Broker Check

Rebecca

Rebecca is a nurse who is soon to be married yet has outstanding student loans.

Background

Rebecca is a single 33-year old nurse. She has been working for a non-profit hospital since 2010 where she makes $80,000. Rebecca pursued an advanced nursing degree between 2016 and 2019 and now has $120,000 of outstanding student loans. She is currently in an income-based repayment plan (REPAYE) and is getting married in 6 months. Her fiance’s adjusted gross income is $120,000.

Questions

Rebecca would like to know how her student loan payment will be impacted when she gets married and if she should consolidate her loans.

Analysis

We determined that Rebecca is eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). She has been contributing $10,000 a year to the hospital’s tax-deferred retirement plan. This also means that her adjusted gross income (AGI) is $70,000/year. Her current payment in REPAYE is based on AGI of $70,000 and is $476/month ($5,712/year). Once she is married, her spouse’s income is also considered, and her new payment will be $1,438/month ($17,258/year) based on their combined AGI of $190,000.

Recommendations

I recommended that Rebecca file the appropriate forms to get PSLF credit for the 54 payments made to date and that she does not consolidate, as that will reset the clock for PSLF.

I also recommended that she change the repayment plan to PAYE, so her future spouse’s income does not count toward repayment calculations. This would require them to file their taxes as Married Filing Separately (MFS) after they are married. They have up to 3 years to file an amended tax return to change to Married Filing Jointly (MFJ) to get credit for items lost resulting from MFS. Finally, I suggested that she consider increasing her retirement plan deferral to lower her AGI.

Outcome

Rebecca acted on all recommendations. Her new payment after they are married will be reduced to $438/month ($5,258 / year) since the household is now 2 people, but the student payment only uses her AGI for calculating the payment. She also filed the appropriate form to get credit for previous PSLF qualifying payments, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars of tax-free loan forgiveness if she stays with a non-profit employer for the next 5 ½ years. Lastly, she increased her retirement deferral, thus lowering her AGI.

As a result, she and her future spouse will have a loan cost avoidance of over $12,000/year, which opens up many other options for their lives.

Have a Question?

Thank you!
Oops!