16 signs you’ve ‘made it’ in America

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Max Whittaker/Reuters

Here’s what it means to be living the modern American Dream.

The American Dream has transformed over time.

To find out what it means to Americans today, personal-budgeting company You Need A Budget and market-research company OnePoll surveyed the financial aspirations of 2,000 Americans.

The result is a list of 30-plus signs that indicate achievement of the modern American Dream, ranging from paying for a Netflix account to shopping at Whole Foods to owning a second home.

Below, find 16 signs from the survey that you’ve “made it.” And remember: Just like the Dream has evolved over time, it also varies from person to person. Whether or not you’ve truly “made it” isn’t about your car or travel schedule. It’s completely up to you.

You own property valued between $1 million and $2 million.

Homeownership in the US fell to a multi-decade low in July 2016. Less than 63% of Americans owned a home, potentially in part due to millennials prioritizing paying significant loans for their education over buying property.

Among those who do own a home, many don’t know how its value changes over time, according to a 2015 Zillow survey. If seven-figure property signifies the American Dream to you, make sure you know what your home is worth (and what could trash its value).

You have $7,425 in your checking account.

Surveyed Americans said maintaining $7,425 in their checking account was a sign of success.

According to certified financial planner Sophia Bera, the right amount to keep in your checking really depends on how much you make.

A good rule of thumb is to keep at least one month of net pay in your checking at all times. Look for a checking account with no monthly fee and no minimum balance. Even better, find an account that reimburses ATM fees from other banks,” Bera wrote on Business Insider, adding that it’s smart to keep your checking and savings at different banks to avoid the temptation to dip into one or the other.

You go on at least two annual trips abroad.

While Americans collectively leave hundreds of millions of vacation days on the table every year, survey participants agreed that embarking on at least two trips abroad annually is a sign of achieving the American Dream.

And increasingly, they want those vacations to have value.

An American Express Travel survey of US adults earning $100,000 or more revealed that 81% of Americans are seeking deeper and more personalized experiences abroad, while 73% “said they would be willing to exceed their budget to have a unique local experience when they travel, and more than half said they would splurge to enjoy the cuisine of a particular destination.”

You own a car worth at least $38,000.

There are several differences between owning and leasing a car, but surveyed Americans tended to associate luxury car ownership with status.

Entrepreneur contributor Neil Patel explains it well:

There’s something ridiculously awesome about driving around in a Ferrari or a McLaren. You will absolutely turn heads. These cars are flashy, loud and powerful. You’ve ‘made it,’ and have the goods to prove it. You’re sexy, and you know it.”

In 2016, it costs just under $8,600 — the lowest amount in six years due to falling gas prices — to own and operate a car in the US, according to an AAA study.

And remember: A car starts losing value the moment you drive it off the lot.

 

You have a household income of at least $185,000.

Surveyed Americans agreed that an annual household income of $185,000 is the benchmark for success. That’s more than three times the national median household income of $56,516according to a recent US Census report.

For comparison purposes, the income threshold required to be in the 1% of earners across the country is $389,436 pre-tax.

You have $35,000 worth of savings.

Financial planners suggest putting enough money in a savings account earmarked as an emergency fund to cover at least six months’ worth of living expenses. This number varies by household. If your expenses are about $5,800 a month, then $35,000 is right on the mark.

If your monthly expenses are far less than that, you should be investing your savings overflow someplace that will give you a return, like your 401(k) or IRA retirement fund, or the stock market.

You have a holiday home.

While you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to own a second home, it does require extra time, maintenance, and, of course, money. “It’s two of everything,” luxury real estate expert Shane Herbert of Park City, Utah, previously told Business Insider. “Two tax payments, two insurance payments, having to pay someone to cut the lawn twice.”

You don’t have to worry if there are enough funds in your account.

According to a 2015 American Psychological Association survey, money remained the leading stressor for American adults. It’s no wonder, then, that not having to worry about the amount of money in your accounts would be a sign of achieving the American Dream.

Bestselling author of The Automatic Millionaire” shares his best advice to never have to worry about money” again: Save one hour a day of your income. Suppose you make $50,000 annually and you work a full-time job, 40 hours a week. You’ll be paid for about 2,080 hours of work in a year, equaling roughly $25 per hour. Bank that much each day, and you’ll be golden, according to Bach.

You are able to go on weekend trips.

A weekend getaway — whether alone or with friends — is incredibly valuable for recharging and recalibrating.

According to survey participants, Americans who can afford to clear their busy schedules and fork over extra cash for travel, accommodations, and entertainment, are a shining example of the American Dream.

You are debt-free.

Debt comes in many forms. Credit card and consumer debt in particular can ruin your credit score and affect insurance rates and real estate prospects for years to come.

The first question to ask yourself if you’re faced with debt is how you got there in the first place, John Gajkowski, a certified financial planner at Money Managers Financial, previously told Business Insider.

He continued:

“Was it a one-off type of thing? Was it a medical expense you weren’t ready for? Or was it your lifestyle? If you have a $60,000 lifestyle and a job that only produces $50,000 in income, you’re always going to be in debt, so you either have to modify your lifestyle or change careers to earn the money for the lifestyle you want to create. A lot of people never come to that realization.”

While it usually takes years to pay back student loans and mortgages, once you’re free of high-interest credit card debtany extra earnings can go directly toward savings, helping you build wealth and prepare for retirement.

You are able to buy the latest gadget.

Bestselling author David Bach told Business Insider about troubling research from the Federal Reserve that revealed nearly half of Americans wouldn’t have enough money on hand to cover a $400 emergency. Yet, Bach continued, millions of those people will buy a coffee at Starbucks today and expect to buy the new $800 iPhone next year.

Thus, being able to actually afford the latest and greatest — without dipping into savings or leaning on a credit card — is considered a sign of the American Dream, according to survey takers.

You are able to hire a home cleaner.

Delegating — or outsourcing — tasks is a habit of some of the most successful people. They know when to hire people to take care of tasks, or even chores, that they otherwise wouldn’t have the time to get done, so they can devote themselves wherever they’re most needed.

 

You are able to pick up tab after a night out with friends.

Though you should expect to split the check evenly if you’re out to dinner with friends — regardless of who ordered the most expensive dish or fancy cocktails — it’s considered by survey takers to be a sign of financial stability, and surely a welcome gesture, if you can afford to pick up the tab at the end of the night.

Your children are in private school.

According to PrivateSchoolReview.com, the average private elementary tuition for 2016-2017 is $8,522 a year. The average private high school tuition is $12,953 a year, with the most expensive in the US skirting $50,000 a year. 

 

 

 

You have flown first class.

Flying first class has long been associated with status, glamour, and luxury — and it has the price tag to prove why.

Upgrading to first class can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, but those who can afford it will be delighted by amenities like lay-flat beds, personal butlers, multi-course menus, private suites, showers, and complimentary toiletries. Whether you’ve flown in style just once before, or do so regularly, surveyed Americans see it as a sign you’ve made it.

You shop at Whole Foods.

Whole Foods is one of the most expensive places to buy groceries, as evidenced by its “whole paycheck” brand image. Overall, it’s about 15% more expensive than other “conventional” supermarkets, such as Kroger, Wegmans, and Safeway and 19% more expensive than other “specialty” grocers, including Trader Joe’s and Sprouts Farmers Market. 


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