For many Americans, financial success is not defined by what you have, but what you don't owe.
That, at least, is one of the findings of a new survey by TD Ameritrade, in which 39% of those surveyed defined "financial success" as being free of debt.
The second most cited definition, mentioned by 29% of those surveyed, was having the ability to save money for long-term goals such as education and retirement.
Fifty-one percent of those who stressed freedom from debt were 65 years or older. Married couples with no children were also more likely to place a high priority on clearing debts than those with children, who leaned more toward long-term savings.
The findings may reflect how people may be relying on credit to get through tough times, according to TD Ameritrade.
"While it is promising that people understand the importance of eliminating debt, there is a big need to focus on saving for retirement and then, perhaps education. The idea is to find a way to control debt while saving," said Diane Young, director of retirement and goal planning for TD Ameritrade.
Other key findings from the survey include:
Only 30% of those aged 18 to 34 defined financial success as being free of debt.
Married respondents with no children were more likely to define "financial success" as being debt-free, with 46% reporting so, versus only 37% of those married with children.
Thirty-seven percent of singles with children define "financial success" as saving money every month for long-term goals such as education and retirement, compared to 23% of singles with no children who report the same.
Eighteen percent of men with children define "financial success" as being able to indulge and pay for it, compared to 11% of women with children who report the same.