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Need advice – probably the most dire situation you've heard of
March 6, 2017
2:12 pm

I got married in 2008 to my husand, who was in graduate school getting a PhD in English.
He told me that he had about 60 K in student loan debt . I have since found out that it is much higher. But that will come later in this question.
He was all but dissertation and told me that he would finish his dissertation in 2 years and that he would then get full-time work as an academic .
It took him six years to finish and he graduated in 2014 but has been unable to land an academic job. Currently he teaches one class and has a day job that makes $25,000 so he makes about 30,000.
I make about 45,000 between my three jobs .
From 2008 to 2014, sometimes he didn’t work in the summer etc. and I have $38,000 of credit card debt in my name from times in those years when he was working part time.
Bottom line, his loans were in a forbearance for three years because of his low income. They are now due , actually the first payment was due February 24, 2017 .
They are federal loans but I am not sure what type. They are now consolidated through Great Lakes. One loan is for 79,000 and 1 loan is for 47,000. They each have 7% interest. They were taken out for my husbands undergraduate and Masters which started July 2001.
Interest has continued to grow during all the time that he was in school and forbearance . The total due now is $320,000.
The payment per month that they are wanting is $924 .
My husband has been suicidal over this in fact he has diabetes and kidney disease and he stopped taking his medications last year., because he feels doomed. He now is at 30% kidney function and needs a transplant in 3 to 12 months. I need to lose about 30 pounds to give him a transplant or get him on the exchange list, but I may indeed do it since the weight-loss will be better for my health long term too.
My question. We are about to communicate with Great Lakes and ask for income-based repayment. I know that they will probably include my income but my income needs to go to pay my credit card debt. I don’t want to ruin my credit. I also have about 65k in a 401(k) that I started saving at about 30 years old and stopped saving at about 37.
We own our condo and it would resell for about 135k and we owe 80 K left. However I took out a HELOC to pay a home repair that just had to be done and pay some of his medical bills and car repairs. The HELOC was for 13 K and we’ve borrowed 7500 of that 13k.
My question, we would love to pay back his loan at the lowest payment possible. With all his health problems he probably will pass away before the loan is repaid .
We have about 4000 in medical bills due now, And will accrue about 4000 more this year based on the procedures that he needs to have done. (He is on health insurance through his employer and the deductible is 4000 ). (I don’t have health insurance myself but am part of a Christian healthcare exchange that will provide for emergencies only)
I did the math and if we include all our expenses will have about 340 every month left over. I was going to try to use 170 towards medical bills and 170 towards student loans. I am sure that the student loans won’t accept that low of a payment. We may could squeak out as much as a 300 to 350 payment.
Do you have any advice for us? I am willing to have bad credit I guess and maybe stop paying my cards to play his loans but I’m just not sure how to handle this. We do not have any life insurance.
We do not have children. I am 45 and he is 43. If he does not have a kidney transplant he will probably not live to another 10 years.
I have a music degree, and of course he has the English degree. I work at a music office job (27k) and play piano at a church (13k) and also play for a children’s choir. (6k)
I thought about going back to school to get an accounting degree. An accounting job would increase my income probably from 45k to 65k or even much higher and would provide health insurance , of course I wouldn’t graduate for another four years and would miss an income during this . Though I could keep my piano and church income going while in school.
I refuse to allow myself to get down about this, I am scared and concerned but my faith is keeping me going. I know that no amount of money is worth someone’s life…
Please advise if you can at all. Especially about how to get his payment as low as possible.

March 6, 2017
4:41 pm
Forum Posts: 211
Member Since:
May 3, 2014
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

There is a lot to address on this post, so I’ll just list my thoughts as I read through this…
– I think you are definitely right to look into income driven repayment plans. The department of education has a great page to help you estimate what it might be each month. This resource is helpful for planning your call with your loan servicer. That page is found here: https://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/mobile/repayment/repaymentEstimator.action

– His student loans should have no impact on your credit. The only way it would hurt your credit would be if you stopped making your credit card payments.

– I think it would be worth your time to meet with a trusts and estates/elder law attorney. Managing the various creditors and liabilities that are out there is tricky, and someone who has helped other couples in similar situations could offer a great deal of specific advice. Many of these issues can be state specific, so a local attorney is preferred.

– As far as student loans, there are discharge options for permanent disability. You might want to get with your husbands doctors and your loan servicer to see if he qualifies based upon his condition.

Best wishes,


March 6, 2017
8:00 pm

Thank you so much for your reply. Thank you for this website and this forum. I read the sections on this website about income based repayment.
I have a quick question. For the income-based repayment, is it correct that they look at your last year’s tax return to get your income? We have always filed married jointly.
In that case there would be no way to do an income-based repayment (at least this year) based on only his salary ?
Thank you,

March 6, 2017
8:09 pm
Forum Posts: 211
Member Since:
May 3, 2014
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

For income based repayment, the loan servicers will look at your most recent tax return. If you haven’t filed your 2016 taxes yet, you might be in a perfect position to make that decision. However, filing separately does mean your tax bill will be higher. We addressed this issue in more detail in this post: https://studentloansherpa.com/t…..eperately/

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