Personal Finance: Debt heartbreak

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Michelle Singletary
Thursday, October 7, 2010; 2:06 PM

Dating can be complicated for anyone. But for one guy trying to find Ms. Right when his debt qualifies him as Mr. Wrong, it has been particularly heartbreaking.

In a letter to a relationship expert for Turner Broadcasting's thefrisky.com, a Chicago man wanted advice on when during courtship he should broach the topic of his $190,000 in student loans (and no, he says, he's not a doctor or lawyer).

"I am ashamed and embarrassed to be burdened by such student debt, and I can't help but feel most women would be scared off by it," the guys says. Furthermore, he writes, "I can't bear the prospect of getting close to someone only to scare her off because of my debt. I feel like a leper. But, am I overreacting?"

Columnist Wendy Atterberry gives much of the same advice I would. She tells him yes, there are going to be women who will run and run fast when learning about his debt load. But he's not necessarily destined to a life of solitude and loneliness because of it.

"Look, I'm not going to lie to you; there are certainly people out there for whom your debt would be a deal breaker, but that doesn't mean it's a deal breaker for everyone," Atterberry writes. "There are far worse things to be saddled with than a lot of debt."

I also agree with Atterberry that you don't need to share your financial business with people you are just getting to know.

"Certainly, before you, say, propose marriage you'd want to disclose that information about yourself," she says. "But it's not something that has to be shared early on."

But let's say he does get serious with someone, would it be right for that person to walk out when faced with a mate with that amount of debt? It might be easy to say love should overcome any debt. But you can't pay your bills with love.

Have you ever been in a relationship where you or your significant had a lot of debt? How did or didn't you deal with it? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com and put 'Debt Breaker' in the subject line.

Pulling Back

Paying for their children's college education has become more challenging for an increasing number of families, according to a recent Gallup Poll.

Post writer Ylan Q. Mui reports that the percentage of families who planned to make little or no contribution to tuition has increased. And as expected given the bleak economy, many families said they just can't afford to help pay for college.


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