Just How ‘Broke’ Are The Duggars? Reality Check Time

Just How ‘Broke’ Are The Duggars? Reality Check Time September 9, 2015
image by Suzanne Titkemeyer
image by Suzanne Titkemeyer

by Suzanne Titkemeyer

One of the most maddening things about the main stream media coverage of the Duggar family through the years is the proclivity of the press to take a Duggar rumor and elevate it to ‘fact’ status while doing exactly zero fact checking. This has been happening since May over the speculation of the Duggar finances and has reached a crescendo this week. Addicting Information added fuel to that rumor this week reporting on fans that now feel like the Duggars are a scamming bunch of grifters that are playing the fans.

Hold on to your underwear, I’m about to defend (very very slightly) the Duggars. I guess I need to stop and do a shot of whiskey here, or make sure hell isn’t freezing over.

Remember a few weeks ago when I pointed out that Josh Duggar may or may not in Rockford, Illinois at the Reformers Unanimous rehab?  So where did the RU rumor come from that has now been accepted as fact by the media? From the speculation of one site, I think it was In Touch, that Josh might be there because his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, had been supporters of RU for a long time now combined with the fact that one of the Duggar planes landed in Rockford. None of the Duggars has confirmed anything beyond the fact that Josh is away at rehab, not which rehab. But now most of the world thinks he’s at RU. I also pointed out to a possible rehab in Paragould, Arkansas that the family recently flew near and now some people over at the website ‘Crooks and Liars’ are claiming Josh is there.

Since it first came out that Josh had molested four of his sisters and an unrelated girl there’s been lots of talk of broke Duggars begging people for money because they are supposedly going broke.

What evidence are the press citing? Two things – the link that appeared only for a day on the You Tube page of Duggar Studios asking for donations. That link went straight to Josiah and/or Jeremiah Duggar, not their parents. Josiah, a Duggar off spring, tried to do a little fundraising so he could keep making You Tube videos for his channel. After fan outrage Josiah pulled down the donation link the very next day. However you can still buy a Duggar Studios tee shirt if you so desire, putting fifty cents or so per shirt into Josiah’s pocket.

The other ‘evidence’ that the press keeps pushing is that Jill Duggar Dillard and her husband Derick Dillard have a page on their website asking for donations to keep their ministry in El Salvador. People are saying that this is the other proof that the family is hurting for money without realizing that in evangelical culture everyone who goes on international missions  trips has to raise the money for the trip. This isn’t unusual at all in the church. You raise as much as you can from fundraising and make up the difference yourself if you fall short.  Don’t get me started on the wrongness of mission tourism, but this is a normal way to pay for it and indicates nothing about the finances of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.

It didn’t help that Amy Duggar, their cousin, also asked for donations to pay for her large wedding this past weekend. One of the weekly tabloids was there as a guest so it seems likely that Amy sold them exclusive coverage rights to the nuptials. Everyone’s got to get paid.

Seems  more like two Duggar offspring following a Jim Sammons-like attempt to raise a little cash for themselves more than a reflection of their parents financial status.

Let’s examine income and assets for the family. Even though Kevin Swanson of Generations Radio has claimed on his show that the Duggars make between 1.2 million to 2.4 million per episode there are more legitimate sources that say that the family is getting closer to 40 thousand per episode. Combined with the speakers fees, book sales, DVD sales and real estate income the more likely yearly income is closer to 25 million total. While that huge hideous monstrosity of a home likely costs a fortune to heat and cool, particularly in the heat of a humid Arkansas summer and just feeding and clothing the brood isn’t cheap it’s unlikely that the family has run through their 25 million per year.

They own rental property, the family compound with the over-sized house, two single-engine air planes, a former minor league team bus, RVs, too many cars to count and other things. All of these are assets that could be turned for cash, making more mincemeat out of the claim that the Duggars are on the edge of being broke.

Their income is down, but with that list of assets and likely invested money they are likely a long way from financial collapse. But if they don’t find another revenue stream and reduce expenses it is possible that the family could suffer financially in the long term.

The grifting nature of the family isn’t new, so the people getting angry over it are merely late to the party. I find it more interesting that Jessa Duggar Seewald immediately posted hundreds of photos from her own wedding online shortly after her cousin Amy’s wedding. Seems like a very passive aggressive move.

