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Is student debt a factor in delaying marriage?

Is student debt a factor in delaying marriage?

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — A new survey says more people across the country are waiting to get married and start a family. Some counselors in Utah say there could be a few reasons why.

A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article asked if people are waiting to pay off their student loans before tying the knot. It reports the median age of a first marriage has risen over the past four years.

It says a report by IHS Global Insight shows during the same time period, other kinds of debt have decreased while student loan debt has increased. Bloomberg asks if there is an association between the two.

Median age for first marriage
    Males 27.5
    Females 25.6
    Males 28.7
    Females 26.5

But Dr. Jonathan Swinton with Swinton Counseling doubts that college debt is forcing people to wait to get married, especially since two married people usually make more money than one single person.

"You could make the argument that if they get married, they'll be in a better financial position to pay off the student loans," Swinton said.

While money seems to be a large reason why couples fight, Swinton says it's rarely the main reason.

"If there [are] other pre-existing issues in a relationship, money tends to be aggravated in the process. So, people fight about money because they don't get along with other things," he said.

Student Debt
  • 2011 - Students borrowed $117 billion in federal money
  • Average debt - $12,800
  • The top 1 percent of borrowers owe more than $150,000
Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

So, when is the right time, or what are the right circumstances, to get married? That's just it. Swinton says there is no perfect time.

"You're basically committing to make the other person more important than yourself. If a person is not ready to do that, marriage isn't right for them," he said. That's not to say waiting is a bad thing. Swinton says people who get married after the age of 25 have far fewer divorces than people who get married before 20.

"A lot of people don't want to give up the single life," he said. "A lot of people don't want to deal with the commitment. A lot of people are worried about, ‘Am I really going to love this person 20 or 30 years from now?' Those are valid concerns so people really have to be serious."

Paul Nelson


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