Confidence in the American Dream May Be Eroding…

… but Americans’ Financial Satisfaction is on the Rise

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Though the U.S. economy is showing signs of recovery, Americans’ belief in the American Dream remains deeply shaken. Of the older Millennials surveyed, ages 25-32, half feel the American Dream is disappearing completely. Forty-five percent of older Baby Boomers, ages 54-64, also share this belief, an increase of 15 percent over the past two years.

Though Americans both young and old generally hold bearish views on the economy, the definition of the American Dream itself appears to be in flux. While older respondents hold close to its traditional definitions—78 percent of older Boomers consider home ownership a key component and 80 percent consider financial independence an equally important element—younger respondents show notably less engagement with these historic benchmarks for financial achievement, instead focusing on developing a monthly budget, suggesting views around financial satisfaction are undergoing fundamental shifts, according to MassMutual’s third biennial study, The 2013 State of the American Family Study, offering a broad snapshot of American families’ financial views.

“We’ve found that American families hold similar core values when it comes to their finances, but one of the study’s key takeaways is that the emphasis placed on these financial views vary between demographic groups,” said Mike Fanning, Executive Vice President, U.S. Insurance Group, MassMutual. “Between generations, ethnicities, and family types, the goals families hold, the confidence they feel, and the financial products and services they use differ in clear and diverse ways.”

We've found that American families hold similar core values when it comes to their finances, but one of the study's key takeaways is that the emphasis placed on these financial views vary between demographic groups.

Additional key findings include:

  • Chinese and African Americans are still optimistic about the American Dream: Among ethnic groups surveyed, African Americans and Chinese Americans maintain a particularly strong belief in the American Dream. Only 17 percent of Chinese American respondents and 28 percent of African Americans believe the American Dream is disappearing. Notably, Caucasian respondents held more negative views than any other ethnic group: Forty-two percent believe the American Dream is disappearing.
  • Parents are feeling more confident about their finances, though room to improve still exists: Three in ten American families are satisfied with their current financial situation, up from 18 percent in 2009, and nearly four in ten (39 percent) now say that they are very good at managing money, compared to 30 percent in 2009. Though Gen X, ages 33-44, trails the pack in terms of financial satisfaction and investment confidence, broader trend lines show Americans’ overall financial satisfaction on the rise.
  • Surprising differences exist between older and younger Boomers: Though just a few years apart in age, older and younger Boomers show surprising differences in their financial confidence, satisfaction and values. Thirty-eight percent of younger Boomers, ages 45-53, say they’re satisfied with their financial situations, compared to 30 percent of their 54-64 year old peers, a gap which has grown continually wider over each prior survey. Older Boomers also own markedly fewer financial products versus younger Boomers, on average 4.7 to younger Boomers’ 5.1, and lag younger Boomers by 11 percent in their confidence to select investments.
  • Preparing the next generation for financial success is a key priority: Families recognize the importance of teaching their children about money and finances at an early age. Close to three in four (72 percent) respondents feel that it is important to educate children on finances to ensure a strong economy in the future, and half (49 percent) of families are actively involved in educating their children about money management.

NOTE: Trending statistics are based on comparison of data from 2009 and 2011, which is comprised of respondents who have $100k+ household income (HHI), and data from 2013, which is comprised of respondents who have $75k+ HHI, so a subset of respondents whose HHI is $100k+ was pulled.



The State of the American Family Study is a biennial survey conducted in 2009, 2011 and 2013 for MassMutual by the Forbes Consulting Group, LLC. The 2013 study was conducted between February 4th and February 25th via a 20-minute online questionnaire. The survey comprised 1,337 interviews with American households with children under age 18 for whom they are financially responsible. Interviews were conducted among men and women ages 25-64 as of 2013 with household incomes greater than $75,000 (50 completes were allowed among 25-32 year olds with HH incomes falling between $50,000 and $75,000). Respondents had to contribute at least 40% to decisions regarding financial matters in their household to qualify. Results were weighted to the 2010 US Census distributions for age, gender, ethnicity, region, and same sex married/partnered couples to be representative of American families in this age and income bracket. This study includes trending data for survey waves conducted in 2009 and 2011.

About MassMutual
Founded in 1851, MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. The company has a long history of financial strength and strong performance, and although dividends are not guaranteed, MassMutual has paid dividends to eligible participating policyowners consistently since the 1860s. With whole life insurance as its foundation, MassMutual provides products to help meet the financial needs of clients, such as life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, retirement/401(k) plan services, and annuities. In addition, the company’s strong and growing network of financial professionals helps clients make good financial decisions for the long-term.