Americans Define Financial Success as Being Able to Retire Comfortably

In the past, home ownership served as the benchmark.

With a greater emphasis on retirement savings taking hold in the nation, Americans’ views on prosperity are being reshaped, according to a telephone survey of 1,010 adults conducted by Harris Poll for the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Nearly one-third of those polled (28%) said that being able to retire comfortably is the earmark of financial success, compared to 11% who said owning a home and another 11% who said being better financially situated than their parents.

“We’re seeing that today’s American dream is greatly shifted from the one defined by previous generations,” says Ernie Almonte, chairman of the AICPA CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Whether the reason is the lingering result of the housing bust of difficulty getting ahead in a still recovering economy, it’s clear that Americans have changed the benchmarks for their financial success.”

And Americans are optimistic about their financial prospects and are taking positive action, with 21% reporting that they have already achieved financial success and another 52% believing that they will be able to do so in their lifetime. Since the recession of 2008, 85% have made positive changes to their financial behavior, with 58% following a monthly budget, 50% consciously charging less to their credit cards, 44% starting to save or increasing their savings, 35% putting away money in an emergency fund, and 32% starting or increasing contributions to their retirement account.

AICPA suggests four steps that Americans can take to improve their financial health: 1.) Set and follow a budget; 2.) Set concrete financial goals; 3.) Reduce debt; and 4.) Be aware of their temptations.