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Millennials see American dream fading

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Half of all Millennials ages 25-32 believe that the American dream — the ability to lead a middle class lifestyle — is disappearing for their generation, according to new research.

MassMutual discloses this finding in its “State of the American Family Study,” a biennial survey conducted in 2009, 2011 and 2013 for MassMutual by the Forbes Consulting Group, LLC. Conducted last February, the 2013 study comprised 1,337 interviews with American households with children under age 18 for whom they are financially responsible.

The survey reveals that Millennials’ pessimism about the future is shared by older Baby Boomers: 45 percent of those ages 54-64, also share their 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 is 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 the study.

“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 [among] demographic groups,” says 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.”

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • African Americans and Chinese Americans maintain a 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.
  • 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-Xers (those ages 33-44) trail the pack in terms of financial satisfaction and investment confidence, broader trend lines show Americans’ financial satisfaction on the rise.
  • 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 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.


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