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Today’s Workers Finding it Harder to Achieve American Dream

But those who seek help are more confident in ability to achieve their dreams

June 14, 2011 (Des Moines, IA) - Attaining the American Dream is more daunting than ever for workers according to new research from the Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM. Sixty-one percent believe the American Dream – holding a good job, owning a home, living in a secure community and sending their children to a good school – will be harder to achieve than it was for their parents’ generation. This marks the highest percentage since the start of the recession in 2008.

The Principal Financial Well-Being Index, which surveys both American workers at growing businesses with 10 to 1,000 workers and retired Americans[1], is released quarterly by the Principal Financial Group® and is conducted online by Harris Interactive®.

When asked about their long-term financial future, more than three out of five workers (63 percent) indicated that they are very concerned. In addition, Americans are finding it difficult to envision their long-term financial dreams. While 30 percent of workers indicated it is easy for them to visualize their financial dreams for the next year, only 18 percent said they could easily visualize their financial dreams 20 years from now. At least one out of five workers (23 percent) indicated they found it difficult to visualize their financial dreams within any timeframe.

According to the findings, however, the future does not seem as bleak for Americans who seek the guidance of a financial advisor. Forty-six percent of workers who use an advisor were confident, very confident or extremely confident in their ability to achieve their dreams for their financial future, compared to only 32 percent of workers who do not use one.

“With the economy still below pre-crisis levels, it is understandable financial security and financial dreams remain elusive, but Americans need to look ahead and plan for the future,” said Luke Vandermillen, vice president of retirement and investor services at The Principal®. “Sometimes the future can be hard to see, but by focusing on long-term financial goals rather than short-term necessities, finding help through a financial advisor and bringing goals into clearer focus, I believe American workers can overcome their fears and inertia.”

Additional findings:

Those in golden years disillusioned by the reality of retirement

Many retirees noted they are failing to see their dreams come to full fruition.

  • A third said their retirement experience was less fulfilling than they had expected.
  • Nearly half (46 percent) said that retirement was more expensive than they had anticipated.
  • The findings also reveal retirees’ roadblocks to achieving financial success with a third naming not saving enough and more than a quarter (28 percent) naming not starting retirement savings early in their careers among the top impediments to their personal financial success. Workers were similarly aligned with 46 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Americans cutting down on fuel, food and fun

On top of concerns for their long-term financial futures, Americans also report angst over growing daily expenditures.

  • About three quarters of workers (74 percent) and slightly fewer retirees (71 percent) said they are extremely concerned or very concerned about the rising price of fuel.
  • Around three out of five workers and retirees (59 percent and 61 percent, respectively) said they are concerned or extremely concerned with rising grocery/food prices.

In response, not only are cost-conscious Americans cutting down on their day-to-day driving time and watching their grocery bills, they are reconsidering summer vacation plans.

  • More than a third of workers (35 percent) and a quarter of retirees (26 percent) have altered their vacation plans to save money.
  • The rising price of fuel was the top fear that has or could potentially alter both workers’ (60 percent) and retirees’ (65 percent) summer vacation plans, an increase of 18 percentage points and 15 percentage points respectively over last year.
  • Nearly two of five workers (38 percent) and a quarter of retirees are considering or have already committed to taking a “staycation” this summer.

See the full report and past results at For more news and insights from The Principal, connect with us on Twitter at


This Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Principal Financial Group® between April 28 and May 9, 2011 among 1,134 employees and 523 retirees. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

This is one in a series of quarterly studies to identify and track changes in the workplace of small and mid-sized (growing) businesses. The first Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM survey was conducted in the United States in 2000.

About the Principal Financial Group

The Principal Financial Group® (The Principal ®)[2] is a retirement and global asset management leader. The Principal offers businesses, individuals and institutional clients a wide range of financial products and services, including retirement, investment services and insurance through its diverse family of financial services companies. A member of the FORTUNE 500®, the Principal Financial Group has $327.4 billion in assets under management[3] and serves some 16.4 million customers worldwide from offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the United States. Principal Financial Group, Inc. is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol PFG.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries, including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant and consumer package goods. Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through its North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help clients stay ahead of what's next. For more information, visit

Survey of 1,134 employees and 523 retirees conducted April 28 - May 9, 2011.
“The Principal Financial Group” and “The Principal” are registered service marks of Principal Financial Services, Inc., a member of the Principal Financial Group.
As of March 31, 2011.

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