Managing Debt

The American Dream: Is It Within Your Reach?

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What’s your vision of the American Dream and what are you doing to achieve it? In the new 2014 American Dream Survey, we found that most are optimistic about their prospects for achieving their version of the American Dream, but some groups are definitely more confident than others.

The majority of those surveyed chose one of three responses when asked what they think the American Dream represents to them:

  • A secure retirement at age 65 (36%)
  • Being debt-free (25%)
  • Owning a home (17%)

Other less popular responses included joining the “one percent,” (5%), graduating from college (3%), paying off student loans (2%) and “other” (11%).

The 2014 American Dream Survey was based on a survey of 1,094 U.S. consumers, 18+, using Survey Monkey Audience, June 19 – 23, 2014. The margin of error was +/- 3%.

Setting New Goals

When asked about their top priorities for the next year or two, priorities often included getting out of debt. For example, among all survey respondents, paying off credit card debt (19%) and being debt-free (18%) were the most popular selections. Another 6% chose paying off student loans and 4% picked paying off a mortgage. That meant that nearly half of all respondents (47%) say they are focused on debt reduction in the near future.

Among those with student loans, the most often identified priority was — no surprise — paying off student loan debt (24%). But the top focus for those age 18-29 was a major purchase (27%) followed by paying off student debt (19%) and buying a home (17%). Among renters, the second choice was to buy a home (18%), which was a slightly less popular choice for this group than being debt-free (21%).

Homeownership & Beyond

There were major differences between the views of homeowners and renters when it comes to the American Dream. Surprisingly, homeowners were the group least likely to choose home ownership when asked for their definition of the American Dream. Instead, they were most likely to choose retiring financially secure at age 65 (41%). But they were also the group most likely to say they have already achieved the dream, with 24% saying they are there. It may be that having achieved their goal of owning a home they have set their sights on a new goal.

Homeowners were also the group most confident about their ability to become debt-free in their lifetimes, with 82% saying it was somewhat or very likely that they will achieve that milestone.

However, not all of them are there yet. When asked to name their top financial priority for the next one to two years, paying off credit card debt came in first at 21%, with another 15% choosing the response “be debt-free.”

The Foundation for the Dream

The majority of respondents chose goals that tie into good credit habits. Paying off debt, for example, may require a good credit score in order to refinance or consolidate debt. And getting a mortgage to buy a home will be much easier with strong credit.

For those reasons, regularly checking your credit reports (which you can do for free once a year) and monitoring your credit scores (which you can get, updated monthly for free, through are often the first steps toward achieving the American Dream.

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