The American Dream in 2013: What Does It Mean to Achieve It?

When we say "American Dream," what comes to mind?

Is it your 2.5 kids playing inside a white picket fence? Is it turning your business idea into a profitable company by age 30? Is it a gold watch and nap-filled retirement by age 65?

In a new study, LearnVest and Chase Blueprint® sought to define the American Dream today, asking people around the country what it means to them. Is it achievable? If so, for whom? And while we're at it, in the wake of the recession, does the American Dream still exist?

Below, find out how other Americans see it, and in the comments, tell us: What does the American Dream mean to you?

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  • glittershades

    At 28, I am still living at home and can only dream of buying my own house. I recently talked to a mortgage professional at my local bank and was told based on how much I pay a month in school loans that I could only qualify for $40,000. Ick. I have good credit and bring home a decent paycheck. Bank told me to consolidate my school loans and come back in a year. Funny thing is, I asked what they could offer me at the bank and was told no loan would cover my current amount and that current rates are higher than what I am paying.

    American Dream status: On Hold. :-(

    • Mara

      I find that’s starting to be a pretty common problem for young people. We seem to be delaying huge life events, like marriage, home ownership, and children due to financial straits.

      I consider myself lucky to have graduated college in 2005. Now, I’m 31, married and own a home. But home ownership has been, at times, a huge financial burden despite having bought a pretty modest, fixer upper home. I have parts of the American Dream but we still don’t think we can afford to have a child. Childcare/expenses would likely be around $2,000/month for us and there is so little wiggle room in our budget already.

      It’s frustrating how our parents were successful way beyond their expectations, but we seem to be paying for it. And then they tend to blame young people for being “lazy,” when we’re strapped with huge college loans without the prospect of obtaining full-time jobs or positions that pay more than $10/hour. It’s maddening.

  • Nuna

    I absolutely believe the American Dream is an option for those who want to work for it. Unfortunately, the younger generations feel entitled and that just isn’t an option. I started at very meager beginnings (below poverty line), I was able to get a merit based full scholarship (not financial based) for an in-state school. (Kansas State University). I chose a sensible degree that was sought after by my employer. Currently I am 6 classes away from my MBA at Oklahoma State University. At 25, I have managed to make a decent salary (80K). I have owned a home (with an basement income property) since I was 22 and next month I will be closing on a duplex will create an amazing cash flow. I have sacrificed my time, committed to hard and long work hours, and done without the niceties (smart phones, cable, new cars, expensive shopping trips, etc). I don’t believe that people use common sense when deciding to go into college debt- they think it is just the next step. News flash- not everyone needs to go to college to make a decent living. The valedictorian of my class had the ability to receive a full scholarship in state. However, she decided to get an out of state degree in theatre and pay a fortune… now she works at a call center.
    To be clear- I am not bragging. I have worked very hard and am only doing as well as I am because of this and the ability to recognize opportunity. If I made less money, I would adjust my standard of living accordingly (although, my must pay expenses are well under 50% of my income already). I find it very irritating when people dismiss people who make good money with- it must be nice, or if I made that much I would be doing well too… I know people who make exactly the same as me and they are making very poor financial decisions. I am a budgetingThat said- I lived off $500 (without parental help) for 4 years in college, managing to save $20K by the time I left.
    If people want the American Dream they first need to pick a reasonable goal. I chose my career at age 12 and spent high school/college ensuring I would make it. A goal is not- I want to make 50K a year… It is picking a career that will balance out financially. Don’t spend 120K on a theatre degree and then complain about mountains of debt that will never be paid off on $10 an hour.
    That being said- the American Dream is becoming harder to attain as Americans fall behind in technical education and businesses are being crushed under government bureaucracy and taxes. We need to get back to a time where there were hand ups and not handouts. We currently have record people on unemployment, SNAP, disability, and welfare. I am not against these programs; however, the amount of people that rely on this as a way of life is wrong. We need to promote businesses again. A nation 17 trillion dollars in debt is frightening and this reckless spending has no end in sight. When the government furloughs 93% of the EPA during shutdown–that is a sign that the government has become too fat. I hope that the voting population gets educated the next time around- we are creating generations of unproductive people with no ambition. We are printing more money and disrupting free enterprise to provide programs such as the Affordable Health Care Act—which is a great failure and will only continue to stifle our economy.

  • janegray

    The American Dream is DOA.

    • Resi

      It is not DOA.I came to this country as an immigrant and started life all over again. Hard work, diligence ,discipline and self sacrifice helped me achieved the American Dream.

      • janegray

        The plural of anecdote is not data. You’re one guy, what about the millions of others who did the same and achieved nothing?