We surveyed 1,000 Americans about their finances and the upgrades they felt they needed to consider themselves successful. From homes and cars to the ideal help around the house, we studied the American idea of success and provided tips to make these goals more attainable.

This article will review the following:

  1. Dreaming of a Bigger Home
  2. Driving Your Way to the Top
  3. Helping Hands
  4. An Aspiring Accomplishment
  5. The Value of Getting Away
  6. Taking Control of Your Financial Future

Dreaming of a Bigger Home

What it Takes to Make It: The Ideal Home

Respondents wanted, on average, a house worth over two times the amount of their current home, and in some parts of the country, that number was even higher. On average, participants told us their current homes were worth just over $203,000, while their dream home was valued upward of $408,000. People from states including Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan said they felt they needed a home worth 2.8 times the amount of their current residence in order to feel successful. However, those in the New England region, including states like Maine and Vermont, were the most comfortable with the homes they currently owned – respondents from that region wanted a home 1.3 times their current home, on average.

When buying a first home, there’s more to consider than just the price tag. The interest rate on your mortgage, as well as the amount of money you’ve saved for a down payment, can be key factors in how much you have to pay each month on your home. Additionally, you can look at your first home as an investment that can help you achieve the home of your dreams in the future.

Driving Your Way to the Top

What It Takes to Make It: The Ideal Car

While you might expect cars to be one of the most popular statuses of wealth in America, many high-income earners opt for less assuming vehicles than a typical sports or luxury car. Still, Americans, on average, felt they needed to own a car worth twice their current car’s value to feel successful.

When buying a car, experts recommend you shop for the loan before you shop for the car itself. After you’ve determined how much you can afford, your loan interest rate and down payment can be a significant factor in determining your monthly payments for that vehicle. It’s also recommended you consider the difference between a secured loan and an unsecured loan to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal on the car you want to buy.

Helping Hands

What it Takes to Make it: The Ideal Service Employee

The only resource more valuable than your money is your time. It is, of course, the only commodity you can’t ever increase. We can see that a majority of respondents felt that saving time by hiring a service worker was a way for them to feel financially successful in life.

Forty percent of respondents said a financial adviser would make them feel like they’d made it. While there may be some situations that benefit from a financial adviser, independent research can give you enough basic knowledge to make sound investment decisions. Setting up a financial plan for you and your family includes considerations like financial goals, cash flow analysis (and budgeting), retirement strategy, and long-term investment plans.

Meanwhile, nearly forty percent of respondents said employing a groundskeeper would make them feel accomplished, while only seven percent of people felt they needed a butler to be successful.

An Aspiring Accomplishment

What it Takes to Make It: The Ideal Family

According to our survey, respondents indicated they wanted to live an average of 266 miles from their relatives. As many Americans plan to travel for the holidays, the distance traveled to spend time with loved ones is an important factor to consider when planning your finances. Between flights, car rentals, gas prices, and other travel-related expenses, living closer to relatives can significantly reduce the cost of traveling.

Having the financial freedom to decide how close you live to family can be a wonderful thing. On average, respondents reported that they would want to live 402 miles closer to their relatives than they currently do. So what does it take to bridge this gap? There are a couple of things Americans can do with the money they have today to gain financial freedom in the future. Beyond establishing budgets and saving as much money each month as possible, experts recommend investing (and diversifying investments) to make their goals for success a reality.

The Value of Getting Away

What it Takes to Make it: The Ideal Luxuries

More than half of Americans don’t take all of their paid time off for various reasons, including the fear of getting behind on their work, or that no one in their company can do the work while they’re out. Still, 87% of the 1,000 people surveyed said they felt the ability to take vacations was the most ideal luxury that indicated financial success. Meanwhile, 51% of all respondents said owning expensive electronics would make them feel successful.

There are plenty of creative ways you can save toward your next vacation, and simple steps like opening a dedicated savings account for your travel funds and transferring a portion of each paycheck into it could add up more quickly than you think with a good interest rate. Automating that money (like setting up direct deposit) can help make the process even easier. You might even consider reducing unnecessary spending on things like dining out and look into credit cards with the cash rewards systems to help fund your travel.

Taking Control of Your Financial Future

For most of the Americans surveyed, there was a desire to attain more than they currently had in order to feel successful. Many respondents indicated that they wanted a larger family, more expensive homes and cars, and the financial freedom to hire professional help and to enjoy luxuries like taking vacations or purchasing expensive electronics. Achieving a level of financial security is clearly closely tied to the American idea of success.

At Discover, we want to help you reach your financial goals, each step of the way. Learn about some of the features and benefits that come along with owning a Discover card, like our cash back program. And when it’s time to start planning for those big purchases – such as buying your dream home or car – we offer tools like checking your credit score anytime for free to make sure you’re on track. Visit us online today to start learning more.


We surveyed 1,000 Americans about what they would want in order to feel successful in life. This survey was weighted to be representative of Americans for gender and age using the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2015.

Discover Bank, Member FDIC

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