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An independent report commissioned
by American Express
The LifeTwist Study
Foreword
authored by The Futures Company
The Futures Company is an award-winning, global strategic insight and innovation
...
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans
consider themselves to
be a success, yet 83% say
‘I’m a work in progress.’
3
70%
Embracing the new experiences
and changes life throws my way
57%
Having children
The Successful American
Key attribute...
Dozens of the survey’s findings reflect a new American
notion of success, but perhaps none more starkly than
the sentiment...
How we Define
OUR OWN Success
top ten contributors to success
How we Define the
success of others
top ten contributors to ...
would rather
spend money
on experiences
than things
72%
Photo Credit: Pal2iyawit 7
Embracing Life’s Twists and Turns
13%
Traditionalists
Have a path mapped out
and they’re determined to
“stick to it”
Do no...
of Americans, regardless
of income level or life
generation, agree that
the road to success in
life is likely to involve
s...
10
of Americans say their positive
and negative life changes helped
them understand what is more
important in life
across ...
A Life Well Lived
58%say they are more
willing to try new things
than five years ago
Even more true among
Women than Men:
...
12
On Americans’ Bucket List
Traveling 88%
Having Kids 76%
Pursuing Passions as
a Hobby or Career 75%
Volunteering Time fo...
13
Implications
The findings of the LifeTwist study have significant
implications for those in both the public and private...
Research for the American Express LifeTwist Study was
completed online among a random sample of 2,184 U.S.
adults 18+. Int...
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The life twist study an independent report commissioned by american express

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In the last decade, American society has undergone
a transformation brought on by a world of accelerated
change. This has been exacerbated by a recession,
increased global conflict, political tension and most
of all, the technological revolution. All of these factors
have altered our nation’s cultural and social views and
called into question one of the most basic American
ideals: our definition of success and individuals’
aspirations when seeking fulfillment.
For more than a century, American Express has
reflected society’s hallmarks of achievement, and
enabled its Cardmembers to attain the attributes of
success. Recognizing a shift in the life priorities and
aspirations of its Cardmembers, American Express
commissioned The Futures Company to explore the
evolution of success and what it means today.

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The life twist study an independent report commissioned by american express

  1. 1. An independent report commissioned by American Express The LifeTwist Study
  2. 2. Foreword authored by The Futures Company The Futures Company is an award-winning, global strategic insight and innovation consultancy. Unparalleled global expertise in foresight and futures enables The Futures Company to unlock new sources of growth through a range of subscription services and research and consulting solutions. The Futures Company was formed through the integration of The Henley Centre, HeadlightVision, Yankelovich and most recently, TRU. The Futures Company is a Kantar company within WPP with teams in Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia. In the last decade, American society has undergone a transformation brought on by a world of accelerated change. This has been exacerbated by a recession, increased global conflict, political tension and most of all, the technological revolution. All of these factors have altered our nation’s cultural and social views and called into question one of the most basic American ideals: our definition of success and individuals’ aspirations when seeking fulfillment. For more than a century, American Express has reflected society’s hallmarks of achievement, and enabled its Cardmembers to attain the attributes of success. Recognizing a shift in the life priorities and aspirations of its Cardmembers, American Express commissioned The Futures Company to explore the evolution of success and what it means today. We found that today’s Americans have recalibrated the linear path to which previous generations once aspired. In its place, people are embarking on a route full of twists, turns, detours and side trips. These surprising and sometimes unplanned roads to success have become so frequent, that most Americans expect and in many cases are embracing them. As a result, we dubbed this project: the ‘LifeTwist’ Study. Since 1971, The Futures Company has tracked Americans’ attitudes and values, including their definitions of success and fulfillment. The annual Yankelovich MONITOR confirms that Americans are reexamining their material surroundings, reimagining the tone and tempo of their lives, and committing to take a new measure of control over not only their finances, but their destinies. Data tracked since the 1980s suggests that America has shifted from a culture that primarily judged success based on external displays of wealth to a society that now places greater weight on less tangible measures like life experiences and happiness when defining their own success and the success of others. For example, U.S. Yankelovich MONITOR research from 1988 to 2012 shows a substantial decrease in the number of people who believe money is the only real meaningful measure of success, and an even more substantial increase in those who view life satisfaction as a sign of success. This change in sentiment is consistent with the latest findings of the LifeTwist study which shows that less than a third of Americans say they judge the success of others based on the money they have. 2
  3. 3. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans consider themselves to be a success, yet 83% say ‘I’m a work in progress.’ 3