Some Duggar ‘unnamed insider’ is claiming that Josh has zero remorse for cheating on his wife.  As quoted from Entertainment Tonight –

“No remorse. He is not the person everyone thought they knew.”

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Suzanne Titkemeyer is the admin of NLQ and also the wife of a man who had sense enough to recognize their church as a cult before dragging her out. She is a crazy old cat lady keeps busy with her grown children, her rescue animals, foster care animals and her love of all things art. Contrary to Fundy-Belief she’s usually smiling, laughing or smirking while swilling diet coke and dispensing sarcasm. She blogs at Every Breaking Wave and True Love Doesn’t Rape

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  • Allison the Great

    I did wonder why Jessa would post her own wedding pictures to try and overshadow her cousin’s wedding.

  • Julia Childress

    Thank you for explaining the Dillard’s mission trip fund-raising thing. I will be the first to criticize the Duggars, and I agree with you about mission tourism. But the fact is, fund-raising to support missions is just how it’s done in fundgelical circles. When back in the US, the missionaries will then often visit churches that have supported them and make a presentation showing what they have been doing on the mission field. **unfounded rumor alert**: on another site, I read that some of the contributors are getting hacked off because they see their money being used to buy plane trips back to the US.

  • I would be, too. I’d feel “Why do they need my money if they can afford to keep flying bak?”.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Julia, that’s one of the other things the media and general public doesn’t understand, what is normal and acceptable in evangelical communities. They freak out over the more normal things, like fundraising.

    But I do agree with them that it seems like there is a lot of jaunting back and forth on planes more than the average missionary family would do. Have a feeling they’re not exactly living in an acceptable thrifty missionary family lifestyle down in El Salvador

  • brbr2424

    It could be something she was meaning to do for months and being at someone else’s wedding prompted her. Those kids grew up without interacting with a variety of people so there are probably big gaps in their social skills. I think it shows her lack of social awareness rather than something malicious.

  • BondGurl7

    Do QF families also claim their homes as churches, thus gaining tax-exempt status? Or is that FLDS?

  • brbr2424

    I don’t think they are broke but I think that estimate is on the high side. They would have paid federal and state income tax on their earnings over the years. They have the same problem as the Palin family. Their income fell off of a cliff and in both families there is a brood of poorly educated and unemployable children who are desperately trying make a buck or two off of their child actor fame. They also need to employ a team of pr people and lawyers to deal with the lawsuits.

    Books generate most of their income when they are first released. Right now the Duggar girls’ awful book has an Amazon rank of 35,000. That translates to about 15 books sold a day. Some of those purchases would be used book sales. You can buy that book now for $0.83 and the Duggars don’t get a cut of that. Cars, planes and boats can be liquidated but will be worth less than what they paid for them.

    I don’t think they are broke but the need to manage their money very carefully now.

  • brbr2424

    Alicia Pennington’s parents did that. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Duggar business is a tax exempt “ministry” and the house is their parsonage.

  • Astrin Ymris

    Crowdfunding adoptions is also SOP in Rescue Adoption circles… even if the child they’re “saving” is a domestically-adopted healthy newborn. Never mind that there are hundreds of infertile couples on waiting lists to adopt such babies, Rescue Adopters still insist that you should give them the money to complete this adoption, so that they can preen themselves on having done their part to fight the “Global Orphan Crisis”.

    The stupid… it burns!

  • Nea

    I don’t think people would be upset about asking for donations for the mission except for two things:
    1) They claim to be a 501(c)3 charity and it can’t be proved
    2) They’re coy about how the money is actually spent – and they’re coy about it right when they’re making multiple plane flights back and forth from the mission field to home.

    That doesn’t look good for them at all.

    That long list of Duggar assets – the homes, the planes, the cars – that’s ridiculous luxury for a family that claimed to be frugal in the first place, and certainly doesn’t help the impression that they’re out to gouge for all they can get. Yes, all of those assets can be liquidated… but they’re also costing maintenance money to own and use. Jim Bob is a fool to not flip one or two of them right now, when the Duggar name still has a slender claim to fame, instead of blithely letting his son fly around seemingly aimlessly, at roughly $4000 a flight when none of the men of the family have income at the moment.

    More than that, those assets are depreciating in value by the day. Considering how fast the family is to sneer at women for potentially being a “used beat up” bicycle, you’d think someone would realize that actual used, beat up cars, RVs, buses, and even planes will not attract top dollar.

