The Emotional Ramifications
Here's where things get a lot trickier — and far more subjective. It sounds as if your wife is willing to live with the debt, at least for a while longer, and you are not. Perhaps the debt keeps you up at night and causes you stress or headaches. If so, share that information with your wife. She might better appreciate how you're being impacted, and she might be inclined to use that savings to eliminate the debt.
By the same token, if your wife fears living in poverty later or worries about not having money for food or shelter, you have to look at it from her point of view. You're 65 years old. Since the two of you are presumably within striking distance of retirement, it's not unreasonable for her to want to maintain the biggest possible cash cushion. Whatever the case, it's important to take each other's feelings and emotions into account.
Regardless of whether each of your emotions about money are rationale or well-founded, recognize that your fears, dreams and hopes about how to spend cash and handle debt are just as valid as the financial implications involved in your decision.
The Retirement Considerations
A final factor to consider, of course, is how tapping your savings might impact your retirement options. Will utilizing those funds force you to work longer to replenish that $15,000? If so, make sure you are both comfortable postponing retirement.
Additionally, if your $100,000 in savings represents the entirety of your retirement nest egg, then taking 15 percent of it to immediately pay off debt could leave you open to financial hardship down the road if something unexpected happens, such as an illness or a job loss.
Finally, if your $100,000 in savings is held in an investment account, and generating a pretty decent return, how much in compound interest do you stand to lose over time by tapping that money to pay off debt? You don't want to have to invest more aggressively in retirement simply because you're trying to "make up" for lost interest or depleted savings.
If you discuss each of these factors with your wife, and each of you maintains an open mind, I'm sure you will come to a decision that you both can live with. At the very least, you will understand one another far better. And no matter how long you've been married, that deeper understanding can lead to financial harmony in your relationship for the rest of your lives.
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