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Debt and preparedness, part 1.5

Before moving on to part 2, I thought it would be instructive and fun to find out a little more about what readers think about debt. Also fun to try out a rather sophisticated free online survey site.

So I have created a four-part survey.

If it works, we may do other surveys or polls in the future. If not … not. You are free of course, to take the good old freedomista MYOB stance, but I’ve tried not to make the questions too intrusive.

The one catch here is that only 50 people can fill the survey out. That’s all that’s allowed with the free version. So go for it soon if you’re so inclined. (UPDATE #2: But we went over 50 after a couple of hours and they’re still accepting input. So …)

I believe I’m the only person who gets to see the survey results. In that case, I’ll report the results here.

But I’m not entirely sure how everything works. So please don’t put in anything personally identifiable.

UPDATE #1: Eighteen people have answered so far and the results are very interesting. Specifics later, when the survey’s done. But to test the survey system, I made each question a different type: the first has an agree/disagree scale, the second is multiple choice, the third asks you to rank various items, and the fourth gives a text box for your answer. Three of the four questions are working well. The ranking question is producing odd results, but it’s probably best just to let that ride now that we’re this far along. (Anyhow, it’s very clear what most people’s #1 choice is.)

UPDATE #2 Well, damn and drat! You guys did such a great job that the survey went over 100 responses (which was apparently the real limit, despite one statement on the survey site saying 50. I figured when it hit the limit, the survey would simply refuse further answers and the company would send me some sort of a “you’ve reached your limit” message. That’s not what happened.

The survey company — damn their bones — accepted answers beyond the limit (101, specifically). Then when I clicked to update results … the bastards a) refused to let me see them and b) told me to upgrade to a $180 annual membership if I wanted to see anything. Sneaky, crappy tactics! Especially given that they, not I, controlled how many answers the survey ultimately received.

The good news is that I did do screenshots of the results some time ago and other than the text comments, results remained remarkably stable as more people weighed in. I’ve sent a message to see if I can be allowed to look one last time at the survey. Meanwhile, I removed the link to it, lest they collect more answers and try to charge me for … I dunno, a five-year membership and a new Tesla. I’ll feel very bad if anybody answered in vain, but even in the worst case I’ll have at least partial results to share with you soon.


  1. stencil
    stencil August 11, 2016 10:59 am

    Isn’t it reasonable that if the S were to HTF, banks and lending institutions (if not individuals) would be powerless to collect? If so… the most pessimistic strategy would be to borrow heavily to finance a survival kit. Anyway, for me, Polonius’s Maxim still obtains.

  2. AG
    AG August 11, 2016 11:45 am

    Banksters have a vested interest in ensuring the S does not HTF. At least on their watch.

    Be smart. Position yourself to win whether or not SMOD hits in your lifetime.

    Stay out of debt and learn the basic skills humans have used to survive for the last 10,000 odd years.

    Or don’t.

    And later wish that you had.

  3. Jorge
    Jorge August 11, 2016 12:31 pm

    The ranking question is a bit odd. Where to put “None of the above”? If I were to put it at #1 does that mean all of the items below are irrelevant?

    Also forgive my ignorance, but what is “Signature” debt?

    A question on commenting, can HTML tags be used?

  4. LarryA
    LarryA August 11, 2016 12:34 pm

    It seems to me that focusing on debt without looking at savings and investments provides only part of the picture.

    Also, my wife has a rather peculiar take on the money I have invested in firearms. She says, “It’s not an investment until you’re willing to sell them.” 😉

  5. Claire
    Claire August 11, 2016 12:50 pm

    Jorge — Good questions. Signature debt is a non-credit-card loan without collateral, just your good credit and “signing on the bottom line.” I have no idea about the HTML tags. Will have to figure that one out later. And you’re probably right about NOTA. I’d design that question differently if I were to re-do the survey.

    LarryA — Adding savings and investments adds both complications and a terrifying dimension (for some of us) to the survey. Besides, IMHO, while those are highly important to planning for retirement or planning for starting a late-life business or taking a trip around the world, they’re less important for SHTF planning. You might have investments up the wahzoo that will just evaporate. Bank savings might be confiscated, disappeared in a giant power outage, or eaten away by negative interest or currency devaluation.

    And tell your wife she’s wrong on those guns. 🙂

  6. He Who Fakes It Well
    He Who Fakes It Well August 11, 2016 2:00 pm

    Basic HTML tags CAN

    be used

    in comments.

  7. LibertyNews
    LibertyNews August 11, 2016 2:09 pm

    It depends on what you’re preparing for. Loss of a job, medical expenses, and short term natural disasters are far more likely than TEOTWAWKI and should be planned for first.

  8. Claire
    Claire August 11, 2016 3:03 pm

    Ooooooh, in comments. HERE in comments. I thought Jorge meant comments in the survey. Glad you stepped in there, HWFIW.

  9. Claire
    Claire August 11, 2016 3:04 pm

    It depends on what you’re preparing for. Loss of a job, medical expenses, and short term natural disasters are far more likely than TEOTWAWKI and should be planned for first.

    Very true, LibertyNews.

  10. LarryA
    LarryA August 11, 2016 6:30 pm

    Does that include bold?

