High school kids who need money for college spend hours upon hours filling out forms and writing essays to earn scholarships. Little do they know that the only thing they really need to submit is a marriage license form.
I got this crazy marriage idea from one of my favorite bloggers, Paula, at Afford Anything. Paula started her blog just a few months ago and it immediately jumped into my Top 3 favorite blogs, with the other two being Punch Debt in the Face and Budgets are Sexy. I think this is what you call “holla-ing at ya boyz.” Yeah, I’m pretty gangsta.
Getting back to the point, the biggest obstacle most young people face when they are looking for free college money is their parents’ income. A young single person (under 24) must report his parents’ income on his FAFSA when applying for federal student aid. The more his parents make, the less he’ll get in grant money.
What if he could leave his parents income off the FAFSA and only report the money he made at his part-time job serving scrumpdillyicous blizzards and shakes at Dairy Queen? He would look so poor, his financial aid package would increase by many thousands of dollars a year. If only there were a way…
There is! He just has to get married!
Get Married and Save Tens of Thousands
A young married man can claim himself as an independent on a FASFA as long as his parents don’t claim him on their tax return. That means his financial aid would be based only on his and his wife’s income, which should be as low as $0 and as high as a few thousand bucks as long as he picked the right wife.
This is a great plan in theory, but the problem for most people is that they haven’t fallen in love before they graduate from high school.
To that I say, “Who cares?”
Find a friend who also wants to save tens of thousands of dollars and do a quick justice of the peace ceremony. You don’t have to kiss, hug, or even touch your “spouse”. You really don’t have to spend a single moment with that person after all the legal formalities are taken care of. Just make sure you file your taxes as a married person for the next four years and the both of you can enjoy your gratuitously discounted college education.
Tips On Marrying For College Money
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you plan to marry someone for college money.
- Don’t Pick Someone You’re Romantically Interested In – This should strictly be a business transaction. If you start mixing emotions into this situation, you set yourself up for a potentially disastrous end to your marriage and your financial aid. Pick a stranger or someone you hardly know, and it’s probably best if you don’t even attend the same school or live in the same city. Don’t even think about doing this with a boyfriend/girlfriend.
- Pick Someone Who Doesn’t Work Much or At All – The less money your future spouse makes, the better. If you both work part time during the school year and full time in the summer, your combined income could get pretty high. Remember, the more you make, the less financial aid you will receive.
- Hire a Lawyer and get a Great Prenup – You might spend your four years getting a Chemical Engineering degree while your spouse makes it halfway through an Art History degree. If this happens, you want to make sure that crazy wife of yours doesn’t come looking for alimony to pay for her party years. It will cost a few thousand bucks, but it’s nothing compared to what you’ll be saving on your education.
- Make Sure Your Parents Don’t Claim You on Their Taxes – It would suck pretty hard to go through all the trouble of getting married and then realize you don’t get any of the benefits. Tell your parents about your plan and make sure they are on board.
- Marriage Can Help Establish Residency – If you are going to an out-of-state school, marrying someone in your new state will help you establish residency in that state and make your education bills even lower. Check with state rules; sometimes it is better to marry someone who already has residency in the state where you will be attending college.
- Talk About Potential Situations – What if one of you actually falls in love and wants to get married for real? What if one of you drops out of college but the other is still pursuing their degree? What if if takes the wife four years to finish her degree but the husband needs six? Answers to these questions should be written into the prenup.
- Health Insurance Isn’t an Issue – Thanks to Obamacare, you can stay on your parents’ health insurance until you are 26, even if you are married. You just can’t extend your parents’ benefits to your spouse.
Don’t Marry For College Money if…
I admit, this strategy isn’t for everyone. If you fit in one of the following categories, don’t even think about it.
- Your Parents are Already Poor – If you’re already in line for some generous financial aid packages based on your parents’ income, there’s no sense in becoming an independent.
- Your College is Paid For – Need-Based financial aid is for people who NEED it. A kid from a middle class family whose parents aren’t paying a dime for his college needs money. A kid from a middle class family whose parents are paying for everything doesn’t need money. Remember that any money you receive is money that could have gone to someone else who needs it.
- You Will Attend a Community College or Cheap In-State School – I strongly recommend hiring the lawyer and getting a solid prenup, which will be a significant investment. If you go to a cheap school, you’re probably better off paying your own tuition and avoiding the lawyer and marriage fees.
- You Can’t View This as a Business Transaction – If I had thought to do this in college, I would have seen it as a business transaction and would not have had any moral qualms with getting “married” and “divorced”. However, I know a lot of people can’t separate a romantic marriage from a legal one in their minds and hearts.
- You Aren’t Good at Talking About Your Situation – It could really put a damper on your dating life. For example:
A Creative Solution to a Common Problem
A lot of people are going to say this is morally wrong. I’m usually a moral stickler; I even think coupon sharing is stealing. However, there is no law that states a marriage must be based on love. A legal marriage is nothing more than a contract between two people if you choose to look at it that way. If this contract benefits you, then why wouldn’t you enter into it?
It really comes down to a simple decision; you can either sign a contract to enter into a financial relationship with Sallie Mae, or sign a contract to enter into a legal relationship with Joe/Jane Schmoe.
Your bank account is hoping you pick the latter.