We’re nothing if not ambitious, when it comes to delivering on our vision for customers. You don’t run a call center with no script and pick up every call by the third ring, or pass federal legislation unless you have a vision, know how to set goals and work toward them.
As the importance of goal setting becomes more deeply understood, so does its practice. Many Americans have wholeheartedly taken to goal-oriented journals, turned goal-based coaches into virtual celebrities, or even have become life coaches themselves. Whoever you are and wherever you are in life, you most likely have hopes and dreams.
So what exactly is it that modern Americans hope and expect to achieve one day? We surveyed 1,010 people to find out what they hope their futures will hold. Continue reading to see exactly what the American dream entails today.
In spite of the millennial stereotype of living with parents (there’s even Monopoly for Millennials where players never come to own property), 3 in 4 modern millennials had, in fact, moved out of their parents’ home. Nearly the same amount (73 percent) also paid all of their bills. The most common achievement among this generation? Getting that first “adult” job. Seventy-seven percent of millennial respondents had done so.
Nevertheless, self-sufficiency when it comes to finances can feel difficult at any age. Only half of millennials felt stable in life, and 61 percent had become independent and self-sufficient. Toward the younger range of the millennial cohort (roughly 23 years of age), many have recently left college and are finding their footing in the world. Later in life, however, not having gained financial independence can be debilitating given life’s many financial demands.
What the Future (Hopefully) Holds
Millennials have not given up on achieving their financial aspirations in spite of the odds they perceive. They discussed a variety of aspirations, some being more common than others. Their most common goal, shared by 64 percent of millennials, was to retire someday. Sixty-eight percent believed this goal was “very important,” yet only 44 percent were “very optimistic” about ever getting there. Before retiring, millennials hoped to buy a dream home (53 percent) and get a dream job (39 percent), but only 25 percent and 23 percent felt particularly optimistic about doing so, respectively.
Among the 58 percent of millennials surveyed who hoped to achieve financial security, only 27 percent felt highly optimistic they could comfortably cover their expenses. Although this sense of security may reflect different mindsets depending on the individual, financial security is considered to include having enough money to cover all of your bills and then some.
Outside of financial goals, millennial optimism peaked when it came to growing their family. Forty-six percent of this generation hoped to have grandchildren, and 40 percent felt optimistic this would, in fact, be a part of their future. Another familial milestone, getting married, was only a goal for 36 percent of all millennials while having children didn’t even make the list.
As many studies show, believing in yourself and embracing optimism over your future can significantly impact your ability to achieve your goals, financial or otherwise. No matter whom you are and what you hope to achieve, sincere optimism and focused goal planning can lead to great results.
Future of Matrimony
In nearly every area of life – marriage, family, career, homeownership, and retirement –millennials felt as though the deck was stacked against them. We’ll start by looking at marriage, where nearly three in four millennials believe that they’ll have a harder time tying the knot than any of the generations that came before them.
Optimism did not falter when it came to millennials who hoped for a family. Although 73 percent of millennials who weren’t already married felt they would have a harder time getting married than previous generations, 92 percent of those who wanted to marry still expected to do so. Their shared perception of an uphill battle did not diminish their hopes for achieving marriage in the future.
So why exactly did millennials feel it would be so hard to get married? Nearly three-quarters thought tying the knot would be more difficult today than it was years ago. According to sociologist Eric Klinenberg and comedian Aziz Ansari, authors of a new book about modern romance, the millennial marriage dilemma may have less to do with finding the perfect person – and more to do with internet and travel presenting so many marital options that we’ve become paralyzed by choice. As Ansari puts it, “Today’s generations are looking (exhaustively) for soul mates, whether we decide to hit the altar or not, and we have more opportunities than ever to find them.”
If you do successfully choose, you’ll find comfort in the happiness reported by married couples. The fact that 90 percent of people who did get married were happier afterward is a testament to just how important this goal really is for many people. In fact, married individuals were even happier than their unmarried counterparts expected they would be if they got married, with a higher number of married individuals reporting that they were much happier, and a far higher number of unmarried people expecting it to make them only slightly happier.
The millennial marital trend of feeling optimistic in spite of difficult odds extended into their child-rearing goals as well. While 61 percent of millennials who wanted children someday believed they would have more difficulty than previous generations raising children, nearly all (96%) of those who wanted children still expected to have them.
Children were even more likely to make people happier than marriage did. Among our respondents, 93 percent of parents considered themselves happier now than before having children. Once again, we see parenthood as a goal that makes people even happier than they expected, even if they did anticipate becoming parents. While only 27 percent expected to become much happier after having children, 47 percent actually did become “much happier.” When it came to children, average happiness levels would argue they’re well worth the challenge.
With many millennials having already reached the milestone, Gen Zers were the most likely generation to share a future desire for children. While 10 percent of Gen Zers were already raising children, 49 percent still wanted to become parents. Baby boomers, on the other hand, felt 26 was the ideal age for becoming parents, an age within the millennial range.
Once again, millennials perceived their goals to be more difficult to achieve than those of previous generations, this time when it came to their careers. Seventy-six percent of millennials said they think it’s harder to achieve career success today than it was in decades past. Nevertheless, 92 percent of millennials who wanted career success still expect to get precisely that.
Even among older participants, a sense of having reached success in their careers was not exceedingly common. The most likely generation to feel their careers were successful was baby boomers, but only 56 percent felt this way. Moreover, the desire to achieve success declined with each successively older generation. Sixty-four percent of Gen Zers hoped for career-based success someday, while 55 percent of millennials and 31 percent of Gen Xers felt the same. These differences may have to do with the loss in naivete that comes with experience. While baby boomers also agreed an average age of 45 was ideal for reaching your career goals, Gen Zers expected to get there by the time they were just 30 years old.
Overall, career success did not surprise respondents with overwhelming happiness in the same way marriage and children did. More than half of respondents agreed that achieving their career goals was just as satisfying as they thought it would be to at least some extent. About a thirdsaid it was “absolutely” as satisfying as they once imagined it would be.
Dream of Homeownership
Eighty-two percent of millennials who wanted to own a home felt that it would be more difficult for them than it was for previous generations. Nevertheless, millennial optimism struck again, with 97 percent of this generation still expecting to become a homeowner if it was a part of their goals.
Regarding homeownership, millennials may have a point: It is, in fact, more difficult today to become a homeowner than it historically has been. Higher rent that millennials must now pay can also make it more difficult to save for an eventual down payment on a house. Nevertheless, 40 percent of millennials were homeowners today.
The other 60 percent of millennials and the nonhomeowners of other generations may be putting too much emphasis on sacrifice to decide on whether to buy a house or start saving for one. While 84 percent of respondents expected to make significant financial trade-offs to afford a home, only 63 percent felt this way once they bought a house. All things considered, 93 percent of experienced homeowners said it was completely worth it.
With the national student loan debt surpassing $1.5 trillion in 2019, it may be no surprise that just under 80 percent of millennials believed they would have a harder time retiring than their elders. That said, millennials didn’t expect to work until the end; 88 percent still expected to have a traditional retirement.
Even if retirement has become more difficult to achieve, retirees would agree it’s well worth the struggle. Eighty-seven percent of retired respondents felt they were at least slightly happier than they were before retiring. Another 82 percent of retirees described retirement as “interesting,” an encouraging depiction of what the future may hold for all of us.
Further encouragement came in the form of ideal and expected ages for retirement. Gen Xers expected to retire only two years after what they considered to be the ideal age. The same held true for baby boomers who claimed the ideal retirement age to be 66 while expecting to actually retire at 68.
Seeing How It All Comes Together
Throughout this study, Americans of all generations demonstrated ambition and goal-oriented mindsets. They were, however, also realistic about some of the challenges they were presented. This rang particularly true for millennials who now report an increasing sense of challenge when it comes to their financial and familial goals.
No matter who you are and what your hopes and dreams may be, your future can be just as bright as you perceive it to be. And while it can certainly help to know and see where you’re headed in life, at 1-800 Contacts we understand that seeing the world around you is just as important.
Methodology and Limitations
We surveyed 1,010 people using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform. To ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, every respondent was required to identify and pass a carefully disguised attention-check question.
Our average respondent was approximately 38 years old. 546 of our respondents were female, 462 were male, and two did not identify as either gender. Regarding each specific life milestone, the number of respondents who had achieved each was as follows: marriage, 588 respondents; homeownership, 571 respondents; parenthood, 512 respondents; career success, 373 respondents; and retirement, 80 respondents.
These data are intended for entertainment purposes only, and statistical testing has not been performed on these findings. In certain cases, questions and responses have been rephrased for clarity or brevity. These data rely on self-reporting, and issues with self-reported data may include but are not limited to: exaggeration, telescoping, selective memory, and attribution errors.
Fair Use Statement
If you find this study interesting and inspirational, please feel free to share it for noncommercial purposes. All we ask in return is a link back to this page so that everyone has the opportunity to view the data in full.