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South Asian Americans Eye The ‘American Dream’ With More Optimism Than The General Public

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-- 2010 MetLife Study of the American Dream Shows Strong Self-Reliance and Sound Financial Standing --

While only 35% of all Americans expect their personal financial situation to improve in 2010 from 2009, more than half (57%) of South Asian Americans expect their personal situation to improve this year. South Asian Americans are also significantly less likely than Americans overall to believe that there is more risk to their family’s financial future than in the past (43% compared with 70% of all Americans). These results are reported nearly two years after the start of the economic downturn.

A similar number of South Asian Americans (35%) and Americans overall (34%) report that they have achieved the American dream. However, South Asian Americans who have not achieved the dream are much more optimistic than their peers about their possibilities of achieving it in their lifetime. Ninety percent of South Asian Americans believe that it is possible to achieve the American dream-significantly more than the 70% of Americans overall who report the same.

“With good reason, South Asian Americans are more optimistic than the overall population about their personal financial situation,” notes John Derbick, Assistant Vice President, Global Brand and Marketing Services, MetLife. “The Study shows that more people in this group have a personal safety net in place, which appears to be an important prerequisite for achieving and sustaining the American dream.”

Strong Personal Safety Nets
This optimism may stem from a strong sense of financial security among South Asian Americans. Nearly six in ten (59%) say they have an adequate personal safety net, compared with just 31% of Americans overall. A personal safety net is defined by those polled as a “cash cushion” with retirement savings as well as auto, health, home and life insurance. Further, while almost half (47%) of Americans have credit card debt that they don’t pay off in full each month, less than one-third (30%) of South Asian Americans say the same.

And, while many Americans still find themselves close to financial ruin should they lose their job – 45% could not take care of expenses for more than a month and 65% could not do so for more than three months – the concern is less for South Asian Americans. Twenty-eight percent of South Asian Americans report that they could not take care of expenses for more than a month, and 59% say they could not do
so for more than three months.

“Family Net” Emerges
In addition, a significant number of Americans are helping their family members financially. Forty-seven percent of Americans overall and 48% of South Asian Americans say they have given money to a family member in the past year so they can pay their bills. At the same time, 35% of the general public and 32% of South Asians have had a family member give them money in the past year.

Dream Defined in Financial Terms
Though all Americans define the dream first and foremost as “financial security,” South Asian Americans are slightly more likely (26%) than the overall population (22%) to describe the dream in financial terms. They are also much more likely (63%) than the overall population (31%) to equate the dream with “a successful career.”

South Asian Americans are also more likely than Americans overall to feel strong pressure to increase material possessions, despite a challenging economy. Six in ten (60%) South Asian Americans say that the pressure to buy more and better material possessions is greater than ever, more than double the number of Americans overall who report the same (29%). Over one-third (37%) of South Asian Americans say that achieving the American dream is about improving the quality of life by increasing personal possessions, versus 23% of Americans overall. And, 65% of South Asian Americans feel like the bar is constantly rising in terms of the basic necessities of life, versus 58% of all Americans.

Like Most Americans, More Stress at Work
While significantly more South Asians equate the dream with a successful career, many are more concerned about job security than other Americans. Two thirds of employed South Asian Americans (66%) are concerned about losing their job in the next year as a result of the current economic environment, compared to 55% of the general population. Many of these respondents also say they have taken on more responsibility at work and are more stressed about performing all the tasks their job requires. Sixty-nine percent of employed South Asian Americans report taking on more responsibility, compared with 56% of the overall population, while 63% of South Asian Americans say they are more stressed at work, versus 52% of the general public.

However, optimism still prevails. Of those who are unemployed, 78% (versus 55% Americans overall) say that they are optimistic about their future job prospects.

From April 14 - 21, 2010 Strategy First Partners in conjunction with Penn Schoen Berland conducted 2,201 online surveys in the United States among the general population as part of The 2010 MetLife Study of the American Dream.

Roughly half (52%) of the Study participants were Caucasian, 18% African American, 9% Hispanic and 19% Asian Americans (i.e., 199 Chinese Americans, 178 South Asian Americans and 42 from other Asian ethnicities).

Note that findings for the general population as a whole are weighted based on age, gender, race, income, education, and region to reflect the latest U.S. Census demographics.

To download The 2010 MetLife Study of the American Dream, visit www.metlife.com/dream.

About MetLife
MetLife, Inc. is a leading provider of insurance, employee benefits and financial services withoperations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife, Inc. reaches more than 70 million customers around the world and MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States (based on life insurance in-force). The MetLife companies offer life insurance, annuities, auto and home insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions. For more information, visit www.metlife.com.

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