Living comfortably
Close to 60 per cent of Americans believe financial success is measured by them living comfortably. Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Financial success is often perceived as high earnings, but many Americans strive for a more comfortable lifestyle rather than high salaries. According to Bankrate's 2024 Financial Success Survey, 56 per cent of Americans define financial success as "living comfortably," making it the most common definition.

Other popular indicators for financial success include:

  • "Being financially prepared for the future" (44 per cent).
  • "Never worrying about money" (41 per cent).
  • "Living debt-free" (41 per cent).

These priorities reflect a desire for stability and security rather than significant wealth.

Living comfortably means being able to afford daily expenses and still having money to save. Surprisingly, becoming a millionaire is not a priority for most Americans, with only 13 per cent considering it a financial success benchmark.

This may seem counterintuitive, but Bankrate economy analyst Sarah Foster explains that a high salary doesn't necessarily equate to economic success. Middle-income Americans with a strict budget and savings may feel more secure than those with six-figure incomes burdened by credit card debt and poor financial management.

The rising cost of necessities like housing, food, gas, and electricity has shifted priorities. Many Americans find it challenging to afford essentials and luxury purchases. Foster notes this shift has led to a change in mindset, with more people focusing on affording necessities rather than aspiring to a wealthy lifestyle.

Additionally, the value of money has changed over time, making the millionaire milestone less significant. For instance, $1 million today is worth much less than 50 years ago.

Homeownership and enough money to quit working are critical financial goals for many. The survey found that 29% of Americans view owning a home as a sign of economic success, while 19% aspire to save enough to stop working.

Despite having financial targets, whether Americans believe they can achieve them remains. Most are optimistic, with 62 per cent confident they will be financially successful. Conversely, 27 per cent doubt they will achieve financial success, and 11 per cent believe they already have.

Younger workers are notably more optimistic about their financial futures than older generations. Among Gen Z, 38 per cent believe they will achieve financial success in their 30s, and 28 per cent think it will happen in their 20s.

Millennials are also hopeful, with 30 per cent expecting to reach their financial goals in their 40s and 21 per cent in their 30s. However, nearly 40 per cent of Gen X and Baby Boomers doubt they will achieve their financial aspirations.

This shift in financial goals highlights a broader trend where Americans prioritize stability and comfort over wealth accumulation. Living within means, preparing for the future, and avoiding debt are now seen as more realistic and satisfying measures of financial success.

As the cost of living rises, these practical goals may become even more prevalent, reflecting a pragmatic approach to financial security in modern America.