5 Things that Matter to You to Attain the American Dream

 In Personal Finance, Retirement

American Dream

There’s been an unprecedented shifting of perception on the American Dream over the past decade or two.

What was once the Land of Opportunity seems to have become the Land of the Entitled, the Land of Whining, or the Land of I Can’t Have Every Single Little Thing That I Want?

For example, did you know that according to a survey by Legg Mason, 64% of affluent Americans think that the American Dream is dead and unattainable?

Of course, that’s mostly in the eye of the beholder. The American Dream doesn’t actually have a single definition. For some, it’s homeownership, which is definitely attainable, even for those without a lot of wealth. For others, it’s the ability to live their life however they want.

That’s definitely not attainable if you want the wrong things. Sure, we’d all love to have a couple of Ferraris in the garage, and to vacation on our private luxury yachts in the Mediterranean each year, but if your wants are out of line with your means, then that’s not going to happen.

For yet others, the American Dream is the ability to retire at 65 and live comfortably in their golden years. That’s attainable – depending on your definition of a comfortable life.

Amidst all the confusion and the growing sense of entitlement that’s affecting everyone, what matters most to affluent Americans?
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Owning Your Own Home

This has been a central tenet of the American Dream since the phrase was coined, and it hasn’t changed today. Interestingly, affluent Americans are still concerned about owning their own home. Of course, this one is very much attainable. The catch is that you need to think within your means.

Obviously, if you earn $60,000 per year, then a McMansion isn’t going to be in the cards for you (unless you work with an unethical lender). Does that mean you can’t be a homeowner? Absolutely not.

It simply means that you need to shop with an eye for properties that fit with your income, and that won’t bankrupt you during your ownership. More Americans can actually own homes than ever before, but it takes some financial savvy and some in-depth exploration of what you want, need and can afford in a home.

Having the Freedom to Live as You Want

Here’s another area that matters to affluent Americans. 55% of affluent investors surveyed by Legg Mason said that the American Dream was not attainable, and quite a few pointed at this as their defining metric in reaching that conclusion.

Here’s the thing – no one in the US has ever been able to “live the way they want” if that isn’t within their financial means. Sure, it would be great to have your own private helicopter landing pad, your own mansion complete with a water park, and access to a marina where you keep your super yacht.

However, those aren’t necessities – those are luxuries. Only the richest of the rich can live that way and even they end up paying for it in the end. The news is rife with celebrities being forced to sell multimillion dollar mansions they can no longer afford.

Does that mean that the American Dream isn’t attainable? Not at all. It simply means that living however you want isn’t realistic unless you have realistic wants.

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Living Comfortably After Retiring at Age 65

Here’s another thing that matters greatly to affluent Americans – the ability to retire at 65 and then live comfortably. There are two complicating factors here that affect everyone, rich or poor, affluent or not-so-affluent.

First, people are living much longer today than they were when 65 was the start of their golden years. That means you need to work longer to account for the extra years of life in terms of retirement planning. Obviously, a person retiring at 65 and only living to 75 would need far less money than someone retiring at 65 and living to 85 or 95.

Second, there’s the question of what exactly “living comfortably” means. Does it mean living with all the luxuries you had when you were bringing in an income? It shouldn’t.

Does it mean living with the knowledge that you have all the money you’ll need for food, medical care, and property taxes, as well as incidentals? That’s more in line with the spirit of retirement planning.

No matter how affluent you might be, if you’re not bringing in an income and still living like you were, you’re going to eventually encounter a cash shortfall during retirement.

American Dream is About Feeling Financially Secure

Many affluent Americans point to the ability to feel financially secure. Quite a few have stated that they feel this isn’t possible any longer, but that’s not necessarily the case. According to a

According to a different survey by Legg Mason, almost 50% of Americans now feel optimistic about the investment environment and more than ever expect to see gains in their portfolio. With that being said, women seem to be the most optimistic, with 86% seeing the financial market in a positive light, where only 69% of men said the same thing.

With that being said, women seem to be the most optimistic, with 86% seeing the financial market in a positive light, where only 69% of men said the same thing.

Knowing that Hard Work Pays Off

Finally, most affluent Americans want to believe that hard work pays off. This has been the cornerstone of American society just about forever. If you keep your nose to the grindstone, you’ll eventually get there.

Here’s the thing – if you own your own home, if you can retire comfortably at 65, if you are financially secure, and if you can live the life you want (realistically), then you should definitely feel financially secure.

Should you feel “rich”? Not necessarily so, but there should be no question that you know where your next meal (or the next year’s worth of meals) will be coming from.

There you have them – five of the things that matter most to affluent Americans. Whether you’d count yourself as affluent or not, chances are good that you fall into the same categories in terms of what matters most to you, as well.
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Sergey Sanko
Sergey had started an IncomeClub after years of being an investment advisor for high affluent investors and managing fixed income securities. He is the lead investment advisor representative and holds a Series 65 license. Sergey earned his Executive MBA degree from Antwerp Management School.
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