Joint Accounts

Can I Talk My Son Out of Paying His Girlfriend’s Debt?

How to advise an adult child who’s about to make a money mistake

Kristin Wong
Forge
Published in
3 min readJul 15, 2019

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An illustration of a couple drawn upside down and discussing an issue, while the mother tries to reach them but can’t.
Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Dear Joint Accounts,

My adult son and his girlfriend recently moved in together. They’re hinting at marriage and their relationship seems serious, but everyone is doubtful that it will last, because they also fight a lot and talk about breaking up.

Basically, they seem to be making impulsive decisions that aren’t very well thought out — the latest being that they want to put my son’s student loan on hold while they pay hers off. This means my son will only be paying the minimum amount on his loan while he helps his girlfriend pay hers off faster. The thing is, if they break up, I doubt the favor will be returned. How do I tell my son this is a terrible idea?

Sincerely,

Concerned Mom

II can understand why you’re concerned, and it sounds like you’re right to be: Your son seems to be making financial decisions based on emotion, not logic. He’s effectively investing in someone else’s future at the expense of his own. The longer he postpones paying his loan, the more expensive that loan will be. And if he and his girlfriend break up, all those extra dollars in interest he racked up to invest in her future won’t matter.

Even if they stay together, it doesn’t seem fair for him to sacrifice his own financial health to improve hers. There’s little reason to combine debt goals at this point, especially if the relationship is rocky. That’s not to say she’s the enemy here — it just sounds like they’re not considering this from every angle.

But your son is an adult. Chances are, he doesn’t want unsolicited advice, even if he needs it, so expect that this conversation will be awkward, and handle it with care.

Make sure he knows you trust and respect him, and admire his generosity, but point out that he needs to protect himself financially, too.

First and foremost, try to talk to him alone, especially if you suspect your son has a hard time making decisions without his…

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Kristin Wong
Forge
Writer for

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, Catapult, The Atlantic and ELLE.