    As for Jessa’s stunt – everything I’ve heard about her suggests that she’s a poisonous personality finally allowed to freely flower, and she’s doing nothing to convince me otherwise.

  • Nea

    I doubt any Duggar knows what thrift is, seriously. Look at that long list of mechanical toys that the family has collected with only a handful of licensed drivers. Look at the things and services that have been handed to them just for being on TV. You’d think that Michelle, Jim Bob, and maybe Jana would remember the thin times, but none of the littler ones remember anything beyond being in the lap of plenty with the world watching.

  • Nea

    Because she’s not a nice person and she’s desperate to grab headlines, not knowing any other way to make money or get attention.

  • Julia Childress

    If you haven’t already seen it, you should watch John Oliver’s show where he starts a church. He shows how easy it is: http://www.ourladyofperpetualexemption.com/ This is a link to the church’s website.

  • Julia Childress

    I think that happens with many rags-to-riches stories. You get very used to living at a certain level, and start to take it for granted. I’m sure there is some way to rationalize it – like look at all of the people we’re reaching for Jesus, so we are being blessed by the Lord.

  • Mel

    I’m thinking it was very high as well. First, while they might have hit 25 million dollars in the most recent few seasons, I doubt they hit that in the first few years. They would have gotten hit with a 40% tax rate for income over $230,000 from the federal government + at least a 7% AR tax rate.

    Second, yeah, TLC covered a lot of costs, but TLC would be a fool to cover all of Jill and Jessa’s wedding costs or the costs of every freaking outing the Duggars go on.

    The family is clearly wearing nice clothing which gets really expensive.

    Plus, many of those assets are very illiquid. They will not be able to sell the bus or the planes easily or for much cash.

  • Don’t forget they have all those kids as deductions!

  • Mermaid Warrior

    One ironic thing about poverty (though I’m not sure if the Duggars had a time when they would’ve been classified as poor, they did used to live a tougher lifestyle) is that it can sometimes make someone worse with money. When you go so long without money and then suddenly receive a lot of it, you don’t always have the skills to spend it responsibly, hence why some lottery winners, entertainers, and athletes can end up in serious debt despite getting so much money. If you never have money, you might not know how to spend it.

    And I wouldn’t be surprised if the family expected the show to go on a lot longer. It’s probably easy to spend more frivolously if you think the money is gonna keep coming in. I mean, if you suddenly started making millions a year or whatever, you’d probably buy all sorts of crazy stuff, ha ha. I’m wondering how they’ll be able to adjust, considering that most of the group doesn’t have any marketable skills and the thing that made them famous, their image, has been tarnished.

  • Mermaid Warrior

    Unless they’ve been complete idiots with their money, the family will probably be financially okay for at least a while. Though if they can’t find any ways to start making lots of money again, I imagine they’ll have to scale back eventually. Homes, vehicles, and planes cost money to maintain, and I can’t imagine that flying is a cheap hobby. I doubt they’ll be able to find high-paying professions that would allow them to maintain their current lifestyle, but if they play their cards right they should be able to live comfortably. The parents, at least. I dunno what the financial situation is for the adult kids. Did they get much money from TLC? I’d be (pleasantly) surprised if the minor kids had money set aside just for them. Child reality stars don’t get many protections in general, especially not in states like Arkansas.

  • brbr2424

    We’re back to phasing out personal exemptions for high income earners. So, if their income is over 425k, all those children are worthless to them as tax deductions. I can’t wait until the Duggars start suing the Duggar for their share of the nest egg.

  • SAO

    The average family income in AK is $40,606. The Duggars now have a number of adult children, who presumably want to live independently and who have few marketable skills and a claim on the Duggar fortune. If you assume that to get to $40K/year, the adult kids need a top-up of $20K/year, that’s $60K for Jessa, Jill and Josh. At 5% interest, you need investments of 1.2M$ to earn that. But note, the stock market has been down and money markets and banks return closer to 2% or 3%. You need assets of $3M to earn $60K at 2% interest. In stocks, continued withdrawals during downturns erodes the value of the portfolio.

    Now, you can make all sorts of estimates about how many of the adult Duggar kids want cash from their parents. And you can make all sorts of estimates about how much money the Duggars invested, but it takes an awful lot of money to support low wage earners at just an average style of living for Arkansas.

