Why I Don’t Mind Paying Off My Husband’s Six Figure Debt

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I don't mind paying off my husband's six figure debt because our finances are combined. Here's what we're doing to pay off our total debt.

As I mentioned recently, I’m in the midst of an aggressive debt payoff marathon. I’ve paid off a significant amount so far (nearly $10,000) but unfortunately, I have many times that amount to go.

The vast majority of our debt is my husband’s medical school loans, which are in the high $300,000 range. However, we also have student loan debt from two master’s degrees and some undergraduate loan debt. All together, our debt totals above half a million dollars.

I’ll pause while your heart palpitations slow down. Don’t worry; it’s my debt, not yours. You can breathe again. 😉

Medical School Debt is Crippling


According to the Association of American Medical Collages, the average medical school student graduates with about $180,000 of medical school debt. Add in the expense of going to a private school (and a foreign school) and having two children along the way, and my husband’s debt far exceeds that.

Most people don’t realize how expensive it is to go to medical school these days and that there are so many extra costs, like paying for very expensive board exams and the extremely high cost of applying to residency programs.

Sometimes even medical students themselves think all of these high numbers aren’t that big of a deal because doctors will eventually make high incomes. The debt becomes normalized as part of the process, which is dangerous because even with a high income, this level of debt is hard to conquer.

That said, I’m not scared of our debt load because I’m very aware of all of the risks but also the rewards. Sometimes I get weighed down by the amount of interest that accrues each day on that high amount, but I know I’m on the right track and paying off much more debt each month than our peers.

I also kind of geek out over working on our debt spreadsheet. I love the feeling of knocking it down one little bit at a time. I actually think it’s fun to do budgets and figure out just how much I can pay it down. Aside from the fact that I delight in challenges and enjoy working on our finances, here’s another big reason why I don’t mind his six figure debt:

His Debt is My Debt


We talked about what a surprise debt can sometimes be for a newly married couple on Frugal Rules recently, and I’m going to add to that conversation. My husband and I believe that any debt we have or any money we earn is ours together. We have all joint accounts, and although it’s just his name is on his debt, I still treat it as though it’s my responsibility too.

After all, we agreed together that he would apply to medical school. We knew the costs ahead of time, and we sat down and did worst case scenario projections when it came to salary and debt repayment. The numbers still came out on the side of going to medical school, so we went for it.

I use “we” a lot when I talk about his medical school journey, because although he went through the absolutely brutal education process by himself, it took both of us fighting through it together to ensure he did well, had everything he needed to succeed, and matched into a residency program.

While he studied late into the night, I sat next to him growing my freelance writing business. While he studied for his board exams, I took on extra work to pay for the $800 fees to sign up for the tests. While he spent 12 hours in the hospital every day during his third year of medical school, I spent my time working and growing his residency application fund to a whopping $6,000 so he could apply to as many residency programs as he wanted. I even cash flowed a study abroad trip for him so he could go to India for three weeks and work in a hospital over there.

As you can see, medical school was a joint journey and now debt repayment is a joint journey. While I tend to manage and handle our day to day finances, we still make big decisions together when it comes to our finances.

Where to Go From Here


My husband graduated from medical school last month and secured a residency spot in a surgical specialty that will earn a high income once he finishes. Although he has four more years of training to go, he is finally getting paid, even if it’s a small resident’s salary.

We are happy to be at this stage in the journey, and although the work is still intense for him, we both have high hopes for our future.

I won’t pretend like we got along perfectly the past five years while he finished medical school or that we agree on every financial decision. The truth is that there were many highs and lows the past few years and many times we had to take our very stressful circumstances day by day if not hour by hour.

All that hard work paid off. The small business I started while sitting next to him all those nights while he studied now earns a six figure income, and he’ll be earning a six figure income too in just a few short years.

With our incomes combined and our determination to get rid of debt and build our wealth, I estimate we will pay off a half a million dollars worth of debt in approximately 5-7 years, and the best part is that we’ll be able to say we did it together.


How do you feel about paying off your debt? What has your journey been like? Do you have student loan or medical school debt that you’re trying to pay off? What’s your strategy? How do you stay positive and focused on the end goal?

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • Elsie @ gundomoney says:

    I paid off $5,000 of debt and it made me want to never get in debt again. I can imagine the obstacle your facing feels, well, about 100 times how I felt.

