3.5 Million Americans Would Rather Go to Jail Than Pay Debt

by J. Money - Published October 15, 2018

jail cell window

That was the headline of a press release I just got – isn’t that crazy??

Or maybe it’s not, I don’t know – who am I to judge right?

(okay no – it’s definitely crazy ;))

This comes from a recent survey by MyBankTracker, and apparently this wasn’t the only freedom people were willing to give up to rid themselves of their debts once and for all. I hope it includes mortgages and student loans or else this world is even more bonkers than I thought! But again – no judging!! ;)

  • 13.1 million people would read only “fake news” to get out of debt (vomit)
  • 10.5 million people would switch political parties if it meant getting out of debt (double vomit)
  • 10.3 million people would wave their right to data privacy (i.e. web browser history) – to nix their debt (that would actually be fascinating for the rest of us :))
  • 9.3 million would give up their religious freedom (every atheist raises their hand, haha…)
  • 6 million would give up their freedom of speech to rid their debts (men were twice as likely than women to give this up btw)
  • 3.5 million would go to jail to be free of debts once and for all (men were nearly 4x as likely to pick this one than women – because women are smarter)

I don’t know how you can extrapolate all this into *MILLIONS* of people since the sample size was literally only 2,000 respondents, but I’m no statistician so I’ll just nod my head and play along here…

All I know is that I must be pretty boring as I paid off all my debts the old fashioned way – knocking them out one by one with some good ol’ hard work! It took a while, and fortunately I never had *too much* debt to even consider alternate activities, but it’s good to know there are more sane options at our disposal whenever we’re ready to press GO.

And really – that’s the key to it all right there: FINALLY COMMITTING to becoming debt-free! Once you decide on that, the steps to achieving it come a lot easier.

And certainly doesn’t require any jail time ;)

But that’s just me… Maybe you would trade your life to get out of debt for a while?? Or pay homage to your political enemy for a chance at debt freedom??

We actually polled some of our friends here the other year on just that, and here’s how they replied:

debt jail twitter poll

So looks like I’m in the minority here ;) I just know I wouldn’t last a day in lock up, my hands are too soft!! I’m certainly not as brave as our friend Billy from WealthWellDone.com who survived TEN YEARS of it and came out victorious, whew…

If you haven’t seen his story before, you can check it out here as it really is something inspirational: How I Survived Prison and Accidentally Found My Path to Wealth.

Anyways, that’s my two cents on these crazy new stats…

How about you? Would you serve jail time or give up freedom of speech/religion in exchange for becoming debt-free??? How much debt would it wipe away, if so?

Fun things to think about at the very least… And if you ever do come across a Debt Fairy, be sure to snap some pics as you’d probably get debt-free by peddling those around just as fast!

I can see it now: Side Hustle #75 – Hawking pics of the Debt Fairy! #BOOM!

Jay loves talking about money, collecting coins, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his three beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alex October 15, 2018 at 6:10 am

If you’re including my mortgage in my “debt” then lock me up. No brainer.

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2 A. Money October 15, 2018 at 6:22 am

How many would learn statistics if it meant wiping away their debt? *crickets*

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3 J. Money October 15, 2018 at 7:18 am

Haha… ALL!

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4 Millionaire Dojo October 15, 2018 at 6:53 am

Did it say how long you’d be locked up? Cause I know some people have hundreds of thousands in student loans and if all they had to do was sit in jail for a month to make their debt vanish, that’d be great!

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5 J. Money October 15, 2018 at 7:19 am

That is a minor detail left out here ;)

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6 Paul October 15, 2018 at 8:22 am

Debt is a prison for your mind anyway…

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7 J. Money October 15, 2018 at 10:31 am

Damn – you’ve been eating your Wheaties this morning!

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8 paul October 15, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Really just speaking from experience. Whenever I hold debt I just make myself miserable, its literally all I can think about, I sit there scheming about how get get myself out of it, usually to no avail. The older I get the worse it is, Its gotten to the point I reflect on how I am going to even enjoy my life until my mortgage is paid off.

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9 J. Money October 16, 2018 at 6:01 am

Oh man, that’s harsh – I’m sorry :(

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10 Danielle Ogilve October 27, 2018 at 8:36 am

Couldn’t agree more!

