Are you Student & Getting Married? What You Need to Know About Your Student Debt

~By Donna Rosato

Student Loans and Marriage: What You Should Know Before Tying the Knot.

Talking about your student loans isn’t likely to be top of mind if you’re planning a wedding. But if you or your spouse-to-be have college debt, it’s an important conversation to have before you walk down the aisle.

Marriage can trigger changes to your student loan payments and affect your eligibility for some valuable tax breaks, says Betsy Mayotte, president of the Institute of Student Loan Advisors, a nonprofit that provides free one-on-one counseling for student loan borrowers.

Having sizable student debt can also have an impact on your financial goals for the future, another reason it’s important to have a frank conversation.

“You might be caught off guard if you don’t know your spouse has a lot of debt and you don’t discuss how you’ll budget for the payments,” says Mayotte.

Of course, getting married can help you better manage student loan payments, too. If your household income is higher as a couple, you might be able to pay off your loans faster.

“The name of the game is paying the least amount over time,” says Mayotte. “If your payment goes up, that may be a good thing, assuming it’s affordable.”

Here are the three main things to know about how getting married could affect your student loans.

Your Payments May Go Up—or Down

If you have federal student loans and are in an income-based repayment plan, which adjusts your payment based on how much you earn, your monthly bill may change depending on how much you and your spouse earn and the way you file your taxes.

If you are married and file your taxes jointly–which the vast majority of couples do–your payment will be based on your combined adjusted gross income (AGI). So if getting married means you’ll have a higher AGI, your student loan payments are likely to go up.

But income isn’t the only factor used to calculate your payment. If your spouse also has student loans and you file your taxes together, you may both see your monthly payments drop to account for the additional debt, even if you make more money together.

Depending on which income-based repayment plan you are in (there are four types), you could take your spouse’s income out of the equation by filing separate federal income tax returns. If you are in the Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), or Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan and you file your taxes separately from your spouse, payment is based only on your individual income.

There’s one exception: For married borrowers in the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) program, payments are based on the couple’s combined adjusted gross income and total loan debt, whether or not you file your taxes jointly.

You Could Lose Valuable Tax Breaks

Even if filing separately gives you a lower payment, it might not be worth it. If you choose to file your taxes individually, you’ll miss out on a host of tax credits and deductions that joint filers receive. They include the earned income tax credit, the American Opportunity Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit for higher education expenses, the student loan interest deduction, the adoption tax credit, and the child and dependent care tax credit.

If you are married and filing separately, you will also have less flexibility when it comes to tax strategies. You must both claim the standard deduction or must both itemize your deductions. A married person can’t use the standard deduction if his or her spouse is itemizing.

There’s no one right answer to whether to file separately or jointly when you’re married. You have to balance the benefits of the tax breaks you get by filing together with your ability to handle a potentially higher student loan payment.

Start by figuring out how your monthly payments could change. Use the Department of Education’s student loan repayment estimator to calculate your payments under different income scenarios. And talk with a professional tax planner to see what tax breaks you might be giving up.

It May Be Harder to Reach Financial Goals

Starting life together in debt can strain your relationship and prevent you from reaching longer-term financial goals. Americans have a record $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans, and many say that they are struggling with their finances because of it.

Consumer Reports nationally representative survey found that 44 percent of people who took out loans to pay for college had to cut back on day-to-day living expenses to pay their loans. Thirty seven percent delayed saving for retirement, 28 percent delayed buying a house, and 12 percent even delayed marriage.

Before you run into problems, have a money talk with your partner. Once you know where you stand, you can look for ways to ease up any potential financial pressure. If you or your spouse are not already in an income-based repayment plan, enrolling in one may make your payments more affordable as a couple.

If you can step up payments on your combined income, make sure you request that the loan servicer allocate the additional money to your highest-rate loans. Use this sample letter from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to instruct the loan servicer on what to do with the extra payment.

If you do run into trouble paying your student loans after you’re married, be aware that one spouse isn’t legally responsible for the student debt of the other unless he or she co-signed for it. You don’t need a co-signer on federal student loans, so this would only apply to private loans your spouse co-signed. However, in some states, loans you take out after you get married are considered jointly owned community property, and creditors could go after you if your spouse stops paying.

Thank you for sharing

Get a free
Quote Today.

COVID-19 Update

As a COVID-19 essential service, we are open for business and are committed to providing safe and efficient moving services to our customers.

Our Commitment to You

We are committed to moving you safely. In these unprecedented times, we take our role as essential service providers very seriously. We will continue to provide services while following recommendations from the CDC and the WHO while working to protect our customers and front-line employees.

Limiting in-person contact is the best practice when limiting the spread of COVID-19. While our business requires we enter the residence to provide packing and loading services, we can conduct the quote process via virtual survey.  While the staff is working remotely, they are available to customers, agents and drivers during the same business hours and in the same manner as if they were working in the office.

As you plan and prepare for your move, here are some steps you can take:


  • Rather than greeting the crew with handshakes, greet them in some other way, verbally for instance.
  • To ensure everyone’s health and safety, if you or anyone within your household may have contracted Coronavirus, or are isolating due to exposure to the virus, call us and explain the situation; in many cases, we will try to work with you
  • If you must cancel your move, be sure to ask questions about how we are managing cancellations now
  • Your health and the health of your family is important. If you are in a vulnerable group, over 60 or have a compromised immune system, schedule your move after the pandemic is over if it is at all possible.
  • Provide the moving crew access to a sink, soap and paper towels throughout your move. If this isn’t practical, and it is readily available, provide hand sanitizer
  • Purchase new moving boxes and tape; this isn’t the time to use recycled boxes from online sources and free sites or from stores
  • If you have not already purchased food for the next couple of weeks, you’ll want to stock up on items that you eat regularly. Any shelf-stable items can be donated to Move For Hunger before your move to lighten your load
  • When moving long distances, you may want to fly in to meet your moving truck. Be sure that you book refundable plane tickets and select hotels that offer free cancellation. Ask about cancellation policies before you book, and remember to read