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July 18, 2021

Is student debt preventing you from getting on with your life?

The transition from adolescence to adulthood is already being delayed, with young people taking longer to marry, buy a home and have children, but large student loans can slow the process even further.

The dead weight of student loan debt has been referred to as “the anti-dowry” in certain circles. And this anti-dowry is getting larger and more burdensome, with students who took out loans graduating with an average of $27,000 in debt last year.

Unlike a dowry, which in some cultures helps a young couple get set up in life, a stack of student loan debt is a millstone preventing many young people from getting on with their lives, maintains researcher Allan Carlson. 

This may mean boomeranging home with parents for years, or forestalling any kind of serious relationship with a potential life partner (let alone marriage), he adds. And, when they do eventually find that partner, that debt is often top of mind prompting delicate conversations about just what to do about it

When quizzed, “Debt brought into marriage” was, out of a long list, the third most problematic issue facing all newlyweds, says Carlson. Among respondents who had no children, it was the second greatest issue. For those ages 29 and below, it was rated first.

And it doesn't go away. Respondents married one year or less also reported that this anti-dowry effect remained their most serious problem. And, while this conservative group didn't look at same-sex relationships, there's little reason to suppose they'd be any different.

Confident in the power of their bond, some young couples may regard one partner’s debt as an obstacle to defeat together. But other couples recently told National Public Radio that they've simply avoided legal marriage altogether so one partner wouldn't be liable for the other one's debt.

Has student debt slowed your path to independence? Has 'yours not mine' student debt been a factor in your relationships? 

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...