  4. 4. 70% Embracing the new experiences and changes life throws my way 57% Having children The Successful American Key attributes among those who say they are a success. 85% Finding time for the important things in life 81% Having a good balance between work and personal life 66% Being able to make an impact or difference in people’s lives 56% Giving back to my community/society and lending time, knowledge, or advice to help others achieve their goals 27% Having a lot of money (as compared to 33% of the general population) 94% Being open to change 85% Having a good marriage/relationship $ 4
  5. 5. Dozens of the survey’s findings reflect a new American notion of success, but perhaps none more starkly than the sentiment that Americans ranked “having a lot of money” 20th on a list of 22 possible contributors to having a successful life. This sentiment mirrors the steadily rising trend, tracked by the U.S. Yankelovich MONITOR, that Americans are increasingly placing greater priority on living a fulfilling life – in which being wealthy is not the most significant factor. Most Americans today define their own success based on being healthy (85%), having a job they love (75%), having time to pursue passions (69%), continuing to learn and do new things (65%), and being able to make a difference in people’s lives (62%). All of these factors scored much higher as contributors to success than simply having a lot of money (33%). When they assess themselves against these standards, Americans feel that they are measuring up. Nearly six in 10 consider themselves to be a success either most of the time (47%) or all of the time (11%). People are also far more likely to judge the success of others based on how happy they are (61%) or the quality of their family life (42%). Less than a third (27%) said they judge the success of others based on the how much money they have. While there obviously continues to be a strong relationship between success and money today – the vast majority (81%) of Americans believe that “knowing how to spend your money well” is far more important to feeling successful than simply having money in the first place. Only one third (33%) of Americans considered having a lot of money to be a key factor of success. In addition to being fiscally savvy, Americans are also challenging the stereotype of the voracious consumer who values material goods above all else. In fact, more than two-thirds (72%) of respondents would rather spend money on experiences than things. While there is no doubt that people will continue to devote time and disposable income to shopping, pursuing personal passions has become more central to feeling fulfilled. For example, 83% of Americans believe that making time for the important things in life is essential to feeling successful. Change has always been part of the American landscape. But in today’s digital world, the rate of change has accelerated, making it a more familiar occurrence for a greater number of people. One of the biggest changes consumers have recently faced is a financial setback, experienced by 43% of Americans, including 38% of those making $100,000 or more a year. The good news about the economic climate of the past few years is that its concurrence with the social media and digital revolution has sparked a new level of adaptability, flexibility and opportunity that consumers want to embrace amidst the twists and turns life throws their way. Success Today of Americans believe that “knowing how to spend your money well” is far more important to feeling successful than simply having money in the first place (33%) 81% 5
  6. 6. How we Define OUR OWN Success top ten contributors to success How we Define the success of others top ten contributors to success Good Health 85%1 Finding Time for the Important Things in Life 83%2 Having a Good Marriage/Relationship 81%3 Knowing How to Spend Money Well 81%4 Having a Job I Love 75%6 Being Physically Fit 66%8 Embracing New Experiences/Changes 65%9 Always Trying to Learn and Do New Things 65%10 Making the Time to Pursue Your Passions and Interests 69% 7 Having a Good Work/Personal Life Balance 79%5 Happiness Levels 61%1 Family Life 42%2 Life Experiences 31%3 How Much Money They Make 27%4 How Generous They are to Others 24%5 How Educated They are 16%6 The Nature of Their Job 14%7 How Physically Fit/Healthy They are 12%8 Their Involvement in Volunteer/ Charity Efforts 7.5% 9 Their Involvement in Their Local Community 7.3%10 33% Success Today of Americans think the key to having a successful life is having a lot of money, ranking it 20th on the list of contributors to having a successful life 6
  7. 7. would rather spend money on experiences than things 72% Photo Credit: Pal2iyawit 7
  8. 8. Embracing Life’s Twists and Turns 13% Traditionalists Have a path mapped out and they’re determined to “stick to it” Do not have a specific path in life, they go wherever life takes them 25% Passivists Actively seek out change in their life to reinvent themselves 11% Reinventionists Have a path mapped out, but are open to veering off that path 52% LifeTwisters America is a country where people disagree on everything from pizza toppings to the designated hitter rule. Yet in one of the survey’s most telling findings, 95% of respondents – from all income levels, genders and age ranges – agree that the road to success is likely to involve detours and unexpected changes. With consumers more likely to expect twists and turns, it’s no surprise that 65% of Americans report that their goals have changed many times over the course of their lives. This represents a much less linear life path than was once traditionally expected. In fact, an overwhelming 83% of Americans, including 79% of Boomers, still consider themselves to be a “work in progress.”Just as important, the majority of Americans say they are willing to take any number of roads less traveled to achieve their goals. Our study results show that they fall into four distinct groups, which we have labeled according to the paths each faction says they are likely to follow. 1. The most heavily populated group (52%) is composed of “LifeTwisters” – those who have a distinct life path in mind but are open to occasionally veering off that path to embrace the changes life throws their way. 2. The “Reinventionists” make up an additional 11% of Americans. This group is much more proactive than LifeTwisters in precipitating change – with the specific goal of reinventing themselves again and again. 3. In contrast,“Passivists” represent a quarter of the population. These are people who say they lack a life plan. They not only “go with the flow” when facing life’s challenges, and take a more passive approach to its twists and turns. 4. Conventional values haven’t faded from the scene altogether. Thirteen percent of people – the “Traditionalists” – say they have a plan laid out and have no intention of veering from it. 8
