More people are redefining their financial dream as a retirement nest egg; fewer as home ownership, new research shows. This trend started with the Great Recession and has not let up.
Half of American adults say that having enough money to retire comfortably is now their top financial goal, up from 47% three years ago, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education. Just 13% name home ownership as their most important goal, down from 17% in 2011.
This trend, ignited by the housing bust and deep stock market slump that began in 2008, shows no signs of reversing. The housing market may have begun to recover. But nearly one in five homeowners still owe more than their homes are worth, and so far the recovery has occurred mainly in just a few large cities. Just 2% of adults believe the recession has given way to a full recovery, according to Transamerica Center for Retirement.
Meanwhile, the population is aging and naturally placing a higher value on retirement income than on owning the place they live. There is good news on this front. Fidelity recently announced that the average 401(k) balance reached $88,600 at the end of the first quarter, up more than 9% from a year ago. The average balance has nearly doubled in five years, restoring some of the financial security lost in the crisis.
Still, most Americans are under saved an ill prepared to quit work for good at 66 or 67, an age that is rapidly approaching for a large part of the population. With lingering and persistent doubts about housing as a wealth builder—and the S&P 500’s heady total return of 32% last year—it’s easy to understand why a nest egg has become our top financial goal and perhaps even the new American Dream.