16 Signs you’ve made it in America (or failed?)

Yacht + Mansion = American Dream?

Recently, I’ve read an article that listed 16 signs that ‘you’ve made it in America’. This was definitely an entertaining read but some of these points felt more like failure than success.

Let’s do the test together, would you? Let’s see if we are living the American Dream!

  1. You own property valued between $1 million and $2 million.
  2. You have $7,425 in your checking account.
  3. You go on at least two annual trips abroad.
  4. You own a car worth at least $38,000.
  5. You have a household income of at least $185,000.
  6. You have $35,000 worth of savings.
  7. You have a holiday home.
  8. You don’t have to worry if there are enough funds in your account.
  9. You are able to go on weekend trips.
  10. You are debt-free.
  11. You are able to buy the latest gadget.
  12. You are able to hire a home cleaner.
  13. You are able to pick up tab after a night out with friends.
  14. Your children are in private school.
  15. You have flown first class.
  16. You shop at Whole Foods.

Damn, what a list! How can people be so rich and so poor at the same time? Anyone looking at this kind of lifestyle would need to make a lot more than 185k$ to be rich…

So how do I stack up against the American Dream?

  1. You own property valued between $1 million and $2 million: Miserable fail. Not even close.
  2. You have $7,425 in your checking account. Yuge win. We have over 30k$ on our checking account (a story about a totaled car that got paid by the insurance).
  3. You go on at least two annual trips abroad. Win. We vacationed in Calgary, Barcelona and Playa del Carmen last year.
  4. You own a car worth at least $38,000. Super fail. Combined, our cars aren’t even worth that much. 
  5. You have a household income of at least $185,000. Win. We’re fortunate to work for an industry that pays well, but also tends to be very cyclical. So, knocking on wood here.
  6. You have $35,000 worth of savings. Ultimate win. I mean, Financial Independence with 35k$ would be tough. Like 1,400$ / year of spend. Maybe in Burundi?
  7. You have a holiday home. Fail and I don’t think we ever plan to have a holiday home. Sounds like a waste of money.
  8. You don’t have to worry if there are enough funds in your account. Win. My only ‘worry’ is to have 25x my yearly expenses.
  9. You are able to go on weekend trips. Win. But… really, week-end trips is a rich’s thing?
  10. You are debt-free. Fail. We have a mortgage and I don’t plan to be debt free.
  11. You are able to buy the latest gadget. Win. I am able, but I don’t. I guess that’s an important difference.
  12. You are able to hire a home cleaner. Win. That is probably the best money we spend. The amount of time we save every week is totally worth it.
  13. You are able to pick up tab after a night out with friends. Win, but we rarely go out to dinner with friends, we much prefer cooking at home.
  14. Your children are in private school. Skip. I haven’t considered this yet, but I think there are perfectly fine public schools in Houston. We would just have to move out of our current neighborhood.
  15. You have flown first class. Win. Actually I flew only ‘business’ class and it was underwhelming. Best way to waste your money in my opinion (unless it’s not yours of course)
  16. You shop at Whole FoodsFail. What’s so great about this place anyway?

So there you have it, I haven’t reached the American Dream yet but I’ve done pretty OK :

  • 5 Fail
  • 1 Skip
  • 11 Win

According to Wikipedia, we would currently be in the top 10% of Americans by Net Worth and yet, we aren’t living the American Dream according to this study. Is this what the participants of this poll had in mind?

I know people who would pass all these criteria, including a 2M$ vacation home, but their household income is closer to 1M$ / year and their net worth probably around 50M$.

By these standards, the American Dream is within reach of the top 0.01% and at that level, it’s not a dream anymore, it’s an utopia.

Fortunately, Financial Independence is within reach for most people and that is the real dream!


You can check out the details of that survey over here, at SWNS Digital.

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  1. I answer very similar to you! I am able to have a home cleaner, we just choose not to yet. But I could see the value in this. And on kids in private school, our is only 3, but we live in a great school district (we moved here by design) so have no intentions to pay $20K / year for private school

    • You aren’t living the American dream either? A home cleaner is one of those things you don’t know how good it is until you have one. I wasn’t convinced at first, but now I look forward to the days she comes. For the private school, interestingly 20k$ isn’t crazy compared to what it would cost us to move to a better school district. There’s increased local taxes, increased maintenance cost/mortgage/insurance/utilities (houses are bigger) and increased commute/gas/tollpass (it’s much further). I couldn’t imagine it’d amount to that much, but it’s not that far. At least I have 4 years to figure this out!

  2. Similar answers as you and green Swan.
    We do have a house cleaning service and would only drop it when it becomes too expensive or we are cash flow thought.

    Public schools in Belgium are more than fine.

    I have actually once been in first class due to a cancellation of my flight. I would never never pay for it, unless it fits in my 2 pct withdrawal rate.

  3. I guess we pass all the resource related questions but we fail on the spending related ones. I may be FI plus but I still buy used cars and live in an inexpensive house. And I much prefer hiking in the awesome outdoors of the USA over international travel. The one I thought the most egregious was the private school one. To me that’s a waste of money and more likely to hurt rather than help kids. My three kids went to public schools and worked while in college tutoring private school graduates who clearly had inferior educations. Kid gain from the diversity of race, culture and income in a public school setting and the main determinant of learning is the home environment, far more important than the teacher or the facilities. Why pay for a second set of schooling when you are already paying for the public school system. If your neighborhood is safe enough to have your family live in then the public schools should be similarly safe.

    • hi Steve, thanks for chiming in! You have some good points on the private schools and I think that’s the view of many. I’m totally with you on buying used car, even when I’ll be FI, I mean it just makes perfect sense money-wise! Congrats for raising 3 kids and being FI, that’s double achievement!

  4. While some of those items I definitely agree are part of living the “American Dream”, some of them are definitely a stretch, as you pointed out. While everyone’s definition of the “American Dream” is different, I think most of us would be satisfied with just hitting most of those bullets.

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