Americans' ideas of success goes far beyond income

When do we know we’ve made it? For some of us, it’s when our bank accounts are more comfortable or when we finally land that dream job we’ve always wanted. Although dreams of what “making it” is shifts from person to person, a new poll has found shared commonalities of what American success means, wanting to earn more, so that we gain the freedom to work less.

Survey: Success means making more money and working less

In its poll of 2,000 people, a ThermoSoft survey found that the average Americans’ ideal vision of being successful is when they are married with two children, and earning $147,000 from their stay-at-home job that only makes them work up to 31 hours a week and rewards them with five weeks of vacation. Although only 31 percent of respondents worked from home, more than half of them said they wanted to be working remotely in their successful futures. The average respondent’s commute took 17 minutes and they wanted it to be shaved down to ten minutes to consider themselves as more successful.

In general, respondents recognized that money was key to getting control of their careers and personal life to be successful. When they were asked what was the “epitome of ‘making it’ financially,” the top answer respondents gave was never having to worry about medical bills. Being wealthy was the top goal listed for respondents when asked what attaining an “above average” status would look like, outranking other markers of status like personal autonomy, the respect of one’s peers, responsibility, and fame.

But there was a limit to the financial success respondents wanted. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they would not want more than $1 million in income even if it was offered.

Women’s vision of success is more tied to income than men

The definition of success changed with the respondents’ gender. Women were more likely to have a more pragmatic approach to success. When asked what they most wanted to be above average in, women were more likely than men to choose wealth, while men were more likely to prioritize freedom. Men were more likely to answer that not having their dream job was the biggest missing factor in the vision of “making it” while women were more likely to answer that income was missing.