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11 Dr. Cory S Fawcett October 15, 2018 at 8:37 am

It’s funny how they would like to trade imaginary things to get out of debt. But when it comes to actually paying money and getting out of debt, they don’t do it. That’s why I wrote the book, The Doctors Guide to Eliminating Debt. It’s time we stopped managing debt and started eliminating it.

Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
Prescription for Financial Success

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12 J. Money October 15, 2018 at 10:32 am

Amen on that one.

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13 Joe October 15, 2018 at 9:03 am

I guess it depends on what kind of jail. I’d say no to the dangerous supermax prison or anything close to it. White collar resort jail, maybe…? Is there such a thing?

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14 Melissa October 15, 2018 at 10:08 am

I think this is interesting because a few weeks ago I read the book Not a Crime to Be Poor. While it is funny to joke about it, the reality is that many Americans do end up going to prison because they can’t afford various fines and fees. It’s sobering to me to think about some time. Anyways, I don’t know if I had a point to this post, but it just made me think of that.

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15 J. Money October 15, 2018 at 10:33 am

Dang – getting deep in here! But you’re not wrong – there’s a ton of injustice going on in this country, which unfortunately never seems to be getting better :(

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16 Wealth Well Done October 15, 2018 at 10:21 am

Now that I’ve been through the entire jail/prison experience, and know what to expect, (Even though it’s been six years since I’ve gotten out now and am starting to remember it like a weird/bad dream) I’d be willing to do a week in jail to wipe away debt. I’d just lay low, sleep alot, read some books, and make a plan for living a better life when I got out like I did during my last stint in jail. But more than a week? I’ll pass. I learned that when you go to jail, it’s not just you that’s impacted. Your family and friends feel the pain too, and the shame of putting them through that really weighs on a person’s mind when he is in there.

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17 J. Money October 15, 2018 at 10:36 am

$hit man – didn’t even consider how it affects those around us, good point! I’m surprised you’d go back in though and take the risk again… You already made it out once, I’d feel like my luck would be less the 2nd time, haha…

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18 Wealth Well Done October 15, 2018 at 10:48 am

I should also note, the longer I live the more I realize I have a unique gift that has helped me deal with my memories: I tend to only remember my good memories and times, and I naturally forget all of the low points in my life. So when I am remembering my time in jail right now 6 years later, I am remembering the friends I made, and the experiences I had that helped me grow. It’s hard for me to remember all of the hell I lived through unless I really concentrate on those memories. So I think when I say I’d go back to jail for a week, my memories are being flawed by this unique gift to remember all the good times, and forget all the bad times, so maybe I’m not the one to take advice on this subject as my memories are flawed and incomplete, and not always the truth of what happened.

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19 J. Money October 15, 2018 at 11:08 am

It’s probably what’s gotten you through such a terrible part of your life though! What a blessing to be able to remain so positive like you are! In real life, and online, as I personally know from hanging with you :)

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20 jaydubya October 15, 2018 at 10:24 am

3.5 million is slightly just more than 1% of the US population, so on the crazy curve it’s not that surprising. I can also imagine those to whom debt is a huge burden and would be willing to give a lot for relief. No mention of giving up babies in the survey though…

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21 JoeHx October 15, 2018 at 1:13 pm

And 1% of the 2,000 is just twenty people. I suppose it’s possible they somehow picked the only twenty people in the US willing to go to jail for their survey.

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22 Abigail @ipickuppennies October 15, 2018 at 10:56 am

Scary numbers. Probably a little iffy numbers, mind you, if they were extrapolating the entire U.S. population from 2,000 respondents. But still that means a high enough percentage of the 2,000 respondents said yes to jail/no freedom of speech/no religious freedom/etc to get to 3.5 million. Terrifying.

I think I’d rather pay off debt the old fashioned way, even if prison were just for a week.

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23 Petra October 15, 2018 at 11:20 am

> 9.3 million would give up their religious freedom (every atheist raises their hand, haha…)

As an atheist, or perhaps more specifically as someone who does not believe in one or more gods, but who does believes in humans (so an atheistic humanist), I’d say that we need religious freedom. I’m betting the atheists would be the first ones to go once a religion “would get full power” and once that one religion would decide that all people who do not believe in their specific god or gods are bad and should be discriminated or be “made to believe” or else. You unfortunately see it happen too often anyway, that people kill each other for this reason.

