37% of Britons feel they have already achieved their dreams with money and ‘waiting for the right time’ were the main barriers to realising life goals

Making our dreams come true may not be as impossible as we think, according to new research from Nationwide. The study, which surveyed the dreams of 2,000 people in the UK, revealed that more than one-third (37%) of Britons felt they had already realised their life goals.

For those who had yet to achieve their dreams, money was found to be the biggest obstacle. More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents felt they needed to earn more first, while 70% said they would need to save up before being able to tick everything off their bucket lists.

Other reasons holding people back from achieving their dreams included undertaking more training or learning new skills, cited by 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds and 35% of 35 to 44-year-olds, while one-quarter (25%) of respondents overall said taking the time off work was getting in the way.

The most popular overall aspirations were:

  1. Travelling around the world – 47%
  2. Visiting a dream holiday destination – 45%
  3. Owning a home – 35%
  4. Getting in shape – 35%
  5. Seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World – 30%
  6. Owning a dream car – 25%
  7. Retiring early – 25%
  8. Learning a new skill (music, language, etc) – 23%
  9. Renovating the home – 23%
  10. Landing ideal job/career change – 20%

Dreams varied across generations, with 18 to 24-year-olds and over-65s the most adventurous – 53% and 55% respectively claimed world travel was their biggest ambition. The 55 to 64s, however, were most keen to travel to outer space (14%), while, interestingly, just 9% of 18 to 24s expressed this as an ambition.


Getting in shape was a top priority for 18 to 24s and 45 to 54s (38% and 40% respectively), and owning a property was the main life goal for those aged 18 to 34. Home renovation was a key priority for the 35 to 44s, with 29% claiming this was their dream.

There were further variations across the different regions, with world travel, dream holidays and owning a home the top three dreams for people in the south, north and Scotland. However, getting in shape was a top priority for people in the Midlands and Wales and Northern Ireland, with 33% and 45% respectively citing this as a dream.

The south were the most likely to dream of being famous, with 7% hoping to become a star compared to less than 2% of people in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, those living in the Midlands and Wales were the most adventurous – 10% dreamt of going skydiving, while only 5% of respondents in Northern Ireland shared this aspiration, along with 7% in the north and 8% in the south.

People in Northern Ireland were, however, more family-oriented, with 22% harbouring dreams of starting a family compared to those in the north and Scotland (18%), who were the least set on this goal. They were also more inclined towards education, with 18% hoping to get a degree compared to 10% of people living in the south.

Despite financial concerns, the research revealed that some of the most common dreams were more affordable than people expected. When asked how much they thought it would cost to fund their dreams, 10% of respondents estimated £10,000, while 26% said they’d need to win the lottery. However, the cost of travelling the world comes in at under £5,000 on average and visiting dream holiday destinations such as Australia, the US and Bali could set them back less than £4,000.

In terms of seeking financial help to realise their dreams, the survey found that this was largely driven by practical needs, with one-third of Nationwide loans taken out between March 2015 and February 2016 being spent on cars and other vehicles, and one-fifth going towards home improvements.

Attitudes to achieving their dreams varied across generations, with 18 to 24-year-olds the most hopeful – just 7% believed that their dreams would never become a reality, compared to 18% of over-65s. However, the younger generations were actively holding off seeking their dreams, with 49% of 18 to 24s and 41% of 25 to 34s claiming to be waiting for the right time.

Carl Burke, Head of Personal Loans at Nationwide, commented:

“Many people in the UK dream of travelling the world, owning a dream car or having the perfect home but believe these goals to be out of their price range. However, we’ve seen that many of the most popular dreams cost less than we’d expect, particularly with the help of a loan. Rather than waiting to renovate your home or assuming you can’t afford that car you’d like, explore your options first – you might see your dreams become a reality sooner than you think.”

Online survey conducted for Nationwide in partnership with Havas Media Group and Toluna Research, nationally representative of 2,000 UK residents.

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