A shift in prioritiesThe inaugural American Dream Study, conducted in 2007, revealed an insatiable hunger for more and better material possessions.  In addition, the bar was continually rising for what was considered “basic necessities.”  However, across all social strata, the economic crisis has been a loud wake up call.

Respondents to the 2009 version of the study reported that they are eating at home more often, shopping more at big box discount stores, spending less on movies, and moving away from brand-name products to generics (www.metlife.com).  And, unlike previous downturns, no one seems to be immune.

The study also revealed that four in ten Americans are feeling “buyer’s remorse” about past purchases and wish they had spent less and saved more over the years.  In fact, many now feel freed from the pressures of “keeping up with the Jones,” and view the economic crisis as “permission” to change their behavior.

Amazingly, 75% of the study participants replied they still believe they will achieve the American dream in their lifetimes.  In light of this finding, the researchers concluded that this hope is fueled, in part, by Americans’ ability to adjust their definition:

“As credit remains in short supply and investments deteriorate, Americans have replaced (at least temporarily) their desire for a better financial future with the pragmatic goal of staying afloat and focusing on relationships with family and friends.”

Marriage also figures a more central role— 27% of Americans now identify marriage as synonymous with the dream, up from 17% just one year ago.  Generation Y, in particular, views wedlock as a prerequisite with 32% of young Americans defining the dream in terms of marriage and a committed relationship.

Echoing this shift toward hearth and home, 44% of Americans reported that the current economic situation has caused them to reevaluate their priorities and place greater importance on things like personal life and family rather than finances.  In addition, they are making significant lifestyle changes.  Nearly 40% reported a greater focus on healthy living, such as exercising and making better food choices, and 59% indicated they are spending more time thinking about personal life goals.

Source:  The 2009 MetLife Study of the American Dream

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP