“I participated in an Influencer Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for MassMutual. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating.”
My mother moved to the United States 43 years ago from the Philippines with visions of living a comfortable life. She was a firm believer in the American Dream and her ability to achieve it with hard work and diligence. She worked tirelessly through my childhood, living frugally and saving for her future.
Unfortunately, life events threw several wrenches in her carefully crafted plans and interfered with her ability to achieve her original dream of retiring early with a huge nest egg and plenty of freedom to travel and live the high life. Both of her husbands mortgaged their futures and hers on their businesses and both went bankrupt.
Still, my mom found a way to pull herself up by the bootstraps and recover from these major financial setbacks. Just as her dream was finally within her grasp, my stepfather had a serious stroke that left him paralyzed requiring round-the-clock care. Now my mom spends all day at her full-time job and all night caring for her husband. Though she has reached retirement age, doing so would pose a considerable financial and emotional strain upon her.
My mother’s work ethic, beliefs, and experiences have shaped my own American Dream. Like her, I hope that through hard work and diligent planning, budgeting and saving, I will be able to live comfortably (I don’t want to be able to buy whatever my heart desires, just to avoid living paycheck-to-paycheck), help my children afford a good education to lay the groundwork for their future success, and be able to enjoy my golden years with some freedom (only working because I want to, not because I have to) and without worrying that I’ll outlive my money.
My version of the American Dream is apparently a common one. According to MassMutual’s State of the American Family Study, these goals rank among the top five financial goals of American men and women. In general, a majority of Americans believe that saving for one’s future is important. Sadly, only a small percentage of individuals are satisfied with their savings plans. This surprised me but also gave me some hope.
My husband and I started our personal retirement plans and college savings plans for our children before we even had children. Some unexpected hurdles along the way prevented us from contributing as much as our original plans had dictated and so now, with my oldest child just a year out from college, I’m starting to worry that our college savings may not stretch far enough to cover all four kids. And if we throw all of our extra income at college expenses, will we have enough left over to be able to retire comfortably later?
Before I go on, I should point out that the study polled American households that contained children under age 18 and whose household incomes were over $75,000 (though a small percentage of respondents had income between $50,000 and $75,000). This is a group that you would expect do not live paycheck-to-paycheck and can afford to set aside some savings for the future. In fact, according to the study, only 6% of the respondents had no emergency savings, while 30% had over six months of monthly expenses set aside.
One interesting insight that surfaced in the study is that we women tend to look out for our children, with 51% of us listing saving for our children’s college education as a top financial priority. Our husbands, however, are more concerned with making sure we are taken care of if something happens to them.
The American Family Study thankfully provides more than just insights into our financial beliefs. The site also provides you with resources to help you achieve your version of the American dream. Make sure you click on the link to “Additional Resources” and then choose “Family Finances.” You’ll find tools to help you:
- Protect your family
- Save for retirement
- Save for college
- Educate your children about money
My favorite section of the study results is the segment for educating kids about money. There are several games for kids to play that are not only fun, but also happen to build decision-making skills related to money. See, it’s a mom thing, even when we’re worried about our own financial futures, we want to make sure our kids needs are met.
Here’s another fun thing I stumbled upon, which as Wondermom Wannabe, I of course had to share!