Survey: Borrowing Money from Parents a Last Resort

Posted by Mckenzie on 21st Nov 2019

No one wants to ask their parents for money. But would you do something drastic—maybe sell your car or move across the country—just to avoid having to do it?

Most Americans say yes.

We asked 1,000 respondents what tactic they would use to pay off $100,000. Of those respondents, only 4 percent said they would borrow money from their parents.

Of the remaining 96 percent:

  • 40 percent would take on a second job
  • 20 percent would cancel subscription services
  • 13 percent would apply for a loan
  • 10 percent would move to a cheaper part of the country
  • 8 percent would move back in with parents
  • 5 percent would sell their car

Survey results: what strategy would you use to pay off $100,000 in debt?

$100,000 Debt by the Numbers

Assuming a 10-year repayment period and 6 percent interest (the standard terms on federal unsubsidized student loans), the minimum payment on a $100,000 loan would be over $1,100 per month.

That’s more than the median rent on a one-bedroom apartment in America.

For the average full-time worker, who makes an average of $3,600 a month, that leaves just $1,200 for essentials like food, utilities, clothing, childcare, and transportation once rent and loan payments are made.

Of course, not all borrowers carry six-figure debts. According to the most recent Survey of Consumer Finances, Americans under 35 have an average of $67,400 in debt. However, many households do carry higher debt balances: the same survey found that people ages 35-54 carry average debts of over $130,000.

Americans in Debt Choose to Double Down on Work

Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 40 percent said they would take a second job in order to pay off $100,000 in debt. According to the Census Bureau, about 13 million Americans (or 8.3 percent of the working population) hold two or more jobs.

Graphic: 40% of Americans say they would take a second job to pay off a six-figure debt.

However, a second income is unlikely to cover the minimum monthly payment on a six-figure debt. Loan provider Earnest analyzed data from tens of thousands of loan applicants and found that 85 percent of side-gig workers make less than $500 per month.

Taking on too much work can also backfire, causing health problems that lead to more in medical bills than the person made in their side gig. In a 2019 study by GOBankingRates, 28 percent of side hustlers said their health has suffered as a result of their heavy workloads.

Women More Willing to Work a Second Job Than Men

Men may still be considered the breadwinners in America, but when there’s a need to make some extra cash, women are more willing to step up. Forty-four percent of women said they would take on a second job to pay off a $100k loan, compared to just 35 percent of men.

Survey results by age: what strategy would you use to pay off $100,000 in debt?

Across age groups, younger respondents were more willing to take on additional work. Nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds would take on a second job to pay off a six-figure debt, compared to just 36 percent of 45- to 54-year-olds.

This may be due in part to the recent rise of the “gig” economy, consisting of contract or freelance agreements that require fewer than 40 hours of work per week. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, over a third of U.S. workers have some sort of “gig” employment.

However, not all workers have the capacity to add a second job when the going gets tough. A 2019 Bankrate study found that one in three Americans with “side hustles” need the extra income just to get by.

Graphic: percentage of people who would take a second job to handle $100k in debt

Older People Are More Willing to Solve Debt by Going into More Debt

While only one in eight respondents overall said they would rely on loans to help solve a six-figure debt, almost one in five senior citizens would solve existing debt by going into more debt.

This data reflects a hard reality for seniors, who have fewer options than younger borrowers since they’re less able to do things like take on extra work, relocate or borrow from older relatives. Thankfully, there are charitable organizations that offer financial assistance to seniors in need.

High Debt Requires an Advanced Debt Strategy

Though it is possible to pay off large debts with strict budgeting and disciplined spending, high debt balances often require expert help. A credit counselor can develop a debt management plan and help debtors get back in control of their finances.

The key is to remember that there’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. Overwhelming debt is an obstacle, not a personal failing. And like any obstacle, you can overcome it with the right strategy and support.


This study was conducted using Google Surveys. The sample consists of no less than 1,000 completed answers. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure accurate and reliable representation of the total U.S. population ages 18 and older. The survey ran online July 2019.

Learn more about Google Surveys’ methodology.

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