    I work in a hospital and all the doctors say to me, don’t go to medical school. That’s very telling. I think docs are not paid nearly enough for how hard they work. Our nation needs doctors right now so they’ll always work but I feel like the time investment is just not worth it. When I see all the girls falling over the young single doctors, I think run far away ladies. They might find themselves helping pay off a lot of debt. It’s great to get your perspective cat. Thank you

    • Cat says:

      Yes soooo many people encouraged him not to go to medical school. I can say that if doctors go into it for the money, that is a seriously bad idea. You can make way more money running a business than being a doctor without the insane long hours and the rigorous schooling. Hubby definitely did it because he loves it.

  • Latoya @ Femme Frugality says:

    Your story is truly unique and one I really admire. It’s amazing what a married couple can accomplish when they decide to stick together and consider themselves as one, rather than two separate individuals working towards two separate dreams. I, like you, am the hustler in the household and I’m taking on major extra work in addition to my full-time job to pay off our debt. I focus on the work to stay motivated because it’s something I truly enjoy. Just this month alone we had our HVAC go out which knocked us back about $8,500 and yesterday we found out my husband needs surgery. If I were to focus on the numbers going up I would get discouraged, but instead I focus on the hustle and the end goal, knowing we’ll eventually get there.

  • Rachel @ The Latte Budget says:

    Your story is so relatable, and I appreciate that! My fiance is attending graduate school now, which is paid for by his company (so thankful!) but we still talk about it like it is something we do together. He does the work, but I support him throughout the process. When he graduates next year, it will be an accomplishment for both of us! And how good that graduation will feel!

  • Carole says:

    I wonder how the supportive wife is compensated should a divorce occur down the road.

    • Cat says:

      Well this particular supportive wife makes her own 6 figure income so all good on that front. Plus, our marriage survived the hell of medical school and newborn twins so we’re pretty solid. That said, I always recommend doctors wives or other husbands and wives of high earning spouses keep up their skills, even if staying home with children, so they can return to the workplace if necessary.

  • Emily @ JohnJaneDoe says:

    Your post makes me a bit worried for the future. Not yours, you guys seem to have your plan together to accept the consequences and pay down your debt.

    My worry is about health care in general. $300K for medical school and related expenses explains all too well why skilled doctors have to charge so much and don’t go into primary care at the rate they are needed.

    I’ve suspected for a while that the rising cost of higher education is due to schools trying to capture every penny the market would bear. The loan system, unfortunately, pushes the cost for most students well into their future so the schools can get more now.

    • Cat says:

      Absolutely. Hubby picked the specialty he loved the most, but for our friends who loved family medicine or peds, their path will be much, much more difficult. And yes, the state of healthcare is just ridiculous – hubs and I both agree on that one.

  • Amanda @ centsiblyrich says:

    I love your story, Cat! It’s such a financially inspiring story, but also goes to show how transparency and communication in relationships is paramount achieving financial goals. I look forward to following your progress!

    Right now, we are working on mortgage debt and increasing our stash for an early retirement. I’m motivated to get hubby out of the 9 to 5 asap!

  • Dave says:

    We paid off $175k of med school debt in 3.5 years. Make it a priority and that $300k+ will be paid off in no time.

  • Stefanie O'Connell says:

    Rockstar power couple. You guys are gonna DEMOLISH that debt and I can’t wait to celebrate!

  • Tara says:

    My brother is a lawyer and he graduated from an Ivy law school with a lot of debt –$200k– he didn’t have any undergrad debt due to being on scholarship and having a paid coop program (electric engineering) pay extra bills. I noticed how being a lawyer is less debt and about same pay as doctor… but at the cost of a) You HAVE to get into a top law school or else it’s a worthless degree and B) you work crazy hours for most of your life (or until you are made partner, which is not guaranteed and can take 15 or more years). While maybe not so much in beginning, I’m sure once your husband is settled in his practice, the hours can be 50 or so tops a week (outside of being on call), while a lawyer can spend 60 working in the office and another 15-20 remote working at home each week, especially when big deals are happening. Plus, being a doctor I assume can be more personally rewarding, as you are helping people. High paid law is generally in corporate banking and all that does is help rich companies stay rich.

    You both sound like driven individuals who will do well. I’m sure in 5-10 years you won’t even remember the debt. ?

