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My Girlfriend is Mentally Ill, Has Student Loans and Owes Bank of America. – Aaron


“Hello Steve,

My girlfriend is a full time student in college. She has maxed out her Bank of America credit card ($6,000) and has about $5,000 in student loans. She has a mental illness and most likely won’t be working for quite some time.

She has missed one payment about 4-5 months ago. Her credit card rate I believe is around 9.5% and her monthly rate is $30 or so. For the time being she is struggling to make the minimum payments. I am asking for advice/help because she is horrible with finances and as mentioned above has a mental illness.

What would be her best option? She is 23 and a full time college student with student loans to boot. Bankruptcy? What would be the easiest way for her to consolidate her debt (Student loans & credit card)

Thank you very much.


Dear Aaron,

What we actually have here are several different issues.

The first is the mental illness issue. Different forms of mental illness can manifest themselves in different ways financially. Typically both those with clinical depression and those that are manic-depressive seem to wind up running up debt either during periods of exuberant optimism or spending as a way to make themselves feel better. But their are a host of other mental issues that lead to defective spending as well. You’ve got the co-dependents, hoarders, etc. But that’s for another question.

Next is the student loan problem. Student loans are one of the most severe loans you can owe. While many people think they are good loans, they can follow you to your grave and garnish even your disability or social security checks. Nasty stuff to fall behind on.

Finally there is the Bank of America debt. With a $6,000 balance I would suspect that her monthly minimum payment should be around $120 a month. If she is only paying $30, then there is more to that story.

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Depending on how her mental illness manifests itself, it might just be too much for her to be able to manage life details, like finances and payments. Not everybody is good at everything and she might need your help to stay on top of the bills. There are people you can hire to do this but with money being tight, you are the best person to take this over for her.

If she truly will not be able to work and earn money to repay her student loans, she should stop going to school. The penalties for defaulting on her student loan are severe, including up to a 40% collection fee and interception of tax refunds.

If she is unable to pay Bank of America at least $120 a month then I don’t think a repayment plan is going to work. Even if Bank of America offered her some incredible $30 per month deal for six months it would only add to the balance and if she is unable to work for “quite some time” then what is the plan at the end of six months?

Student loans can not be eliminated with bankruptcy. If she needs some consideration to repay the loans that she has she might want to look at the Income Contingent Repayment Plan (ICRP) offered by the Department of Education. However, I would bet that once she does that she would not be eligible for any additional student loans since she will have demonstrated she can’t pay.

The credit card debt could be eliminated with bankruptcy but I think that debt is the least of your problems. Even if that debt is eliminated you still have the bigger issue of not being able to afford more student loans if there is no expectation to repay what she already has.

To better educate yourself about bankruptcy, contact a local bankruptcy attorney and ask to schedule a free bankruptcy consultation. The bankruptcy lawyer will sit down with you guys, review the situation and help to educate you about what bankruptcy would mean for you.

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About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.


  • The commenter Matthew is incorrect and is harsh in his criticism of your girlfriend. Some of the most brilliant minds in history were mentally ill. I am a scientist who has many college degrees. School for some mentally ill helps, its when you have something like bipolar (severe) like me where if you are not properly medicated you go out and make poor financial decisions. I don’t even know what I would spend my money on (I can’t remember a bit, its like a black out). However, when properly medicated I am fine and make great choices. “Why are you with her if she is mentally ill” that is the stigma that has to stop. People are still capable of being in love and loved despite their illness. Its the jerks like you that make our lives difficult and aid in our isolation that leads to many suicides. Mentally ill people don’t need lectures on financial responsibility, whether of not to go to school, or whether we should have friends or be in relationships. All we need is for help, compassion, and understanding. I can only hope you don’t have to deal with a type of illness. It’s like having a disease like diabetes or even cancer (you wouldn’t mock those would you). Come on.

  • Your girlfriend doesn’t own that much money. What type of mental illness does she have? Everyone has some type of mental illness! If she really has mental illness, then maybe it’s best for her to close out college and maybe you can help her pay down her 11K debt? Do you plan on staying with her? If she is mentally ill, than why are you two a couple? Are you a caretaker or really in a functional relationship? Maybe it’s best to just be friends? The guy who wrote the last post(Aaron) is right.
    Being with a girlfriend who has debt is a tough thing. I know a woman who owes 200K and doesn’t think that she will ever get out of it! She walks around all day with mental anguish! She can be happy one minute then down and out the next when she thinks about herself. There’s a difference though. Your girlfriend owes 11K…not bad! If she is employable, then she should pay it off! If she is not, then why is she taking on debt to go to college? Good luck!

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