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    Former MSE Penelope
    Real life MMD: Should I pay off her debts?
    • #1
    • 4th Aug 11, 10:49 AM
    Real life MMD: Should I pay off her debts? 4th Aug 11 at 10:49 AM
    Money Moral Dilemma: Should I pay off her debts?

    I've been dating this girl for 8 months now and she told me she had debt problems so bad she avoided opening her post for over 18 months. She hasn't told anyone else about this problem, not even her family. Over the past few months I've been helping her sort out all her statements and helped her enrol in a debt management plan. She earns a modest salary and the level of debt she is in means she's going to have very little personal spending money for at least 4 years before the debt is paid off. I earn a lot of money but I've always lived a modest lifestyle and I've never been in debt my whole life. I've got more than enough savings to pay off her debt, which is close to 16,000. I really like her and would love to take the stress away from her but at the same time I have doubts about if it's the right thing to do.

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  • Cassette

    It's fantastic you are such a generous person, and that you care for this girl so much.

    As nice as she is, an eight month relationship is not much of a commitment. Further down the line, maybe you could help her out a little with money, but it's too early.

    I would mention that this might affect your relationship too. If shes a decent person, she's going to feel very very "obliged" to you and in your debt. This is not necessarily a good thing for a relationship - particularly a relatively young relationship. You need to get to know each other without extra pressure.
    • Twosheds55
    • By Twosheds55 10th Aug 11, 9:33 AM
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  • Bill W
    Fairly amazing unanimity! I agree no to paying it all off and that 8 months is nowhere near enough.

    I was in that situation five and a half years ago. I paid off some of her urgent debt (about 1,000 for unpaid rent) and went through the process you did of detailing incomings and outgoings. The trouble is that is a very personal thing and it makes you seem like father and child/teacher and pupil rather than a couple. In the end I decided to give her a monthly amount that I could afford and ask no questions about what she did with it. All I suggested (not told, and just the once) was the order she should pay off her debts e.g. the highest interest rate first, and point out the waste of money that interest on loans is. All I did was ask every few months what level her debts were. They were coming down, maybe not as fast as I would have liked, but it showed she was trying. After a few years she had cleared all her debts. We have now just got engaged.
    • Cimscate
    • By Cimscate 10th Aug 11, 9:35 AM
    • 138 Posts
    • 146 Thanks
    Bad decision ...
    Don't do it, if you split you'll feel bad and if you stay together you'll be bailing her out for the rest of her life. Believe me there is nothing that will build a slow burning grudge faster than lending someone money and not getting it back.
    • Fujiko
    • By Fujiko 10th Aug 11, 9:43 AM
    • 149 Posts
    • 183 Thanks
    Forgive me for sounding like an old fuddy-duddy - which I probably am (old, anyway!) - but the thought of being in debt just scares me. I have been married for fifty years and in all that time the only money we have owed has been for our mortgage which was paid off long before my husband retired. We are certainly not wealthy, but we have always lived within our means (boring, isn't it!) and have never borrowed for anything, but we are of a generation which was taught if you couldn't afford it you didn't have it, and given the trouble unfettered credit has brought to so many people thhis is not such a bad philosophy. It would be interesting to know just what this young woman had managed to spend 16,000 on and how much interest she is having to pay - something I would very much resent having to do.
    To answer the question - definitely do not clear this debt. However much you like this woman I suspect she is a compulsive borrower and in a year or even less would be in just as much trouble. She must sort out her own problems - a case of being cruel to be kind.
  • brianmorrison
    Definitely not
    Sounds like an ex. She was in big financial trouble, I did pay them off for her to try and improve her situation. Never appreciated it fully, left me in a similar situation and was by far the last person in the world who in the end deserved any assistance.

    She has got herself into that position and 8 months is still a honeymoon period. Sounds like you have lived within your means, which is something to be grateful of.

    The best thing you can do is to try and persuade her to help herself - its a problem at 16k she didn't just happen to be in but making her face up to the reality is the first step.

    Don't do it!!
    • FattyBettyBoo
    • By FattyBettyBoo 10th Aug 11, 9:48 AM
    • 464 Posts
    • 712 Thanks
    Never lend what you cannot afford to lose!