  9. 9. of Americans, regardless of income level or life generation, agree that the road to success in life is likely to involve some detours and unexpected changes 95% 9
  10. 10. 10 of Americans say their positive and negative life changes helped them understand what is more important in life across all incomes have experienced a financial setback, including 38% of those making more than $100,000 43%59%
  11. 11. A Life Well Lived 58%say they are more willing to try new things than five years ago Even more true among Women than Men: Reasons given for the increased willingness to try new things include: Better understanding of what I need to live a fulfilling life Seeking more variety in life 65% 50% 55% 43% 11 Our research casts a light on a number of themes that frame Americans’ new conception of a life well lived. Chief among these is a willingness to sample what life has to offer. Fifty-eight percent of Americans say they’re more willing to try new things now than they were five years ago. Surprisingly, wealth is not a predictor of curiosity. In fact, more people with household income below $25,000 (60%) than those with incomes above $100,000 (57%) say they are more willing to try new things. Millennials (67%) were, unsurprisingly, the most open to change, but Gen Xers (63%) and Boomers (54%) more than held their own. Interestingly, far more women (65%) than men (50%) across all generations say they are more willing to try new things now compared to five years ago. When asked why, 55% said they have a better understanding today of what makes them feel fulfilled, while 43% said they desired more variety in their lives. In today’s digitally-driven world, more Americans than ever have access to the tools and knowledge they need to take on a new hobby or explore their entrepreneurial spirit. The barriers to entry are lower; the ability to experiment means that the financial risk may be minimized. As a result, the population of Americans ready and able to explore something new has grown exponentially.
  12. 12. 12 On Americans’ Bucket List Traveling 88% Having Kids 76% Pursuing Passions as a Hobby or Career 75% Volunteering Time for a Cause I Believe in 70% doing something with MY hands 60% What Tops America’s Bucket List Becoming rich is #8 on America’s bucket list, just below learning to become a better cook. 1 2 3 4 5 ‘Bucket Lists’ are no longer for those in the final stages of their lives. Regardless of age, when asked what they would put on a bucket list of things they wish to accomplish, 88% placed traveling to new places at the very top – followed by more traditional goals like having children (76%) and pursuing their passions as a hobby or career (75%). A majority of Americans (57%) still have aspirations to become rich, but when prioritized among items like the opportunity to travel and having a rewarding family life, it ranks #8 on America’s bucket list – right below learning how to be a better cook. Americans are living in a time of accelerated change, and as a result, are embracing life’s detours and changing their life goals to adapt. Americans have established a new standard of success where pursuing passions and seeking life fulfillment now supersede the sheer accumulation of wealth.
  13. 13. 13 Implications The findings of the LifeTwist study have significant implications for those in both the public and private sectors. For example, businesses must recognize that employees are placing a greater premium on work life balance and are looking for ways to pursue their passions. Implementing policies or programs that allow employees to make time for what’s most important to them, whether at work or at home, may help attract and retain top talent. Educators and parents must prepare their students and children to embrace and expect detours and unexpected changes along their paths to success. Students must understand that despite the challenges of the current economic landscape, there are multiple paths that can lead to an enriching and successful life. Additionally, government sectors, healthcare companies and all other organizations that develop services and offerings for consumers at different life stages must recognize that many of the traditional milestones such as living independently, getting married, having children and retiring may not occur in the traditional order one might have once expected. Regardless, Americans affirm that in a world of accelerated change, with increased opportunities to try something new, the updated estimated time of ‘arrival’ for many Americans seems to be…never.
  14. 14. Research for the American Express LifeTwist Study was completed online among a random sample of 2,184 U.S. adults 18+. Interviewing was conducted by Research Now between April 3 and April 12, 2013. Data analysis was conducted by The Futures Company. Methodology The Futures Company is an award- winning, global strategic insight and innovation consultancy. Unparalleled global expertise in foresight and futures enables The Futures Company to unlock new sources of growth through a range of subscription services and research and consulting solutions. The Futures Company was formed through the integration of The Henley Centre, HeadlightVision, Yankelovich and most recently, TRU. The Futures Company is a Kantar company within WPP with teams in Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia. 14

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