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For Many Americans, Being Debt-Free Is Still the 'American Dream'

Most Are Optimistic They Will Achieve the 'American Dream,' but Pessimistic That Others Will

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwired - July 08, 2014) - Being out of debt and retiring financially secure represent the American Dream for a majority of Americans, and most are optimistic that they can achieve it, according to the 2014 Credit.com American Dream Survey. Retiring financially secure at age 65 represents the ultimate American dream for 36% of those surveyed, while getting out of debt came in at a close second, with 25% of respondents choosing it as their definition of the "American Dream."

The majority of survey respondents are optimistic about their ability to achieve their version of the American Dream, with 16% saying they have already achieved it and another 50% indicating it is within their reach. Only 24% say it is it not within their reach.

But when asked if they believe the American Dream is within reach for most Americans, in other words "other people," the large majority -- 68% -- say they don't believe it is. This is the second year this trend -- optimism about one's own future and pessimism about others' -- has been observed. In a similar survey commissioned by Credit.com in 2013, 55% of those surveyed said the American Dream is not within reach for most others.

"The American Dream appears to now be about getting out of debt and getting to retirement age with a sense of financial security," says Adam Levin, Co-Founder & Chairman of Credit.com. "And the sense is that the next generation will find it even harder to get there."

Other significant findings from the survey include:

  • Dreams are personal and varied. After retirement and getting out of debt, the other top definitions of the American Dream included owning a home (17%), joining the "one percent," (5%), graduating from college (3%), and paying off student loans (2%).
  • Getting out of debt is a top priority. When asked about their top financial priority for the next year, at the top of the list was paying off credit card debt, with 19% of consumers choosing that option. Close behind that, another 18% chose "being debt-free." Other responses included investing for retirement (12%), saving for a major purchase (12%), buying a home (9%), paying off student loans (6%), retiring financially secure at 65% (6%), sending kids to college (5%) or paying off the mortgage (4%).
  • Most are fairly optimistic about their ability to pay off debt. When it comes to being debt-free, 79% said they are very or somewhat likely to achieve that milestone in their lifetimes with only 18% indicating that it was not very or not at all likely that they would be debt-free in their lifetimes. Not surprisingly, those with student loan debt were most likely to say it was not very or not at all likely that they would be debt-free in their lifetimes (28%), followed closely by those who have been unemployed in the past three years (24%).

Millennials & the American Dream

Millennials -- those age 18-29 -- define the American Dream a little differently than do older Americans. Being debt-free is still a priority for many, with one in five (19%) choosing that option. Just a slightly larger number of millennials (20%) say it is retiring financially secure at age 65. An almost equal number (22%), however, say it is owning a home and 13% have education-related goals in mind, with 7% saying their dream is to graduate from college, and 6% saying the Dream means paying off their student loans.

Of note, those over age 30 are more pessimistic about millennials' ability to achieve the American Dream than those in that age group are themselves. When asked "Do you think millennials will ever realize the American Dream?" fewer than one third of respondents over the age of 29 (30%) said they believe these consumers will be able to do so, and 40% responded "no."

But fully 57% of those age 18 - 29 say the "American Dream" as they define it is within their reach and 5% have already achieved it. Only 21% say it is beyond their reach.

More data is available on all segments, including renters, homeowners, the unemployed, millennials and those with student loan debt.

About the Survey

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

About Credit.com

Credit.com is the only company of its kind to be founded and run by leading credit experts including journalists, authors and consumer advocates. The Company is committed to helping consumers understand and master the confusing world of credit and to improve their financial standing by recommending products and actions that are in consumers' best interest. Only Credit.com provides consumers with a customized view of their credit standing and an actionable plan to improve and maintain their credit -- all for free.

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