- Most millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers believe the American Dream is still attainable, according to the Bank of the West's 2018 Millennial Study.
- All three generations define the American Dream the same way: owning a home, being debt-free, and retiring comfortably.
- However, millennials place emphasis on the one thing Gen X and baby boomers find least important to attaining the American Dream: pursuing a passion.
The American Dream is alive and well.
Nearly 60% of respondents surveyed in Bank of the West's 2018 Millennial Study believe they have attained the American Dream or believe that it's still attainable today.
All generations even define the American Dream the same way, considering homeownership, no debt, and a comfortable retirement as the top three components. They do, however, prioritize them differently.
Gen X places equal emphasis on owning a home and retiring comfortably (59%) and less on being debt-free. Baby boomers place the most emphasis on retiring comfortably, followed by owning a home and being debt-free. Millennials, meanwhile, say the most important aspects are owning a home and having no debt, with retiring comfortably taking third place.
Andy Kiersz/Business Insider
There is a 24 percentage point difference between baby boomers (73%) and millennials (49%) who view retiring comfortably as a key component of the American Dream. "It's no secret that the realities of retirement begin to set in as you get older, making it more top-of-mind for Gen X and baby boomers," Ryan Bailey, head of retail banking at Bank of the West, told Business Insider.
"Millennials are prioritizing near-term wants and needs over long-term goals," he continued. "We suspect that as millennials age, they will begin to place more of an emphasis on their retirement plans."
'Untethered' millennials are pursuing their passions
In addition to retirement, homeownership, and debt, those who said they believe in the American Dream were given five other components to choose from (they were able select more than one response): pursuing a passion, having children, getting married, making it on your own, and owning a car.
Millennials broke away from the mold, perhaps unsurprisingly, by adding a strong fourth element to their definition of the American Dream. Right behind retiring comfortably, 47% of millennials view pursuing their passion as a key component. This is quite the contrast from Gen X and baby boomers, of which only 29% and 27%, respectively, considered pursuing your passion a factor, making it the least popular of all options presented to them.
"With 60% of millennials feeling untethered and not stuck in one place, they believe they have time to pursue passions, such as a trying out new professions or exploring a new city, rather than feeling pressure to settle down like their older counterparts may be experiencing (or have experienced already)," Bailey said, adding that they still haven't taken their eye off more traditional components of the American Dream.
"They think of themselves as the wanderlust generation but at the end of the day, the apples aren't falling far from the tree," Bailey said.
The survey also found millennial women tend to include more components in their definition of the American Dream than men. The only two things millennial men placed more emphasis on than women were earning a big paycheck and becoming an entrepreneur.
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