Let’s be honest. In this Instagram age where everyone’s brunch looks like a five-star meal and their vacations scream “I’m living the dream,” you might think that success is about raking in the cash and flaunting it.
But hold onto your avocados, folks, because Schwab’s seventh annual Modern Wealth Survey is about to slap us with a dose of reality.
While some are busy envying Dave’s new sports car, a lot of Americans are redefining what success means—and it’s not just about the Benjamins.
From tight-knit relationships to experiences that don’t always make it to social media, our perceptions of success are changing.
Today, we dive into seven real markers of success as revealed by the survey, and spoiler alert: it’s not all about that flashy, filtered life.
1. Experiences over possessions
You might have heard the saying, “Collect moments, not things.”
Well, 70% of Americans are vibing with that mantra.
While it’s cool to have a shiny new gadget or that designer jacket, real success, it seems, is measured by the memories we create.
Be it a spontaneous road trip with your buddies, that pottery class you took on a whim, or even the simple joy of reading a book in a quiet café; these experiences enrich our lives in ways possessions just can’t.
In the grand drama of life, it’s these moments that form the scenes we replay, not the price tags we’ve collected.
So next time you’re contemplating success, think about the last time you genuinely felt alive—it’s probably not when you were buying that super expensive watch, but when you were laughing your lungs out on a beach at sunset.
2. Peace over paychecks
Surprisingly, 70% of Americans today resonate with an idea that ancient philosophers, particularly Epicurus, preached centuries ago.
Epicurus believed that true happiness wasn’t found in lavish luxuries, but in the simple joys and peace of mind. He argued that once our basic needs are met, the accumulation of more wealth doesn’t necessarily add to our happiness.
Fast forward to today: most Americans concur that not having to stress over money defines wealth more than just hoarding heaps of it.
So, while you’re striving for that next promotion or that bigger house, remember that real success might just be about enjoying the simple pleasures and having peace of mind.
As Epicurus might say, it’s about the quality of your pleasures, not the quantity of your coins.
3. Health is wealth
Perhaps one of the oldest adages we’ve heard, yet consistently overlooked in the modern hustle, is that “health is wealth.”
This isn’t just some catchy phrase your gym instructor shouts to keep you motivated during a grueling workout.
A substantial 63% of Americans believe that being in good health is more indicative of success than just being conventionally “successful.”
After all, what’s the use of a treasure trove if you’re not well enough to enjoy it?
The pillars of success, it seems, are built not on gold, but on good health, nutritious food, regular exercise, and mental well-being.
As you chase those career goals, remember to pause, breathe, and prioritize your health — because a fit body and a sound mind might just be the most invaluable assets you’ll ever own.
4. Relationships over riches
Amidst the dazzling allure of material success, there’s a profound revelation emerging: true wealth might just lie in the warmth of genuine relationships.
A significant 62% of Americans believe that enjoying robust relationships with their loved ones is a more accurate indicator of success than a bursting bank account.
This sentiment isn’t just a fleeting trend but is grounded in solid research. The longest study on happiness ever conducted by Harvard researchers spanning over 75 years came to a compelling conclusion: good relationships are the best predictor of happiness.
More than just emotional well-being, these relationships play a pivotal role in our physical health, especially as we age.
So, while chasing the next big thing, it’s worth remembering that the most golden moments of life might just be those shared laughs, late-night talks, and heart-to-heart connections.
In the end, the heart’s treasury filled with love and connection may very well outweigh any material wealth.
5. Flexibility over fat paychecks
In an era where remote work is becoming the norm and digital nomads are on the rise, a noteworthy 60% of Americans value the flexibility of working where and how they want over securing a higher salary.
The modern definition of success is shifting from climbing the corporate ladder to crafting a life where work harmoniously integrates with personal passions and lifestyle choices.
It’s no longer just about earning more; it’s about earning better.
Whether it’s the freedom to work from a beachside cafe, set one’s own hours, or pursue a side hustle, the ability to customize our work environment and schedule is becoming a cherished marker of success.
In essence, real achievement might just be about having the autonomy to design our days, blending work and play in a way that feels right for us.
6. Generosity in the present over wealth for the future
The age-old debate of enjoying now versus saving for later takes a heartwarming turn.
A significant 67% of Americans believe that being generous with loved ones in the present moment is more indicative of success than leaving behind a hefty inheritance.
It’s a testament to the growing belief that success is not just about accumulation for the future, but about distribution in the present.
Moments like treating a friend to dinner, helping a family member in need, or supporting a cause close to one’s heart showcase that real success might be in the impact we make and the joy we spread today.
After all, true wealth could be in the smiles we bring to faces, the burdens we help lift, and the love we share freely, knowing that the legacy of kindness often outlasts any material inheritance.
7. Balance over burnout
In our 24/7, always-on world, where overworking is often worn as a badge of honor, a refreshing perspective emerges.
A telling 69% of Americans prioritize having a healthy work-life balance over maximizing their earnings.
It’s a clear message: success isn’t about grinding tirelessly till you drop; it’s about crafting a life where work, leisure, and personal time coexist in harmony.
After all, what’s the point of earning the big bucks if you’re too drained to enjoy them or too busy to spend time with those you love?
Today’s marker of success leans more towards enjoying a spontaneous mid-week outing with family, taking a mental health day when needed, or simply having the time to pursue personal passions.
It is balance that makes the picture complete, not just the high-intensity streaks of work.
The bottom line
Success, as it turns out, isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept dictated by societal norms or the flashy highlights of social media.
It’s a deeply personal concept revolving around well-being, connection, experiences, and autonomy.
While financial stability holds its importance, the true markers of success, as highlighted by many Americans today, lean more towards the intangible riches of life: the health we maintain, the relationships we cherish, the balance we strive for, and the moments we savor.
In an evolving world, the true measure of success might just be how we define and live it for ourselves, embracing a holistic view of wealth that transcends mere material gains.
What are your markers of success? Let us know in the comments!