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How have families and belief in the American dream changed?

As the holiday season ends, some believe that the American Dream – defined by most as financial security for them and their family – is disappearing, and many are turning to family for financial advice and broadening who they invite into their ‘definition’ of family. Shockingly, social media influencers made the “family” cut with some.

These findings are detailed in the latest State of the American Family survey from MassMutual, nationally representative of age, gender, race, ethnicity and education.

Notable findings:

  1. Family members (now defined quite broadly) and search engines top the list of where people turn to for financial info and advice (38%, 37%).
  2. While over two in five believe that the American dream is disappearing (similar to 2013 findings and a 9-point increase compared to 2018), a family’s financial security remains the top defining factor of the American dream (69%). A decade ago, owning a home and not living paycheck to paycheck topped the list. Surprisingly, paying for higher education for children saw one of the most dramatic drops in the last five years.
  3. American families are struggling to stretch their finances to meet their short-term needs while also saving for long-term goals, but that is not stopping them from being proactive in their financial planning for retirement. In fact, 39% are confident in their ability to retire at their target age.
  4. Parents do not want their children to take care of them when they are older (86% say this in 2023 vs. 79% in 2018), nor do they want to become a financial burden to their family. Yet concern about the ability to care for elderly parents has more doubled since 2018 as many are not sure how to pay for it (41% in 2023 vs. 19% in 2018) putting an even greater squeeze on the “sandwich” generation, in particular.
  5. Today, the definition of family often includes extended family, friends, community members, and even social media influencers. In fact, around one-third consider friends or community members – neighbors, colleagues, wellness/fitness groups, classmates, volunteer groups, and even social media influencers – to be family.

“The family has long been the cornerstone of society, embodying shared values, traditions and support systems,” said Paul LaPiana, CFP, head of MassMutual brand, product and affiliated distribution. “Faced with unprecedented obstacles, many are broadening their definition of family and taking steps to build financial security to live happy, connected, and meaningful lives.”


The State of the American Family survey was conducted for MassMutual by Shapiro+Raj between March 31, 2023, and May 2, 2023, via a 25-minute online questionnaire. The survey comprised 1,674 interviews with American households with children under age 26 for whom they are financially responsible. A total of 2,428 interviews were conducted among men and women aged 25-64 with household incomes equal to or greater than $50,000. Respondents had to contribute at least 40% to decisions regarding financial matters in their household to qualify. Results were weighted by the age, gender, ethnicity and region of respondents to align with the 2020 U.S Census. This study includes trending data for the previous survey waves conducted in 2013 and 2018. The sampling margin of error for this study is +/- 2 percentage points at the 90% confidence level when looking at the results for the total surveyed population.

About MassMutual (Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company)

MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. Founded in 1851, the company has been continually guided by one consistent purpose: we help people secure their future and protect the ones they love. With a focus on delivering long-term value, MassMutual offers a wide range of protection, accumulation, wealth management and retirement products and services. For more information, visit

Annuity Alliance is not affiliated with MassMutual. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be used to make a buying decision. If you would like to speak with a financial professional, please use Annuity Alliance’s contact form.