Is the American Dream Still Alive and Well?

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Dreams die hard, even expensive ones that can take a lifetime to accomplish. The American Dream has been called many things in recent years, including unaffordable, out of reach, and dead. The financial crisis and its lingering effects on the economy only sharpened these arguments, but most Americans are not putting their ambitions to rest.

Optimism is alive and well. Eighty-four percent of investors believe the American Dream is still achievable, according to a new survey from Wells Fargo. Nearly nine out of 10 non-retired investors remain optimistic they will reach the American Dream. Their definition of the dream includes the ability to afford a home, live comfortably in retirement, and enjoy meaningful employment. Interestingly, exceeding their parents’ standard of living was the least-cited component.

“The American Dream remains a pretty simple concept among investors: a home, a good job, and money to live on later in life,” said Joe Nadreau, head of Innovation and Strategy at Wells Fargo Advisors, in a press release. “While retirement gives some investors pause, most still view the American Dream optimistically and are taking steps to realize it.”

Retirement is a real eye-opener for many Americans. During the second quarter, Wells Fargo’s Retirement Optimism Index plunged 17 points among retired investors, whose view on inflation and economic growth deteriorated. Furthermore, 46 percent of all investors — retired and non-retired — are worried about having enough money to last through their so-called golden years, including 19 percent who are “extremely worried.” Only 29 percent of respondents are “not worried” about retirement funds.

Looking forward, technology appears destined to help Americans achieve their dream retirement. More than half of investors surveyed described themselves as “very” or “somewhat comfortable” using online and mobile technology for their investing or financial needs. In the next few years, a third of non-retirees say they expect to use more mobile and online technology for investment services. Non-retirees are almost twice as likely as retired investors to say they are “very” or “somewhat” comfortable using technology for financial matters.

“Technology is dramatically transforming the way investors — and their advisors – approach financial planning,” said Nadreau. “That the fastest-growing group of investors — non-retirees — is showing more signs of openness to technology is a strong indicator for the future of our industry.”

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