MetLife, a leading insurance and financial services company, believes today’s announcement by the Commerce Department about the negative U.S. savings rate, which is at its lowest level in 70 years, is a bellwether for the future of the American dream. The lack of savings, combined with the seismic shifts that have occurred in our society in the last few decades with regard to pensions, Social Security and health care, are increasingly putting the dream out of reach for most Americans. For the first time since the Great Depression, many  individuals will need to fund and finance the risks that had previously been managed, in large part, by the government or their employer. Today, individuals are feeling a tremendous amount of stress at having to manage their financial futures.

A new study commissioned by MetLife -- The MetLife Study of the American Dream -- reveals that 60% of working Americans feel they carry more financial burdens than their parents did, and the overwhelming majority feel this burden will continue to grow for future generations.

"While the shifting burdens make chasing the American dream more challenging, as a society we’re making it harder with ratcheting expectations fueling a constantly rising bar," Beth Hirschhorn, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, MetLife. "We know that the American dream is practically out of reach for most Americans and that it’s running on the fumes of optimism. So, in order to reconcile or rationalize how hard it is to achieve the dream with Americans’ desire to hold on to this American ideal, individuals have redefined the dream. It's no longer a destination, it's a never-ending pursuit."

The burden shift is a function of both real and psychological factors: real from the standpoint that responsibility for burdens such as health care and retirement are increasingly shifting to the individual; and psychological because contemporary society’s focus on materialism is a source of ongoing, self-induced stress.

  • Younger Americans -- Generation Y (born 1977-1994*), in particular -- feel the pressure to buy more and better material possessions.
  • A strong majority (66%) of working Americans also feel the bar is constantly rising when it comes to the basic necessities of life; items that were previously considered luxuries have now become necessities, including Internet access at home, a cell phone and cable television.
  • Despite this, when asked about their own situation, more than two-thirds of all Americans say they would be satisfied with having enough money to meet their basic needs, rather than wanting to be rich.
  • Surprisingly, 53% have had to change jobs (or may need to change jobs in the future) to maintain an income to meet their basic needs and 69% say that if they earned more money they would save most of the additional income rather than spend it.

From November 20-30, 2006, Strategy First Partners and Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates conducted 1,500 online surveys in the United States among the general population, including the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and  Generation Y. To download a copy of MetLife’s American Dream study, visit

MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), a leading provider of insurance and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions. Through its domestic and international subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife, Inc. reaches more than 70 million customers around the world and MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States (based on life insurance in-force). The MetLife companies offer life insurance, annuities, auto and home insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance, reinsurance and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions. For more information, please visit


Toni L. Griffin