Target 2 Consumer Alert: Student loan debt and relationships

ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (WBAY) - Most college graduates can say they have something in common, a lot of debt. Student loans can stress you out and they can impact your relationships too.

“It's the number one debt for people under 40 years old. Not a mortgage and not healthcare, it's student loans,” said Dean Listle at Secure Retirement Solutions.

Last year,college graduates left campus with an average of $39,400 in student loans and more than half expect to carry that debt for decades. Carrying that debt into a relationship can be a stress.

Investment Advisor Dean Listle of Secure Retirement Solutions in Ashwaubenon explained the rules in Wisconsin.

“Understand the state of Wisconsin is a community property state or marital property state, so many times that means your expenses, debt, your income, your retirement funds belong to both spouses,” said Listle.

According to a new survey, 13% of couples blame student loans for ending their marriage.

“If you take on a federal student loan prior to getting married you're responsible for that personally. Once you get married, you're still responsible for that personally. However, if you take on a federal student loan after you get marriage both spouses are responsible for it. So, if one spouse defaults the other will have to pay,” said Listle.

He said with private student loans a spouse could be responsible even if it's taken out before marriage.

Many couples hide their debt, that's called financial infidelity, about 4 in 10 say they're guilty.

“I'm surprised at how many people come into our office and they find out about their spouses debt for the first time while they're sitting here at this table. That's not a good thing,” said Listle.

Listle works with couples to make a written plan to cover expenses and that planning should start when students and parents are scoping out schools and applying for loans.

“You typically don't want to take on more debt than you salary is going to pay when you take on that profession for what you went to school for,” said Listle.