part of life.
I maintain the budget for our household, which includes rent and utilities, groceries, gifts and holiday shopping, and any activities we do as a family. We have a joint account from which most of these items are paid. The budget is somewhat fragmented because we do also maintain separate accounts for our personal expenses like cell phones, car note and car insurance, credit cards, and shopping. Sometimes these separate expenses need to be paid out of the joint account, which can throw my system out of whack.
EB and I have frequent money discussions because paying off debt has become forefront in my life. I had not noticed until maybe a week ago, that he isn’t really interested in paying off debt - for himself. There have been times when there was enough discretionary income in our budget for him to pay off one of his cards, but he always chooses to do something else instead. He backs my debt plan 100%, but would like to focus on other things with his personal part of our finances.
As the realization of this hit me, I wasn’t sure just how catastrophic this would be. I thought, don’t we need to be on the same page in order for this debt payoff plan to work? Otherwise won’t it take that much longer and be that much more stressful? Don’t we need to be of like mind and in sync?
I spent a couple of days trying to figure out how to convince EB that we needed to work on paying off debt together, just like the experts suggest. I was going to wow him with charts and thermometers showing how quickly we could tackle the debt and how much we would be able to start saving as soon as it was all paid off - and then I had a new thought . . .
It is Absolutely okay for him to not want to focus on paying off my debt - afterall, it is my debt. It is debt I had accumulated before even meeting him, debt I had put off paying for so long in my life. All of the additional interest I am paying, the impact this has had on my credit score - these are things that are solely my responsibility to rectify.
We both work the same two jobs and income from our night job can vary quite a bit from one pay period to the next. I include a base amount from that job in our regular monthly budget. While I devote most of the extra income to paying off my debt, he plans to devote some of his extra income to our savings goals and some to just having fun. This way, our emergency fund will still grow a little at a time, which is a relief for both of us.
I think that is more than a fair trade. This journey to financial freedom is something I have spent years researching and internalizing. For me, achieving this debt free goal is the key to truly enjoying life. But EB does not agree. He believes in enjoying the present, and spending money on the things he wants to do now. Our conversations revolve around being able to budget and incorporate both goals.
For instance, we would like to be able to take a family vacation next year, which is estimated to cost about $7000. Saving for such a large sum could derail my personal goals, but would be impossible for him to do on his own. Knowing that we both want to make this happen motivates me to work hard at strategically paying off my debt so that I can contribute more equally to our vacation. To that end, I look for additional ways to earn income to contribute.
This may not work for some couples. It may seem to put an unequal amount of pressure on one person over the other. But this method allows me to be responsible for what I have brought to our partnership, and that sits better with me. Of course I don’t mind the help when offered, but I would never want him to feel obligated to pay for my past debt.
What do you think? Does all debt become shared debt when two people get together?