Wayne and Wanda: My fiance is in debt, and we can’t agree on how to move forward financially

Hi Wanda and Wayne,

I have a surprising financial issue with my fiance that I’d like your thoughts on. I already know how I feel about it, but my fiance also thinks he knows the right route, so I guess I’m just looking for another perspective.

My fiance and I are deeply in love and we’re otherwise excited about a future together filled with shared dreams and goals. But this challenge has us both a little fuzzy on our approaches to finances down the road.

I am fortunate enough to be in a stable financial position. I have worked hard to pay off my condo and stay debt-free. On the other hand, my fiance is struggling with credit card debt and college loans. I understand that financial struggles for couples are not uncommon, what concerns me is his reluctance to accept my help in paying off his debts.

I firmly believe in the concept of shared finances in a marriage. I also believe we can and should have his debts paid off before our wedding and honeymoon. And I envision us having a joint account where all our earnings go and from which we plan and budget together. Whether it’s purchasing a new car, furthering our education (I might get a master’s someday), weathering unexpected financial challenges, and of course kids, I believe that we should face them together as a team. And in this case, he should let me help him get out of debt.

My fiancé is adamant about managing his debts on his own and will not accept any assistance from me. He’s being prideful and maybe even feeling embarrassed about it, I think, and now I’m worried about him embracing the idea of shared finances as a married couple.

Any thoughts on how to navigate this delicate situation? How can I more effectively communicate my concerns to him? I don’t even care if it causes tension — it’s already tense! And at least we talk about it. We just don’t agree. How can we get our values and ideals aligned on this?


Wanda says:

I think you’re in a better starting place than you realize. First of all, it’s huge that your fiancé has been open about his current financial situation. Admitting to debt and struggles with money requires a fair amount of humility and vulnerability and it’s something he could have kept from you or downplayed. The fact that he was willing to be transparent about his situation bodes well for his willingness to put pride aside and communicate openly.

He’s likely resisting your help because he sees his predicament as a burden and he doesn’t want you to have to help solve his problems. Try reframing this situation for him. The reality is, once married — heck, even now — his debt is your debt. The longer the debt exists, the more interest it will accrue, and the bigger and scarier and more insurmountable the debt will be. So by preventing you from supporting its pay-off, he’s increasing the burden that you ultimately share. On the flip side, this problem could diminish and vanish a lot faster if he accepts your support. That’s just facts.

You can make this a truly emotional appeal too: by prolonging the debt and rejecting your help, it’s increasing your stress. Letting you play an active role will give you more of a sense of teamwork and provide a sense of control and accomplishment over the problem that will ultimately calm your anxieties.

Wayne says:

Wise words, Wanda! Finances are among the top stressors for couples, and while these two are technically having a dispute about finances, at least they’re communicating about it. The fact that they’re having tough conversations makes me feel they’ll be great long-term, just like our writer’s credit score!

Now, that doesn’t mean this issue shouldn’t be resolved soon — time is money, right? — or that the future husband doesn’t need to check his ego and go all in on this partnership and adopt the “our finances” approach. He sees the big picture of the relationship but is missing the vision of financial freedom and the true power and full commitment of partnership. Oh, and he clearly can’t see that he doesn’t need to represent “poorer” when you share the “in richer or poorer” part of your vows.

You came to us for fresh perspectives, and we are both in agreement with you and supportive of your mindset. Now, how about another perspective from a financial adviser? If you two have an outlook for the future, it needs to be realistic. A financial adviser will immediately wave red flags at the sight of this unnecessary dragging out of debt, and how it will negatively impact the short- and long-term goals you have: wedding, honeymoon, house, dogs or cats, and kids. There are lots of them out there, and some are even provided free by your financial institutions. Find the right one and they’ll be another trusted partner long into your shared future. Plenty of free finance podcasts and videos out there, too, if you want reinforcement and a regular cadence for conversation and education.

[Wayne and Wanda: My fiancé and I had an equitable split to financials, but now she expects me to handle most expenses]

[Dear Annie: My wife needs help with her spending problem]

[Wayne and Wanda: The housing market is keeping my relationship from progressing to the next level]

[Wayne and Wanda: I love my friends, but weekends out with them are keeping me in debt]

[Miss Manners: Is it bad manners to talk about money?]

Wayne and Wanda

Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at