The ‘American Dream’ of 2 Kids, a House and a Car Now Costs $3.4 Million

PeopleImages / Getty Images/iStockphoto
PeopleImages / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The classic “American Dream” — marriage, two kids, homes, healthcare, cars and education — is now an estimated $3,455,305 over the course of a lifetime, according to a new study from Investopedia.

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The key element of the study is that anyone can rise from “rags to riches,” enjoying upward mobility and becoming financially successful, according to Corporate Finance Institute. While this was attainable for the average American for most of the 20th century, things have become a lot more expensive.

Most Americans don’t earn $3.4 million. In fact, they earn more than $1 million less. The average lifetime earnings of Americans across all education levels is $2.3 million, according to Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the estimated lifetime costs of the American Dream for a family of four.

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The average cost of a wedding and engagement ring is about $35,800, according to 2022 data from The Knot.

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The average lifetime cost of a home including a mortgage is $796,998, assuming a 10% down payment and a 30-year fixed rate of 7.2%. This number was calculated using September 2023 purchase and price rates from Zillow, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the St. Louis Fed.

Hospital Birth

For two children, a hospital birth will cost $5,708 out-of-pocket for those enrolled in a large group health plan, according to Peterson-KFF’s 2018-2020 Health System Tracker analysis of MarketScan data. For those without insurance coverage, costs will likely be much higher.

Car Purchases

Used car purchases over a lifetime would cost around $271,330, according to 2023 data from This includes buying 10 six-year-old cars — lasting around six years each — between the ages of 16 and 80.


For a dog and a cat that each live 15 years, expect to pay between $34,948 and $100,922, a Synchrony 2022 Lifetime of Care study shows.

Health Insurance

Over a lifetime, the average family premium costs add up to $934,752. This total includes 39 years of current annual costs from ages 26 to 65 using data from KFF’s 2023 Employer Health Benefits Survey.

Raising Children to 18

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2015 Expenditures on Children by Families report (adjusted for 2022 inflation), the average cost of raising two children to age 18 is $576,896.


The cost of one year at a public in-state four-year institution, including room and board, for two children is $42,070, per data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ 2020-2021 report.


You’ll need at least $715,968 saved if you plan to live off 80% of your pre-retirement annual income, which experts recommend. This was calculated from estimates for real median household income for 2022 and based on the average life expectancy of 76.4 years for males and females from the CDC’s 2021 estimates.


The average cost of a funeral with a viewing and a burial is $7,848, according to 2023 data from Policygenius.

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