  • Nea

    I think the answer to adjusting will be “not well.” Especially Josh; I’m willing to bet that he is now or soon will be in debt. He doesn’t know how to earn money and he lost his sweetheart job and reputation at once.

  • Nea

    A lot of the family event costs (like Jill’s bridal salon pampering) were provided by the company for free in return for the advertisement of being on the show. That’s all gone now.

  • grandma jones

    The first two documentaries of the Duggars was pretty sad, before they got their series. The girls wore terrible hand-me-down clothing from the church, their furniture was worn-out and they were losing their rental house and it was fortunate that TLC came in and finished their house. But I liked the first two documentaries because they seemed more real. They were used to accepting hand-outs from others. I thought it was really interesting once the series got going when Jim Bob started handing people food and donations — he felt really awkward about giving — seemed he likes being on the receiving end.

  • jennabobenna

    Everything I’ve seen of Jessa the past couple years suggests that she is everything her parents wanted her to be. She nickels and dimes the limelight every chance she gets and toes the Gothard party line perfectly. Watching the Megyn Kelly interview with her and Jill, she just came across as a complete shrew. Her sister is sitting there balling her eyes out and Jessa just looks like she wants to shake her. I really hope that getting away from the Duggars will be a way for Jill to become a better person than her sister and her parents. Her humanity came through in that interview and it’s clear she struggles with keeping up appearances in a way Jessa just never has.

  • jennabobenna

    If we were talking about Jill or Jana, I’d be inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt, but Jim Bob and Michelle created a fame monster in Jessa. She knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s savvy enough to know how to get attention. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t malicious. Shocked, even.

  • jennabobenna

    I’m surprised you’re the only one to mention that. Every time this topic comes up, I have to wonder if everyone is getting a cut of the pie or if Jim Bob and Michelle are pocketing most of the money. If it’s the latter, I feel really badly for those kids. Jill and Jessa and the older kids (except maybe Jana, I would be surprised if Jim Bob and Michelle treated her like an adult long enough to allow her her own cash, and I’d be even more surprised if they didn’t dip into her piggy bank every time they needed a little extra) got nice weddings, free rent in beautiful homes, and basically a ticket to ride down easy street. If they don’t start living more frugally and/or find a new source of cash, the younger kids are going to seriously get the shaft.

  • Julia Childress

    Yes, I think they believed that they were bullet proof and would have a show as long as they wanted it. Also, they became accustomed to being on the TLC dole – the house, the trips, the free stuff. It has to be an adjustment when you have to go back to buying all of your own stuff. Jim Bob is very crafty and I think that he will be able to employ a lot of the kids in his business enterprises. Maybe not the lifestyle they were used to, but probably comfortable. Plus it has the added bonus for Jim Bob, since he will remain firmly in control of their lives.

  • Mermaid Warrior

    What businesses does he have?

    Considering they don’t seem to have made backup plans, they probably did think the show was gonna keep going as long as they wanted. Might indicate a lack of knowledge on their part, as what shows last so long? Considering how they limit their exposure to media, they might not know much about the entertainment industry and TV programming.

  • Mermaid Warrior

    I won’t be surprised if the younger kids feel resentful and jealous in the future. They probably won’t get the fancy weddings or the cool vacations or any of the other perks the older ones got from the show/fame. It can suck to see siblings get things that you won’t. I wonder if it will be harder for Jim Bob and Michelle to control the kids now that they won’t have as much money?

    The money situation, I guess would depend on the kind of deal/contract they set up. I’m not sure if it would be legal for TLC not to pay the adult children, at least, but I dunno what the entertainment industry laws are like in their state. I’ll be surprised if the younger ones are getting any money for themselves at all. Reality shows are treated more like documentaries so they won’t have the same protections as child actors. (granted, their state probably doesn’t have much in the way of protections for child actors) If any of the money is meant for the younger kids, it probably gets sent straight to Jim Bob and Michelle unless TLC sets it aside themselves. Think any of the kids will sue in the future?

  • Mermaid Warrior

    It’s not easy to go from riches to rags. At this point, what do the Duggars have? Josh was a spokesperson, got his job on image along. Image has been tarnished. To my knowledge, he doesn’t have other skills or education. Wonder how his wife feels about all this? They must’ve thought this fame thing would last forever if they didn’t come up with a backup plan.