    • Cat says:

      Well I’m sure a million people could comment with arguments for why going to law school is worse than med school and vice versa. There are definitely some significant challenges to both career paths both financially and personally. It’s doubtful that my husband will ever work a 50 hour work week due to his chosen specialty but perhaps possible in other specialties. He loves it though and so far is very happy with his choice. Thanks for the kind words and I’m glad your brother was able to get accepted to such an elite law school. I hope he finds some fulfillment and happiness in his career in the future!

  • Alice @ Earning My Two Cents says:

    Way to go Cat! I love that you are approaching your hubby’s school debt as a joint debt that you tackle together. My hubby is also a student and I don’t feel that the loans he is taking out are his alone. It’s all our debt. When we first got married I had a hard time looking at our money as “our” money but over time it got easier as we worked together and learned to lean on each other and make decisions together. As for the divorce question another commenter brought up, 1) I don’t think we will get divorced since we’ve already been through enough shit and stuck together and 2) I don’t care. I have thought this through for sure. If the worst case scenario happens and we get divorced, I would not regret helping to put him through school and helping to pay off his loans. He helped me get through grad school (not financially, my folks did that) but he has always been my cheerleader and I have always been his. If something dramatically changes there and our marriage doesn’t last, I will not regret having helped him because I love him. I don’t look at it as business decision where I am looking for a guaranteed return on investment (ie. I pay for school and you have to stay married to me). I’m not naïve about it and I am the breadwinner with great marketable skills, so I wouldn’t worry about my ability to land on my feet if that happened anyway.

    • Cat says:

      Yeah you make some really great points here, and I feel the same way! And you’re right, this isn’t business. This is family – and supporting one another. 🙂

  • Money Beagle says:

    That’s an awesome mindset, and you definitely can see that there’s money on the horizon that will help finish paying it off. Medical school can definitely be one of the high debt areas that pays off, but you have to be responsible along the way and look at the long game.

  • Julie@ChooseBetterLife says:

    You’re doing great, Cat! My hubby and I also had $500k of debt when we got married (MD and another professional degree). We took a few vacations then buckled down to attack the debt aggressively. It’s gone now, but we learned so much about our values and priorities on the journey that we’re
    ve like residents for a year after he becomes an attending, you’ll be golden.
    Yes, my coworkers make fun of the fact that I drive a Toyota instead of a Porche, but I’m working part-time on my way to early retirement and they’ll have to work forever.

  • Syed says:

    I feel I was reading about my life story here! While our debt is not that high, optometry school put me about 140K in the hole and my wife will be completing her Masters in about a year for another 40K worth of debt.

    But like you, we’re not panicking. Not at all in fact. Through recent aggressive payments and refinancing, my school loans should be gone in 2 years. And then hers should be gone 2 years after that, with her extra income helping out. We’ll be completely debt free with our highest earning years ahead of us.

    And I can’t wait to make that last payment that gets my loan balance to 0!

  • Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says:

    You’re really supportive Cath. Of course, for the good debt! I am sure you can’t wait for the day it’s been paid off.

  • Tre says:

    The debt is overwhelming when you look at the number, but the important thing is that you were both aware of it when he started school and have a plan to attack it.

  • FinanceSuperhero says:

    Cat, it was fascinating to learn more about your story. Like you two, my wife and I always referred to my student loan debt as “our” debt. The shared ownership in everything we do is vital to the health of our relationship.

    I have no doubt that you two will tackle the med school debts in no time. In my opinion, the major risk for new docs is the prospect of racking up additional lifestyle debt immediately upon finishing residency. By the time you crush your debt, you will be accustomed to a reasonable lifestyle and poised for success.

  • Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor says:

    I’ve always admired how you & your husband work as a team. It’s easy to fall into competing even within marriage, but if you’re married, you’re on the same team! When we married, I went from debt-free to in debt for my husband’s education. Like you, I was comfortable with that because I knew he was a hard worker and we would pay it off together. It’s behind us now and it feels good to know we did that as a team.

  • Julie Dixon says:

    I love your story! Even though we’re not even close to your income level we still see things in terms of ours, not his or mine.
    I’m a stay at home mom, trying my hand at Blogging, and he’s an auto assembler for GM. Our income isn’t too shabby, we’d also like to pay off our debt, but it gets overwhelming when little surprises like our car breaking down or need a new washing machine. No matter how long it takes, he and I are in this together.

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