Home > 2014 > Personal Finance

Will Millennials Achieve the American Dream?

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

Call it naïveté, healthy optimism or a unique outlook on the future — whatever the reason, young Americans are much more confident in what lies ahead of them than their older compatriots are.

The percentage of Millennials (ages 18 to 29) who believe the American Dream is within their reach is 57%, as opposed to the 47% of Americans 30 years and older who feel the same way. Granted, these groups don’t share a definition of the American dream, which makes things even more interesting.

The data comes from the Credit.com 2014 American Dream Survey conducted through Survey Monkey Audience between June 19 and 23. It includes responses of 1,094 American adults ages 18 years and older, and the margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

What the American Dream Means to Millennials

For the 18-to-29 crowd, owning a home was the most popular definition of the American Dream, getting 22% of responses, but retiring financially secure at age 65 was a close second, with 20% of the vote. Living debt-free took third place with 19%.

Those were also the top-three definitions among Americans 30 and older, but the order was considerably different: 41% of older participants said it was defined by a financially secure retirement at age 65, 26% said it’s living debt-free, and 16% chose home ownership. As far as owning a home goes, the difference might stem from the likelihood that the percentage of homeowners in the older group is much higher than that of the young group. At the same time, that could also be why many more older Americans feel they’ve already achieved the American Dream: 20% said they had, compared to 5% of millennials.

Clearly, retirement is among adults’ top concerns, and for a good reason: Comfortable retirement usually takes a lifetime of commitment to savings and investments (and if not a lifetime, several years of playing intense catch-up — or a sudden windfall). It can be difficult to stay on track, and as life expectancies rise, people have more saving to do.

Are Americans Pessimistic or Realistic?

Still, people are fairly confident they’ll get there, especially Millennials: 57% believe they’ll reach the American Dream (which is mostly homeownership), and only 21% say they won’t. They’re also confident in their generation: When specifically asked if Millennials would reach the American Dream, 44% said yes, but when asked about all Americans, 64% said it wasn’t within reach for others.

Older Americans were just as pessimistic about others’ ability to reach their definition of the dream — 68% said others wouldn’t achieve it — but they also don’t have much faith in the younger generation: 40% said Millennials wouldn’t reach the American Dream, and only 30% said they would. (Note: Researchers have varying definitions of “Millennial”: In the survey question, it was defined as 18 to 34, but Survey Monkey Audience has pre-set age brackets that cut off Millennials at 29.)

How Debt Differs Among Generations

However financial success unfolds for the country’s youngest adults, student loans will likely play a large part. Overall non-mortgage debt (including student loans, credit cards, auto loans, etc.) was more common among the older group, but Millennials carried much more education debt. Only 21% of the Americans 30 and older have student loan debt, while 45% of Millennials have student debt. Excluding mortgages, 46% of 18- to 29-year-olds say they’re debt free, opposed to 31% of those 30 and older.

As time goes on, those young consumers may find themselves taking out an auto loan, choosing to get a personal loan or perhaps falling into credit card debt when an emergency strikes, times get hard or spending gets away from them, just as older consumers may have done before them. To fulfill their optimism and realize their dreams, young Americans need to prioritize planning. It may not be the most exciting way to spend time in your 20s, but it’s something with lasting value.

Saving early and often, participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans and monitoring your credit will make it easier to reach that much-desired home, debt-free lifestyle or comfortable retirement. The tools to do so are at your fingertips, with the ease of mobile banking and tools like those on Credit.com, where you can review your credit data and behavior trends for free, with updates every 30 days.

More on Managing Debt:

Image: Ciaran Griffin

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team