  • Julia Childress

    I don’t think that he has disclosed all of his businesses, but what is generally known is that he has a cell tower on his land, he owns commercial property that is warehouse rental space, he has flipped a couple of houses, he and Michelle have/had real estate licenses. I also suspect that the two planes he bought may at some point be used for commercial purposes. Then there is the car towing business. He seems to be very good at identifying opportunities and going after them.

  • Mermaid Warrior

    Well, assuming he can run all of those businesses well.

  • SinginDiva721

    That’s my question too. They have flown to and from the States at least twice since leaving for El Salvador. If they can afford to fly like that, they can afford to do their missionary work. And aren’t most people in El Salvador Catholic (Christian)? Converting them seems kinda pointless.

  • teaisbetterthanthis

    Exactly my observation. Jill appears to have a much more compassionate, nurturing personality (even if she’s been trained to fit it into hateful, oppressive gender roles), whereas Jessa is just mean.

    In any other family, Jill could be pursuing a career in early child education or could be an actual midwife/doula. Jessa would be a high school mean girl to college mean girl to office/neighborhood mean girl.

  • John Wayne Eastwoo

    Some Evangelical churches do not believe Catholics are Christians.

  • jennabobenna

    I doubt it. Even if a few of the kids get out of QF, I doubt they’d go through the trouble. Especially since Jim Bob and Michelle probably won’t have the money to pay out.

  • Mel

    As a Catholic, a good fundamentalist evangelical looks at you as a great target for conversion. We get them here where I live in MI all the time.

    (In all fairness, a good fundamentalist Catholic sees a fundamentalist evangelical as a good target, too….)

  • Mel

    And, honestly, she needs to be able to bring in cash. Derick Dillard was a pretty good catch for a Duggar daughter. He seems nice and had a track record of employment independent of his family.

    Ben Seeward was a marginal marriage candidate by the most generous standards….and the Duggars married him off to the most high-demand of their marriage age daughters.

  • YaddaYadda

    Why would defend these cretins, slightly, or otherwise?

  • Nea

    He doesn’t have any other skills or education. He’s spent his life with daddy mopping up after him and I’m willing to bet that he’s assuming daddy’s going to make this all go away too.

  • Nea

    He likes being on the receiving end so much that apparently some scenes of the Duggars giving food to the needy ended with the Duggars taking the food back when the cameras stopped rolling!

  • YaddaYadda

    “what is normal and acceptable in evangelical communities.”
    Why should anyone accept what is “normal and acceptable” in a completely dysfunctional community? That’s like accepting what was “normal and acceptable” in the Jim Jones cult. Are we supposed to wait until, “DOH! I should-a known…”

  • YaddaYadda

    In truth I would rather be a Catholic than an Evangelical any day of the week. Catholics have literally centuries of teachings and tradition (which I am a big fan of, btw, being prior military) and I appreciate all of that.

    Evangelicals seem like they make crap up on a daily basis. It’s unnerving.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    I hear what you are saying, but I was merely trying to explain something that looks greedy to the outside world that is something accepted as usual in evangelical circles..but it’s not limited to evangelical circles. Just about every American Christian community fundraises for missionaries. Never said it was right, just that it wasnt as freaky as the tabloids are acting like it is.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Explaining their culture because I hate lazy media that never bothers to research. They may or may not be going broke, but not for the reasons the media is citing.

  • Mermaid Warrior

    Eh, maybe they could sue the network for lost wages. If they wanted to.

  • mjc3834

    brbr2424 – With that many dependents, you can bet they aren’ paying income taxes. Their home was declared a church (non-profit) so they aren’t paying taxes on that either. Those two things in themselves are saving them tons of money. They pay no medical insurance either. Most families incur all these expenses every year. Leave it to the Duggars to find a way to eliminate those expenses.

  • mjc3834

    If none of the Duggars have jobs, they don’t have to file income taxes. Maybe that’s why they aren’t working. As long as they have money to live on, they don’t have to pay taxes. Plus, with the number of dependents they have, they wouldn’t be paying much income taxes anyway. JimBob had his home declared a church, so no taxes on that either. Plus, all the expenses to run the home/church are tax deductible. Don’t worry, the Duggars will find a way to pay as little as possible. I wonder how much of their time is devoted to scams to not pay their share to the government,