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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Making it: How Americans feel about financial independence

The average American says financial independence is making upwards of $94,000 per year and 60% feel optimistic they can reach this money milestone. 

In a recent poll of 2,000 U.S. adults, spenders and savers say financial freedom is synonymous with resilience and independence: not needing money from family and friends (47%), reaching a certain net worth (44%) and contributing to a 401(k) (42%). 

The new study by financial services company Empower, conducted by OnePoll, reveals that more than 2 in 5 define “making it” as reaching financial independence (44%).  

Doing so is important to 67% of Americans, though nearly a quarter (24%) say they haven’t achieved it yet. Definitions of success extend beyond Americans’ wallets to the workplace by moving up in their career (39%) and having a job they love (37%).  

Despite having financial aspirations for the future, a majority of people (72%) admit they currently stress over their finances at least once per month and nearly 1 in 5 (17%) say they worry about money daily. 

Over half (57%) of Americans say they still rely on their family and friends for financial support, especially for help paying their rent (62%), internet and streaming services (56%) and their phone bill (54%). 

Of those who don’t feel financially independent, 3 in 10 (31%) are optimistic they will be in the future, while 54% don’t think they’ll ever be able to pay their bills without help.  

The majority (92%) of financially independent Americans say they only started to feel that way once they reached the age of 36. 

“No matter your age, financial independence starts with clarity,” says Keith Jones, senior financial professional with Empower. “Ask yourself what you want and why you want it. Establishing clear financial goals provides both direction and purpose, motivating you to work towards a more secure and satisfying financial future.” 

The poll found many parents believe their kids should be able to pay their own bills and expenses by the time they reach age 23. 

Those with adult children aged 20 or older, 2 in 5 (40%) parents surveyed currently support them financially, and more than half (53%) are dipping into their retirement savings to do so, and 49% say they live with their children to help manage expenses.  

More than half of parents regret not having more money conversations with their children while they were growing up (57%). If they could turn back the clock and do things differently, 60% would have made financial literacy (60%) a priority. 

Top 10 signs you've financially "made it" in life 

  1. Being financially independent/not relying on anyone else for money - 44% 
  2. Moving up in my career/getting promoted - 39% 
  3. Having a job I love - 37% 
  4. Making a certain amount of money - 25% 
  5. Not having to work at all - 25% 
  6. Being able to spend money without worrying - 22% 
  7. Being able to pay my bills on time - 9% 
  8. Buying luxury items I want - 7% 
  9. Being able to retire comfortably - 7% 
  10. Buying a home - 6% 

Graphic illustrating personal finance milestones

Survey methodology: 

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Empower and fielded by market research company OnePoll between December 11 and December 12, 2023. OnePoll team members are part of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR). 

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The Currency editors

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The CurrencyTM, a publication from Empower, covers the latest financial news and views shaping how we live, work, and play. We keep you current on ways to plan, save, and invest for life.

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