There’s a new version of the American dream these days that doesn’t so much involve the white picket fence and automobile in the driveway. Rather, the new dream shared by a growing number of Americans involves getting off their backs the creditors who helped them finance their initial go at the American dream.
A survey recently produced by GFK Custom Research for Credit.com reveals that 27 percent of Americans described the American dream as a financially secure retirement by the age of 65. In second place, 23 percent said being debt-free is the American dream.
“The poll underscores something I have long suspected — there’s a great deal of nostalgia for a promise that increasingly and tragically no longer exists,” says Credit.com Co-Founder and Chairman Adam Levin. “Once upon a time, the American dream was owning a home full of thriving, college-bound kids, two cars and little debt. Now it appears that for many Americans, the American dream has changed.”
Unsurprisingly, respondents more likely to be saddled with fresh student loan debt, those in the 18 to 24 age bracket, were most likely to describe zero debt as the American dream.
A few key facts about hurdles to reaching the new debt-free definition of the American dream:
- Overall debt from student loans is about $1.2 trillion.
- One in 10 graduates accumulates more than $40,000 in student loan debt, while $31,646 is considered average.
- As of August, the average American credit card debt was $15,263 and average mortgage debt was $147,591.
- In total, American consumers owe $11.15 trillion in debt.
With getting out from under student loan debt and credit card debt at the top of a growing number of Americans’ lists, homeownership (a traditional staple of the American dream) is becoming less common. This could result in a drastic restructuring of American society in decades to come.
As William M. Rohe and Harry L. Watson write in the introduction to their book Chasing the American Dream: New Perspectives on Affordable Homeownership: “The value of homeownership is deeply ingrained in American public culture. From early laws requiring landownership for the right to vote, to nineteenth-century homestead legislation, to contemporary real estate brochures, the ownership of a home has long been presented as a crucial part of the ‘stake in society’ expected of full fledged members of American communities.”