To the Shadchan:
I have been going out with a young lady, and we are close to getting engaged. She is everything I am looking for, and we talk easily and enjoy each other’s company. Something came up on our last date, however, that is disturbing and makes me question where to go from here.
The girl said, “I think I should tell you that I have debt.” It seems that she borrowed a large amount of money for graduate school. She started school, using the money for both tuition and living expenses, which is allowed by the terms of the loan. Then she dropped out during the first semester and found a job. Her family somehow spent the rest of the loan. Basically, the money is gone. Her family is not able to pay it back, and the loan is on the girl’s name, so she is responsible for it. That means that, if we get married, it will be my responsibility as well.
I am still learning and will probably go into chinuch, and since she stopped her graduate program, she will not be in a position to pay either. How can I start marriage with such a heavy burden on my head? I come from a family of straight shooters. My parents are not rich and not poor – very middle class. More important, borrowing money is very foreign to them and, hence, to me. Except for a mortgage, my parents work hard and save until they have the money to pay for the things they want. I think this is a good money strategy, which I was planning to follow in my own life.
So, I am worried, first, about what such a debt would do to us financially. Second, I’m afraid of the psychology of it. If she can borrow so much money without having the means to pay it back, how responsible will she be about money issues in general? I like her very much, and she seems to like me, too. How important is this issue to our compatibility and happiness?
The Shadchan Answers:
My first question is why her parents put her in such a predicament. Did they not realize that it meant she would have to get married with an “albatross around her neck”? If her parents were “using” her by taking that money when they didn’t have the means to repay, that was certainly unacceptable on their part. Did they ask her permission? What was the reason for their using her money, and what does it tell you about them?
If you decide to marry this young woman, will the parents respect your independence, or will they interfere in your life? Will they be controlling, telling you what to do? Or are they needy “users,” who will expect you to help them? In either case, what will the girl’s stance toward them be once she is married?
This poor girl is really in a bind. Why did she not immediately pay back the money (minus the amount she used) when she dropped out of school? Since it was her name on the loan – which I imagine is very substantial, since graduate school is expensive – she is the one responsible. Did she not realize that she should continue with her schooling so that she could become a professional and pay off this loan? Since she wants a “learning boy,” how did she think she and her husband would live without a lucrative profession or parental financial support?
I think this young lady is in a dream world and not facing reality. However, you have to respect her for telling you beforehand and not waiting until you were even further along in the dating process. I know of a case where a young woman used her loan for her schooling and became a professional but did not tell her husband about her debt until they were engaged. However, since she had a very good job, she was able to pay off the loan quickly.
Did you notice any other red flags on previous dates indicating a lack of planning for the future or a lack of financial awareness? Did she ever speak about her parents’ financial dilemma before this “bombshell”? Did you ever discuss how you would handle future financial difficulties together?
You grew up in a stable home with parents who have “their head on straight” and do not live beyond their means. As you mentioned, this would be very foreign to them.
I never tell anyone not to marry someone, but here are a few thoughts: I am very concerned about your future with this young woman. As you yourself realize, you will have to worry not only about normal day-to-day expenses but also about how you will repay this tremendous burden. How on earth will you ever do it on a chinuch salary after your years of learning?
I think this young lady should straighten her life out before she enters any marriage. She must clear her name of this loan. I don’t know how she will do it, unless her parents take out a loan on their name to pay it. This might seem extreme, but it is what might have to be done for the young lady to get on with her life.
If I were you, I would definitely reconsider this situation and not jump into a fire. You must think of yourself first and decide whether you can live with such a situation. If you haven’t done so already, I urge you to speak to your parents, your rebbe, and/or a trusted mentor to guide you in making your decision. Whatever you decide, I wish you hatzlacha.