The American Dream Costs Much Less Than $130,000

A second look at this popular article shows glaring errors in how this number was reached.

Brian Stoffel
Brian Stoffel
Jul 19, 2014 at 12:23PM
Investment Planning

On July 4, USA Today said it conducted an analysis showing that the American Dream would cost about $130,000 per year to attain. The article got a lot of press, and was reprinted in newspapers throughout both the country and world. It paints a gloomy picture, where only 1 in 8 Americans could ever attain this level of comfort.

But the article is terribly misleading, on issues both big and small.

Author Howard Gold admits at the end that this isn't a one-size-fits-all ordeal: "Many people achieve the dream on much less,"  he says. And who is to say what constitutes a "comfortable living" anyway? A guy named Pete in Colorado has become famous for retiring at 30 and living -- with his wife and child -- on about $25,000 per year.

We're better off accepting that we'll never come to a consensus on what's actually needed to achieve the American Dream. But we don't have to in order to see how incredibly flawed USA Today's analysis was.

In the slideshow below, we'll dissect seven rather glaring mistakes and how much they added to the total cost of the American Dream.