Updated: Apr 21, 2016

Survey: Nearly Half of Americans Would Give Up Intimacy to Be Debt-Free

When you’re dealing with student loans, credit cards or a car loan, being in debt can make life a little less rosy. Paying it off is no picnic either.
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When you’re dealing with student loans, credit cards or a car loan, being in debt can make life a little less rosy. Paying it off is no picnic and MyBankTracker recently polled readers to find out how far they’d go to wipe out their debt burden for good.

Respondents were asked to choose between one of four extreme scenarios and surprisingly, the majority said they’d be happy to swap out intimacy for an entire year in exchange for debt freedom. Keep reading to learn what else our readers said they’d be willing to do to eliminate their debt.

No intimacy? No problem, said 45% of respondents

By and large, the men and women who participated in our survey said that giving up intimacy for a year wouldn’t be a dealbreaker if it meant getting out of debt. 45% of the 1,010 people polled said they could go that long without any physical affection from their significant other. Perhaps not so surprisingly, women said it would be easier to do without it than.

58% of readers who chose debt freedom over intimacy were female. Regarding age, older respondents were more likely to go this route. 52% of 55-64 year olds and 54% of those aged 65 and up said they’d take a pass on intimacy to zero out their debt balances. That makes sense, considering that older Americans tend to rely on credit more than younger generations.

According to Experian, for example, Boomers have an average total consumer debt load of $29,317. They’re using 30% of their available credit at any given time and owe an average of $5,347 in credit card debt. Members of the Greatest Generation aren’t too far behind, with an average of $23,245 in consumer debt, $3,044 of which is owed to credit cards.

Regarding income, it’s the higher earners who were more likely to forgo intimacy to get rid of their debt. 63% of respondents earning $150,000 or more chose this as their top response. Only 26.9% of people earning between $100,000 and $149,000 said the same.

One-fifth of Americans said they’d be okay with cutting off human contact

21% of the survey respondents said having no human contact at all for a year would be worth it to get out of debt. When we analyzed the responses by gender, we found that the results were reversed compared to the previous question on skipping intimacy. This time around, it was men who were more willing to take the leap than women.

25% of men and 16% of women said they’d be okay with no human contact. Millennials ranked at the top in terms of age, with 26% of 18 to 24 year olds choosing this over the other scenarios included in the survey. That’s interesting since a recent consumer study from Mattersight found that the vast majority of young adults prefer face-to-face communication at work, in social settings or when interacting with brands.

That suggests that millennials may be feeling the pinch of their debt more than any other generation if they’d be willing to sacrifice something that’s so clearly important to their daily lives. Student loans are particularly troublesome for younger Americans, with the average student debt amount hovering near $30,000.

Nearly 20% said they’d rather swim with the sharks than pay off their debt

19% of our survey respondents said they’d swim in a pool of sharks for 30 minutes in order to shake the debt monkey off their backs. If you’ve ever tuned into Shark Week, you know that these masters of the sea aren’t exactly vegetarian. Still, the prospect of doing the dog-paddle in proximity to a shark’s razor-sharp teeth apparently wasn’t as scary as the thought of being stuck in debt forever.

Those most likely to take a dive into shark-infested waters? Millennials. 25% of 18 to 24 year olds polled said they’d take the risk. 25% of 25 to 34 year olds said they’d give it a go. Again, we can assume that the pressure of student loan debt is what’s causing younger Americans to consider such a drastic move.

A few brave souls would even be willing to walk naked in Times Square

15% of readers said they’d walk through Times Square naked once a day for a year to get out of debt. Men were less shy about baring all than women, with 20% of them choosing this response compared to 10% of the ladies we polled. While you might think that younger Millennials would be the first to join the naked parade, they proved to be a little more shy than some of the older respondents.

17% of millennials in the 25 to 34 year old group were comfortable with taking a naked stroll through one of the country’s most highly trafficked areas. 17% of 35 to 44 year olds agreed. Going back to that Experian study mentioned earlier, Gen Xers (which includes adults aged 30 to 46) had the highest average debt overall, at $30,039.

They also trail a close second to Boomers in terms of average credit card debt, at $5,343. With so much debt potentially limiting their ability to save for retirement, buy a home or plan for their child’s college education, it’s not a shocker that they’d be on board with taking a daily walk in the buff.

You don’t have to go to the extreme to get out of debt

If the idea of giving up intimacy, swimming with sharks, showing off your birthday suit or avoiding human contact doesn’t appeal to you, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to spend the rest of your life in debt. It’s possible to pay down your credit cards, student loans or other debts but you’ll need a plan to get it done.

Here are some tips we recommend if you’re really serious about dumping your debt once and for all:

1. Make your debt less expensive

High interest charges can keep you from getting any traction with your debt payoff. Looking for a way to cut the interest means more of your payment is going towards the principal each month. Transfer your credit card balances to a card with a lower rate or consider refinancing your student loans to another lender. The more points you can shave off your rate, the closer you’ll be to a zero balance.
Tip: Use MyBankTracker’s credit card comparison tool to find the best balance transfer offers.
2. Focus your payoff plan

When you’ve got several different debts you’re dealing with, it can be harder to chip away at what you owe because your payments are so spread out. Using a targeted approach can make it easier to gain some ground.

For example, you could focus on paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first. You throw as much money as you can at that debt and pay just the minimums on everything else. Once you pay it off, you roll the payment over to the debt with the next highest rate. That’s called the snowball method, and it can be an effective way to systematically pay down your debts, so you’re not feeling so scattered.

3. Strip down your budget if you haven’t already

If you don’t have a budget, that’s probably at least part of the reason why you’re in debt. A budget allows you to see at a glance how much money you have coming in and what you have going out. Without one, you’re going to have a much harder time getting your debt paid off.

Write down everything you’re spending for the month. That includes your regular bills such as housing and debt repayment as well as things like food, transportation, entertainment, etc. Now, look at what you can cut. Get rid of any expenses that aren’t essential and use that extra money to speed up your debt repayment.

4. Consider tapping your assets

If you have an emergency fund set aside, or you’re still hanging on to some savings bonds your grandparents bought you, the money to pay off your debt might be right under your nose. For example, you could cash out your savings account or a certificate of deposit and use it to get rid of your credit card debt or student loans.

If you’re thinking about using your savings, just make sure you’re leaving yourself some cushion in place until you can build your account back up. If you have to use your cards again in an emergency because you have no cash on hand, you could end up right back where you started.

Survey methodology

This online, nationwide survey was conducted by Google Consumer Surveys on behalf of MyBankTracker between April 12th and April 14th, 2016. We received 1,010 responses, and all participants were aged 18 or older.