When It Comes to Being Successful, Chicago Residents Value Family and Community

December 4, 2017 at 9:00 AM Eastern

As the definition of success changes across the nation, Chicagoans are leading the charge in prioritizing family. In fact, 78 percent of residents say providing for family is most essential to their definition of success, compared to 73 percent of all Americans. Close relationships are also key to Chicagoans’ definition of success with almost one-third reporting a close-knit social circle contributes to their success.

In addition to familial and platonic relationships, making a difference in the lives of those in need (38 percent) is also essential when Chicagoans define success, while money is much less important. Only 14 percent of Chicagoans believe being a millionaire is essential to success.

These findings are according to the latest Merrill Edge Report, a biannual survey of 1,000 mass affluent Americans that oversampled over 300 Chicago residents between September 6 and September 24, 2017. The report reveals significant similarities in how Chicago residents and Americans as a whole define success and save for the future.

“Chicagoans’ family-first mentality is evident, and it’s important to factor this mindset into overall financial savings plans,” said Don McDonough, Chicago based regional executive at Merrill Edge. “Whether it’s college savings, a major home improvement or taking a dream vacation, Chicagoans should map out their short-term as well as  long-term goals to ensure they’re planning for the financial future they desire, particularly when it goes beyond the individual.”

Calculating risk

Family experiences also influence Chicagoans’ financial behaviors. Compared to the national average and other cities, those in Chicago are most likely to emulate their parents by following in their footsteps (53 percent) versus learning from their mistakes (38 percent).

When it comes to taking risks, Chicago residents aren’t likely to sacrifice their job for their wanderlust. Those in Chicago say taking a year off work to travel is risky, with 34 percent feeling this way, compared to the national average of 28 percent who say so.

Only 38 percent of Chicagoans see not investing in a 401(k) as risky, less than residents of all other cities surveyed. This sentiment toward savings strategies could be why 31 percent of Chicago residents believe leaving work before the age of 50 is risky.

Millennials in Chicago

As a generation, millennials continue to showcase self-reliance. Chicago millennials are most willing to make short- and long-term sacrifices to have more money in the long run. The sacrificial spending decisions include:

  • Cutting back on going out (58 percent versus 39 percent of all generations in Chicago).

  • Skipping vacation for a year (40 percent versus 30 percent of all generations in Chicago).

  • Getting a side job (35 percent versus 26 percent of all generations in Chicago).

  • Delaying buying a house (35 percent versus 17 percent of all generations in Chicago).

  • Delaying marriage or having children (34 percent versus 17 percent of all generations in Chicago).


Merrill Edge Survey Methodology

Convergys (an independent market research company) conducted a nationally representative, panel-sample online survey on behalf of Merrill Edge Sept. 6-24, 2017. The survey consisted of 1,010 mass affluent respondents throughout the U.S. Respondents in the study were defined as aged 18 to 34 (millennials) with investable assets between $50,000 and $250,000 or those aged 18 to 34 who have investable assets between $20,000 and $50,000 with an annual income of at least $50,000; or aged 35-plus with investable assets between $50,000 and $250,000. For this purpose, investable assets consist of the value of all cash, savings, mutual funds, CDs, IRAs, stocks, bonds and all other types of investments excluding primary home and other real estate investments. We conducted an oversampling of 300 mass affluents in the following markets: Southern California, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Atlanta, and Phoenix. An additional group of 205 Generation Z respondents was surveyed. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent for the national sample, about +/- 5.6 percent for the oversample markets, and +/- 6.8 percent for the Gen Z group, all reported at a 95 percent confidence level.

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