    If I were you I would ease the day to day cost of living e.g. pay for things when you are together. If you like her enough to pay off her debts, would it make sense to live together?? This could ease the cost of living for her and enable her to pay off more debt. Summary - do not pay off the debt but try to enable her to do it.
  • screentrader
    To Clear or Not to Clear a debt
    Firstly you have to ask yourself whether this relationship is for the long term - as you said, it will take AT LEAST 4 years to clear it! You will feel a total mug if you pay this debt off for her and then a few months down the line the relationship falters and you go your seperate ways - you would have lost financially AND lose some of what is clearly your good nature. But there is another way - you obviously care for this girl and do not want to see her stressed. Now if the answer to the above is yes the next step (and I speak from experience here) is to get her to seriously look at how and why she became so much in debt and to accept she needs to change her spending habits. Finally, you need to sit her down and explain to her that you will 'help' her. YOU will lend her the money instead of the Bank which means no interest is going to be paid and that it is better to be in debt to you rather than to a bank. Draw up a contract where she will pay you back each month (this will cover you in case the relationship does falter). On top of this you will take 'extra' money to put into 'her pot' which she will get at the end of the contract (her little pot of gold). This will do the following: a) she will learn how to save b) she will learn that she is never bailed out for free (no lesson learned otherwise) c) she will not feel emotionally indebted to you. My Uncle did this for me - it was all official and he kept a log book (ledger if you like) which he went through once a week with me to show how the debt was reducing and also how my 'savings' were growing. During that time (it was in the 80's) he invested my saved money into stocks and shares and showed me how to do this and what to look for. I am now a sound, debt free, money savvy person who, while no longer investing in shares at present (for obvious reasons) keeps a keen eye on business/financial news. My uncle is now dead but he has been a key person in my life and taught me valuable life lessons - you sound like you can be just as special!
    • poorbabe
    • By poorbabe 10th Aug 11, 9:59 AM
    • 890 Posts
    • 1,800 Thanks
    As someone who is slowly clearing her debts after years of 'fun' with loans and credit cards, can I ask you to get yourself cloned and send the other one my way?

    Seriously: No. As others have said, pay for the odd thing here and there but she must settle her debts herself otherwise she will never learn.

    All the best.

    • raindaisy
    • By raindaisy 10th Aug 11, 10:04 AM
    • 35 Posts
    • 1,015 Thanks
    No never
    Dont help her clear the debt, carry on with the support to help her, the odd treat now and then to keep her moral going, dont let her think your going to pay for everything she still has to pay for some as its a joint relationship. 8 months is still very new, even if u do like her a lot and if she knows you have money then she could be playing you to get you to pay the debts off, make it clear that the money you have saved is locked away for the future and not being touched. Maybe explain about down grading the items she buys look for the bargains and the cheaper items there are many about there are many special offers on good brands if you can be bothered to might even get a few too.
  • filibuster
    I would say no...
    ...because I've been there and I've done what you are proposing. The debt I paid off for my ex-partner was 900 about 10 years ago. We had very different views on money - his was 'it's only money' and my view is that it takes a lot of effort to earn so I'd rather look after it. Given his rather relaxed approach to money it was a surprise to find out that once I'd paid off the debt it actually made him feel unhappy and that he had no control in our relationship.
    All relationships are different and you will probably know deep down the answer to this dilemma but I'd also add one more thing - think about your own motivation for paying off the debt. I thought I was coming to his rescue and that he'd love me forever, I was wrong. We split up seven years later - not because of me paying off the loan but because of the fundamental differences between us, one of which was our attitudes to money. Good luck.
  • stingyC
    Unlike everyone else who replied I think you should pay off her debts. Even asking this question suggests that you need to learn a lesson the hard way!

    You'll learn that she'll gladly let you pay it off and immediately start building up the debt again. Afterall, there were no consequences the last time. This time however, she will probably keep it a secret from you until you are financially tied to her (after buying a house or getting married).

    Have a word with yourself, dismiss this foolishness and put her on a debt reduction plan. If she can't stick to it, what future do you have? What happens down the road when you go down to a single income?
  • Professor Snape
    NO NO NO

    If you do so the only lesson she will learn is "when I screw up and stick my head in the sand and ignore this problem, Daddy will come and make it all go away". You are doing her no favours, you are doing yourself even less.
  • arinca
    I have never posted on this or any other forum, but I am compelled to say something in the hope that my advice will stop you from losing 16,000!

    I am not great with money - hence my signing up to this site! (It's been a great help) and my husband is very good with his money. He always has savings and clears his cards every month.

    I came to our relationship with 20,000 of debt after uni. When we started our relationship he was very generous and took me on holiday and bought me treats etc. which was lovely, but did nothing for my self respect. I resented the fact that he was always trying to bail me out and it led to a lot of arguments. However, after a lot of discussion we both started to help me sort me debt out and my husband learned to let me do things for myself. My husband has the patience of a saint, and over the years I have gotten better at saving and have managed my own debt. I eventually managed to save enough to by my first car with cash!

    The moral of the story is - let your girlfriend sort her own debt out. If you do it for her you are taking away any power she might have to learn to do it herself, which she may even resent in the long term. Also she won't learn the skills necessary to keep control of her finances so she will in fact be worse off, not better, because neither of you will trust her with money and it will be you who will bear the burden of sorting out your finances in the future.
    I understand that you want to help and take care of her. But if you do this you risk losing your money and your respect for your girlfriend as well as her respect for herself.

