Foreword written by The Futures Company

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.

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