Debt Is Dragging Down the American Dream

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- For many of the nation's first settlers, the dream was to escape religious persecution, while others wanted material prosperity and freedom from autocrats.

There was plenty of room for both dreams in the first years of the great U.S. experiment. "Material prosperity and progress kept pace with religious and spiritual goals because the Puritans and the Quakers alike approved of industry and material advancement," says the American Dream Reference Page website.

Presumably, that material advancement wasn't burdened with a large amount of debt (a historical "no-no" among early American settlers).

But fast-forward 240 years or so, and the issue of debt is rapidly displacing all other landmarks of the American Dream. According to's 2014 American Dream Survey, an annual look at what matters most to the U.S. populace, "getting out of debt" (25%) ranks as a close second to retiring comfortably (36%) as the epitome of the American Dream right now.

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"The American Dream appears to now be about getting out of debt and getting to retirement age with a sense of financial security," says Adam Levin, co-founder and chairman of "And the sense is that the next generation will find it even harder to get there."

The sites top examples of the American Dream for the year are, in order:

1. Retiring comfortably (36%)

2. Being debt free (25%)

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