    I should also add that the reason I'm so bad with money is that my parents always sorted out my life for me. They paid for everything and even when I left home they still helped me out. I never learned to save and I never learned to control my own money. It may seem very generous on the face of it, but really my parents did me a great disservice as I was unable to control my spending, knowing they would bail me out. I love my parents very much but it took a lot for me to be able to say 'no thanks - I don't need your help, I can do this on my own!'
    I now have two children and they get regular pocket money and are learning to save for the things they want.

    A valuable life lesson!

    Good luck.
  • MkkDdd
    If you can afford it, then why not? If you just 'like', as opposed to 'love', her this might be the best way to proceed: you will soon see what sort of long-term partner she would be if you pay off her debts; if she behaves like a wife and becomes a good housekeeper to slot into your life, you've done well and may experience some deepening of your feelings; if, on the other hand, she does not, then it's still money well spent - an ugly experience avoided. If losing the money really won't cause you too much distress - if you can really afford it - then yes, I believe you can use these circumstances most constructively.
    • Mynxmox
    • By Mynxmox 10th Aug 11, 10:25 AM
    • 32 Posts
    • 27 Thanks
    NO! Don't pay it for her, also for her sake. To be endebted to someone for his kindness to the tune of 16k is a huge moral weight to bear. Let her build her own pride by getting out af it herself - she will love you more for your support this way. Of course you can treat her to luxuries (a meal out etc.) that she will not be able to afford but that should be it.
  • acece
    As generous and nice as you are, I would say don't do that.
    I agree with other posts, this is for her sake.
    If she doesn't pay off her own debt, she would never learn about money and how to manage it.
    8 month is way too short to know somebody and I would only suggest otherwise if you are going to marry her.
    Best of luck
  • judy1010
    I would like to say you sound like a really lovely, caring person, and it's so nice that you want to make your girlfriend's stress go away.

    Like many other MSE respondents, I would say that you have only been going out for 8 months, and you have spent a lifetime saving 16k. I would say absolutely pay it off if you end up marrying her. But for now you're not sure what the future holds, just enjoy her company and you can treat her to nice restaurants, flowers, etc. Also, suggesting to pay off her 16k of debts (a lot of debt) with your lifetime's worth of savings, while an admirable and really really amazing gesture, will actually put a lot of pressure on the relationship. Especially if she agrees to let you! In practice, I think you have doubts about this for a reason. Trust your instincts, let the relationship develop. If you're meant to be together forever, you know you will pay it off for her and so you shouldn't feel guilty.

    If it is causing her a lot of stress and affecting the relationship, you could offer to pay for counselling sessions for her and get her to see a financial expert (independent, some run by the govt are free, e.g. Moneymadeclear).

    Good luck!
    • kaz0705
    • By kaz0705 10th Aug 11, 10:47 AM
    • 239 Posts
    • 322 Thanks
    I think the bottom line is only lend if you're prepared never to get it back. That's the worse case scenario so if you're happy to accept basically giving 16k away then go for it.

    From a DFW point of view, it's incredibly unhelpful for you to pay off her debt- she won't learn anything about budgeting, sacrifice and amending her spending if you help her out.

    I'd offer her support and help rather than bail her out.

    Of course, paying when you go out every now and again would help :-)
    LBM: January 2010
    DFD: August 27th 2012
  • hawk-the-slayer
    No! Easy way out
    The best thing you can do for her is to Help her find her own way out of the debt, paying it of for her will make you look like a saint in the short term but if things go pear shaped you will be the only loser. I had the same situation when i met my fiancee 4 years ago, i helped her to budget found out any information she needed in order to help her but ultimately it was herself that got her out of the mess she was in! The only things i did where small i would make sure i bought the shopping 9 out 10 times, when we went on holiday i booked it as a "surprise" and simply told her that I wanted a holiday and of course i wasn't going to leave her behind was i! and on the odd occasion i sneakily paid her rent, not done to undermine her but simply to help ease her burden. And of course if things such as a wachine machine/fridge/hoover etc needed replaceing i would do it and if she made a fuss, all be it with huge amounts of gratitude i would say "well my clothes need cleaning too or there wasn't enough room in the fridge for my beer" You get the picture. Any way after 2 years she was debt free, i must add most of her problems where caused by her previous partner! now everything we do is 50/50 she loves the fact she is back in control and she loves me more for helping her find her own way out of the mess!! Nearly 4 years down the line we are getting married and i have just had my vasectomy reversed!! so if you love her and think she is the one HELP her to HELP herself you will both end up happier and stronger at the end of it.
    Last edited by hawk-the-slayer; 10-08-2011 at 11:05 AM.
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