So I’d definitely keep, or improve upon, religious freedom…

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24 J. Money October 15, 2018 at 11:37 am

Jeez, excellent perspective!! Y’all are bringing on the insight today!

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25 Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life October 15, 2018 at 1:32 pm

Hell no to every single one of these. :D

1. I’d rather stop reading entirely than be stuck with that mind-bending drivel and I would never stop reading :D
2. My values are not for sale at any price.
3. Loss of data privacy is how companies manipulate you, and expose you to theft and fraud, really not a good idea.
4. ABSOLUTELY NOT – you know churches STILL practice conversion therapy (aka torture on minors)? I can’t get behind a single institution that approves of torturing children. And the Spanish Inquisition wasn’t that long ago – look up Tomás de Torquemada for some uh, fun? reading?
5. This would give the government the right to jail us for saying anything they didn’t like. THIS GOVERNMENT. Y’all sure you want to risk that? Because I wouldn’t.
6. Once you’ve got prison on your record, you have to check that box on every application for employment that cares about it, you lose rights, you’re treated like trash in a lot of cases. Some folks can make their way back if they have support, if they have luck on their side, a whole of ifs. That leaves a whole lot of people broken by a system that profits off imprisonment. Nosirree.

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26 J. Money October 15, 2018 at 2:18 pm

You mean there’s no “Debt Fairy Made Me Do It” you can cross off on those applications?? ;)

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27 Eric @ Flip n Finances October 15, 2018 at 3:39 pm

No thank you to jail time to get out of debt :P

I actually had a crazy dream that I went to jail last night so how fitting is this article haha (I remember it had something to do with cookies…)

I wouldn’t pick any of those things to erase my 160k house mortgage. It’s not worth it in my book to sell yourself short.

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28 J. Money October 16, 2018 at 5:55 am

Hilarious! Did you steal them or something? :)

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29 Bela October 15, 2018 at 3:43 pm

I would not prefer or choose jail time for anything, including getting out of debt. Of the other options, I already changed political parties to be less appealing for jury duty (I think they don’t like Libertarians aware of jury nullification). I don’t believe it matters at all what one is registered as, otherwise, so I might do such a thing if I had debt and it mattered to me. But there are other ways to get out of debt most of the time, so even something as insignificant as political label would not be desirable to me as an out.

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30 B.C. Kowalski October 15, 2018 at 5:07 pm

Two things: How long is the sentence, and is it county jail, or state/federal prison? Big difference. Neither would be pleasant but far worse would be a state/fed prison, which are for offenders sentenced to longer than one year sentences (ie higher level crimes, repeat offenders, etc); county jail is typically for pre-trial and shorter sentences (there are exceptions of course but this is generally how it works).

What about this question: Would you spend a year in jail if afterward you were FI? In other words, you come out, hand in your orange uniform and walk away with your pre-jail spending taken care of for life. I’d had to think about it at least…

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31 J. Money October 16, 2018 at 5:54 am

Haha… I’ll consider anything for a hot second, but my answer would be another big NOPE on this one too. I can barely go a weekend without seeing my kids, but a whole year?? Wouldn’t matter how much they paid me anyways – my wife would kill me when I get back :)

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32 LeeAnne October 16, 2018 at 9:00 am

I’m also going with no to these. Guess in the grand scheme of life I’ve never had so much debt I couldn’t handle it and get myself out of it. As a result, I’ve never felt desperate to do anything to get out of it. While I would love to not have a mortgage payment anymore, I’m willing to bust my butt at a job and pay it off. I have an issue with people who live off the system/government, but I won’t start that debate here! :) I just don’t feel my loss of freedom and the impact it would have on family Sitting in jail is worth it. (Although if it was for one night in a posh jail…)

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33 Hell yeah? October 17, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Would you go to jail for a week for half a million dollars? Uh, yeah, why wouldn’t you trade a week of your life for years of your efforts?

Hell, at a week I might do it for free just to find out what it’s like.

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