Support Marketplace

Would you rather be debt-free? Or skinny?

Would you choose to gain 25 pounds to get rid of your debt?

It looks like Americans care more about their looks than their debt.

A survey issued by Credit Karma, a personal finance company, found that a whopping 72 percent of Americans would rather keep their current debt than gain 25 pounds and be completely debt free. A bit worrisome for our national economic health, considering Americans owe more than $2.84 trillion in total debt, according to the Federal Reserve.

"One of the things you do every day is you look in the mirror," says Bethy Hardeman, a spokeswoman for Credit Karma. "I don't necessarily think you log into your bank account every day and see how much money you have. You're not confronted with that every day. It's kind of easy to ignore."

While 72 percent might sound like a high percentage, Daniel Packer, a personal finance blogger at "Sweating The Big Stuff," explains some of the reasons why more adults might choose to keep their debt than gain weight:

  • In almost all cases, we earned the debt. So do-gooders may feel like they are cheating by getting rid of the debt all at once.
  • The simple fact is that 25 pounds is a lot of weight. For most Americans that could be pretty life-changing.
  • Very few people see your debt balance, but everyone sees your weight.

More than 2,000 Americans took the online survey in June 2013. Hardeman says, on average, survey respondents had about $6,000 in credit card debt, $111,000 in mortgage debt, and more than $11,000 in automobile debt.

Results of the survey also showed that 43 percent of adults think their weight is more important than their debt. Not surprisingly, the importance of physical appearance differed among age groups. People between the ages 18-34 were more likely to worry about their looks than Americans over the age of 55.

"When you're young, most of us don't have a lot of debt -- or if we do it's student loans," says Hardeman. "When you're 55 or older you think about the future."

Hardeman says Credit Karma conducted the survey to find out how often people think about their finances versus their physical health. She says both are equally important.

"For some people, it seems really daunting to go to they gym every day and eat healthy. It also seems really daunting to keep hacking away at you debt, but I don't think that you have to choose between the two," says Hardeman. "Looks are fleeting, but they're also really present and in front of us. Debt unfortunately sticks around."

 

About the author

Daryl Paranada is the associate web producer for Marketplace overseeing all daily website content and production, as well as producing multimedia features -- including the popular economic explainer series Whiteboard -- and special projects. Follow him on Twitter @darylparanada.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...