Getting married is a huge decision — personally and financially. You have to adapt to each other’s lifestyles and habits, and you may start to combine your finances.
But should you combine your student loans?
From 1993 to 2006, the Department of Education issued joint consolidation loans to married couples. However, the government ended that program in 2006 due to concerns about how loans would be handled if a couple divorced.
However, you can still combine your student loans by working with a private lender. Purefy has partnered with PenFed to offer spousal consolidation, allowing you to consolidate your loans and potentially lower your interest rate.
Spousal consolidation isn’t for everyone. If you aren’t sure if it’s right for you and your partner, here is what you need to know to make an informed decision.
Is combining your student loans with your spouse’s debt a good idea?
There are several benefits and drawbacks to combining your student loans with your partner’s. Here are six pros and cons to consider.
Pros of spousal student loan consolidation
1. You’ll have just one combined monthly payment
According to Saving For College, the typical number of student loans people have at graduation is eight to 12 different loans. That means a married couple could have as many as 24 loans and 24 different monthly due dates to remember.
If that sounds overwhelming, spousal consolidation can be a smart move. You’ll combine your loans and have just one loan and payment to keep track of each month.
2. There will be only one loan servicer to deal with
If you have several different student loans, they may be managed by different loan servicers, too. Servicers can vary widely in terms of customer support and convenience, so it can be frustrating to deal with multiple loan servicers. When you refinance your loans together, you’ll have just one loan servicer to work with, going forward.
3. You’ll increase your chances of getting approved for loan consolidation
When you apply for a spousal consolidation loan, you can submit your combined income and expenses on your application. With a higher income, you have a better chance of getting approved for loan consolidation and qualifying for a lower interest rate. Spousal consolidation is especially helpful if one person stays home or earns significantly less than their partner.
Cons of spousal student loan consolidation
1. You’ll lose federal benefits
When you consolidate your loans together, your loans will become private loans. If you previously had federal student loans, that means you’ll lose out on perks like income-driven repayment plans, federal forbearance or deferment, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
If either of you works for a non-profit organization or government agency, losing your eligibility for loan forgiveness is a significant drawback.
2. Splitting up may be more difficult
No one wants to think about it, but divorce is quite common. In fact, Psychology Today reported that one in four recent marriages would end in divorce. If the worst happens and you eventually split up, dealing with a spousal consolidation loan can be complicated as you both are equally liable for the debt.
3. You could be on the hook for the full balance if your partner dies
When you apply for a spousal consolidation loan, you and your partner are equally responsible for the debt. If something horrible should happen and one of you passes away, the remaining spouse may still be responsible for the combined balance of the debt. That’s true even if the deceased partner had the bulk of the original loans.
If you kept the loans separate, your spouse’s lenders would likely discharge the debt completely if they passed away, eliminating that burden for you.
Refinancing your loans with your spouse as a co-signer
Only one lender we’re aware of allows you to consolidate your student loan debt with your spouse’s: PenFed.
But there is another option that other lenders offer: You can apply for a refinancing loan with your spouse as a co-signer.
A co-signer is someone with good credit and income who applies for the loan with you. If you fall behind on the payments, the co-signer is responsible for the loan, instead. Adding a co-signer to your application makes it more attractive to lenders because it decreases their risk.
Using your spouse as a co-signer can be a smart strategy if the primary applicant earns less than their partner or has worse credit. Having your spouse co-sign the loan also increases your chances of getting approved and qualifying for a low interest rate.
But why would adding your spouse as a co-signer be potentially better for you than spousal consolidation?
Some companies offer co-signer releases. After you make a certain number of payments on time, you can apply to have your co-signer released from the loan. After that, they wouldn’t be responsible for the debt at all, making things easier if you ever need to divide your finances.
Applying for a spousal consolidation loan
PenFed’s eligibility requirements are a bit different for married couples than they are for single applicants. The company will combine your income and debt to decide if you qualify for a loan, and base your interest rate on the type of degree the primary applicant has and the higher credit score between you and your partner.
Once you find a loan option that works for you, such as spousal consolidation or a refinancing loan with your spouse as a co-signer, you can move forward with the application process.
Refinancing your student loans
Refinancing your student loan debt can be a smart way to lower your interest rate, save money, and pay off your debt early. If you’re married to someone who also has student loan debt, spousal consolidation can help streamline and simplify your finances. To determine if it’s right for you, discuss the pros and cons together —and choose what makes the most sense for your family.