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Feeling ashamed of debt, trying to move forward.

Community Member

Hi all.

Just wanted to lighten the mental load by sharing some troubles I've been having around debt and relationships.

Basically over the years I have racked up a large HECS-Help debt through unsuccessful university study. It's something that I find difficult to talk about, I really do feel ashamed that I have this debt with nothing to show for it - I did not pass many units at all.

After a couple of years working full time I am in a better headspace and have a strong sense of what direction I would like to go on. I think that I am capable of doing a degree and it's a goal very important to me, but I don't know how I could ask for the support of my partner when I have made poor choices in the past and already a large study debt.

Does anyone have any advice on how to share something with a partner that you find so difficult to talk about?

Thanks for reading.

3 Replies 3

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi, welcome

High debt when it is out of balance to income i.e. the inability to pay it off within a reasonable time frame can be demoralizing enough while alone, but with a partner that also has ambitions and life choices, it becomes a "we" problem not an "I" problem. This is where your part phrase "...it is very important to me". To compound this, your plans are along the lines of what once was- back to further education. Your partner would be worried because there is a reasonable chance the same result could happen and the hole is dug deeper. Fill this hole first is what most people would do.

My immediate, automatic thoughts are- why do you need to return to this path now? Why cant you consider continuing working full time for a few years and join with your partner to secure some better level of life together as a united plan ...then return to uni? Many mature aged people return to uni.

The responsible process is to pay off the debt you have now then reconsider. By then you will be older and more focussed on your abilities. If you return to uni and again you are not successful it could easily lead to bankruptcy and that will be a burden on your partner so your partner is directly effected by this decision.


Hi TonyWK, thanks for the advice.

Yes, perhaps it is not the right time. I suppose learning what to sacrifice personally in a relationship is a common issue.

I don't necessarily think it would lead to bankruptcy as HELP debt is different to a regular loan and is tied to your income, and they are manageable for me at the moment.

I think I will hold off and seek some financial advice and possibly a counsellor.

Thanks again.

Hi Oscar93,

Thanks for your post. There's some really interesting thoughts being thrown around here and I love that in this community.

The one thing that I thought to add is if you can reframe the way you can think about these debts. You say you have nothing to show for it, but often that's the case with university degrees - it doesn't quite lead people to where they were expecting. Even if the courses you did were off track, they helped show you what track you needed to be on. I think that debt can be bloody expensive, but I don't think it's always a waste of money.

The benefit of a study debt though is that it's not going to climb and climb with interest if you add more courses. The worst worst case scenario is that the debt is higher, but unlike other debts it doesn't have any power over you or your relationship (such as a credit card debt, or bankruptcy). It can potentially just sit there, and you can pay off bits and pieces as you continue to work.

You mentioned getting some financial advice. Australia have free financial counsellors you can see here - https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/managing-your-money/managing-debts/financial-counselling

Hope this helps