American Dream 2.0: How Debt Figures Into the Equation

American Dream 2.0: How Debt Figures Into the Equation

Once upon a time, fulfilling the American Dream meant starting a family and owning a home with room enough for everyone.

Today? Many of us would be happy just to get rid of that nagging debt.


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According to a new survey by, one-quarter of people cite being debt-free as the financial goal that best represents the American Dream. That’s compared to the 17% of respondents who said their biggest dream is to own a home.

The number-one goal for everyone surveyed was being able to retire at 65; as many as 36% of people said that epitomized the American Dream for them.

These findings are similar to the results of another survey, released in September 2013, which found that 18 to 24 year olds were most likely to interpret the American Dream as being debt-free. That survey also found that being debt-free was the most popular short-term goal (something respondents could achieve in the next two years) among all age groups.

So how confident are people that they’ll actually turn their dreams into reality? In 2013, about 81% of all respondents said they would probably live debt-free at some point, compared to about 89% of those 18 to 24.

The more recent survey also found that Americans are more hopeful about their own potential for success than they are about other people’s. That confirms the results of the 2013 research, which found that about 78% of people said they either will reach or already have reached the American Dream, while only 41% of people said they believe others can do so.

Other definitions of the American Dream cited in the 2014 survey included joining the one percent (5%), graduating from college (3%) and paying off student loans (2%).


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