Does money equal success? Not according to most

May 20, 2013

| Money Rates Columnist

It appears Americans may no longer equate success with the "Daddy Warbucks" lifestyle. The fictional benefactor in the comic strip "Little Orphan Annie," Warbucks had it all: a lavish house, indoor pool and foreboding bodyguards.

But in a new study commissioned by American Express, most survey respondents said you don't need to have a lot of money to be successful. Instead, good health, good relationships and a good job were deemed by respondents to be more indicative of a successful life.

Weighing money and success

The American Express study asked respondents to rank 22 factors on how important they are to success. On this list, "having a lot of money" ranked 20th, with only 33 percent considering it necessary for success. What was more important to respondents was how well they manage the money they do have -- an item that ranked fourth on the list.

The following factors were named most often by survey respondents as indicators of success:

  1. Good health: 85 percent
  2. Finding time for the important things in life: 83 percent
  3. Having a good marriage/relationship: 81 percent
  4. Knowing how to spend money well: 81 percent
  5. Having a good work/personal life balance: 79 percent
  6. Having a job they love: 75 percent
  7. Making the time to pursue passions and interests: 69 percent
  8. Being physically fit: 66 percent
  9. Embracing new experiences/changes: 65 percent
  10. Always trying to learn and do new things: 65 percent

While the survey suggests most Americans don't think they need a lot of money to be successful, that doesn't mean they have given up all aspirations of being rich. The study found that 57 percent of respondents would like to be rich, putting that goal at No. 8 on the survey's list of most-desired experiences.

Still, it may be fortunate that most people don't consider having a lot of money as a sign of success. The study found that 43 percent of Americans have recently experienced a financial setback.

The importance of money management

On the topic of financial setbacks, employing the No. 4 factor for success -- managing money well -- may also be a useful strategy for avoiding money mishaps. Having a well-stocked emergency fund, managing debt wisely and planning for future expenses may all help in this effort.

In addition, these strategies may allow Americans to achieve their No. 1 goal of traveling, an ambition cited by 88 percent of the survey's respondents. That may help them feel just as successful as Daddy Warbucks -- even without their own indoor pool.

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