    It doesn’t seem to make any difference in your “HTML” or my “bold”, but my eyes are old.

  11. LarryA
    LarryA August 11, 2016 6:52 pm

    I would quibble that most of the time if there’s a big enough problem with the monetary system for savings and investments to evaporate, so must debts. It’s the same accounting system.
    And tell your wife she’s wrong on those guns.
    No thanks. I taught her to shoot.
    Besides, I was trying to convince her guns were monetary investments. She understands the SHTF value.

  12. Claire
    Claire August 11, 2016 7:09 pm

    I see the bold on my Chromium browser, but I don’t see it when I view this site on Firefox. I thought it was just me but that problem might be affecting you, as well.

  13. Fred
    Fred August 11, 2016 8:19 pm

    Yep – Firefox doesn’t seem to be the “friendliest” for this blog.

  14. feralfae/iloilo
    feralfae/iloilo August 11, 2016 9:19 pm

    I’m one of those old geezer female types, who was reared to work hard and stay out of debt; to save and then spend, rather than spend and then not be able to save. A needlepoint on my grandmother’s wall summed it up, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

    What I hate most about debt is that it puts a restriction on my life choices until I get it paid off: until then, it is an obligation, and I must meet it. We were also taught to live 20% below our means: 10% to tithe, and 10% to life savings. I have long been thankful that I learned that rule very young.

    Thank you for the survey Claire, although I may have messed up on the none of the above question. Fascinating questions.

  15. feralfae/iloilo
    feralfae/iloilo August 11, 2016 9:22 pm

    Yes, that is a very wise observation. Thank you.

  16. RickB
    RickB August 12, 2016 2:24 am

    I’m with feralfae on the tithing/savings rule. Except I live so cheaply that I’m closer to 15/15.
    I like having mortgage debt because it gives me more options (in today’s screwed up system).

    In a TEOTWAWKI situation I lose the money in the bank but also lose my mortgage. A wash.

    If interest rates skyrocket (housing prices plummet) I renegotiate my loan and pay it off for pennies. Or walk away (my mortgage is non-recourse).

    Should I lose my job I can live for several years on the cash while still making my mortgage payments. If it looks like a long-term problem then I stop making my house payments and live rent-free. Foreclosure will take a couple of years. Put that money into buying a conversion van and prepare to go homeless.

    God, I trust, will help me work out the details.

  17. LBS
    LBS August 12, 2016 8:01 am

    I believe that living debt free will lead to the best results all around.

  18. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty August 12, 2016 9:03 am

    I’ve lived mostly debt free all my life. Mother would rather have died than go into debt, and she taught her daughters well how to manage with very little and not borrow.

    I’ve had two small home mortgages, never missed a payment. Sold the last home in Calif. and bought this one cash. No payments now, except the property tax extortion, of course. I purchased three cars on credit, and paid them off early…. well, except the last one that was interest free! As long as I never missed a payment (and I never have), it cost me nothing. I can live with that – and I’ve driven the car now for 16 years!

    Actually had a student loan and paid it off three years after graduation. The bank kept sending me letters whining that I didn’t REALLY need to send the extra payments, but I just laughed. I also have a credit card, handy for some things that can’t be paid with cash (like Amazon!). Never have a penny of interest on the account since I pay in full each statement. I’ve done it for more than 30 years… but the first time I have to pay interest will be the day the card gets cut into small pieces.

    Right now I don’t owe anything to anybody. It’s not always easy on a small fixed income, but it can be done – and it saves a LOT of money in the long run.

  19. Claire
    Claire August 12, 2016 12:40 pm

    I put an update into the post, but alas those rotters at the survey site turned out to be pretty tricky. So I’ve had to halt the survey. Explanation is above. But bottom line is there’s still good info to share, and I will do that in a few days.

  20. just waiting
    just waiting August 12, 2016 9:28 pm

    I’m kinda late to the conversation, is there any chance you could post the questions again, not using the official survey?

  21. cm1
    cm1 August 13, 2016 6:05 am

    Making promises to people who change the rules when it suits them makes me nervous. Paid off the house w/ 401K funds. Instant bump in monthly income. No regrets.

  22. Laird
    Laird August 15, 2016 10:31 am

    Like just waiting, I’d also like to see the actual questions. Also, as far as I can tell you never gave the name of the survey company. That would be useful information (so I could avoid ever using them). It isn’t Survey Monkey, is it? I’ve seen a lot of surveys which use that site, and never heard of any complaints like the ones you’re raising.

  23. Claire
    Claire August 15, 2016 11:10 am

    The actual questions are either in the pdf 9n my more recent post or can be inferred from the results shown in the pdf. For the moment, you can view the actual survey here:

    … but they could take it down at any time because it’s already exceeded their limit for freebies.

    As you can see, the company is And I wouldn’t avoid them, since their surveys are very versatile and customizable and their results well-reported. That said, I think I would use them again only if I were running a small business and had the need to pay for such capacity. They strike me not so much as a “free” survey company but as a professional survey outfit that gives limited free samples.

    It was indeed dirty pool not to automatically halt the survey when it reached its limit (or not to warn me that I’d need to halt it). But they were gracious enough to give me access afterward.

  24. Laird
    Laird August 15, 2016 11:18 am


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