11 November 2016

The top 10 things people want in life

Whether it’s getting the keys to our first home, booking our bucket-list holiday destination, or simply being able to spend more quality time with our families, everybody has their one big wish.

We surveyed 2000 people of all ages across the UK, to ask them about their dreams – what they were, the challenges in making them happen, and how they could be achieved – and find out the differences and similarities across the generations.

London-based artist and illustrator Rose Blake has sketched out some of the UK’s top dreams based on these findings.

The top ten things we dream about

The most popular overall aspirations named 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%

Experiences and self-improvement topped the list of what people wished for most, with car/home owning or renovation also appearing highly in the results.

get in shape

“I think that fitness and staying healthy is the most important thing. It boosts your self-esteem and changes your mood for the better, helping you get the body you want.”

Travel featured heavily, with the majority of respondents citing world travel or visiting a dream destination as their biggest wish. Space travel cropped up frequently, too – 11% of those surveyed said they’d love to get a closer look at the cosmos.


“I’m 76 and have never been able to do much travelling. Bringing up five children has taken up most of my time and money. I would love to see the world while I’m still fit enough to travel.”

travel the world

Money: the biggest challenge in realising our dreams

It’s easy to identify our dreams – but, when asked why they haven’t happened yet, the answer isn’t always as straightforward. We might be restricted by responsibilities such as family or work, require extra skills or training, or it could be that it’s just simply not the right time.

Money proved the biggest obstacle. Of those surveyed, an overall 70% agreed they’d need to save more money before they were able to turn their hopes into a reality, while 68% felt they needed to earn more.

Interestingly, when asked how much they thought they’d need to fund their wishes, 10% of respondents estimated that £10,000 would do the job. However, when applying this to the top ten most popular dreams, it seems making them happen could cost much less than anticipated.

Below are the average values for the top five:


  1. Travelling around the world: £5,099pp (80 nights, flights, accommodation, extras) 1
  2. Visiting a dream holiday destination: Australia (Sydney): £3,333 (seven nights, flights, accommodation)2
  3. Seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World: £2,300 (seven nights, flights, accommodation)3
  4. Owning a home: average UK house price – £209,0544 (average house deposit based on average first time buyer deposit rate of 17% – £35,539)
  5. Getting in shape: average gym membership in UK – £53 a month, or £636 a year5 .
seven wonders

“I'd like to visit the Seven Wonders of the World because there is so much to see out there.”

How do dreams look across different age groups?

We all like to dream big from time-to-time, but what’s clear is that our aspirations tend to change as we move through different life stages.

While the desire to globetrot was fairly consistent across all age groups, it proved most popular among the younger and older audiences. More than half of 18–24s (53%) and over 65s (55%) surveyed claimed travelling around the world was their main goal. Those between the ages of 25–64 were more likely to opt for a more practical option – a dream holiday destination.


“My dream destination would be Thailand. I’d love to see the golden Buddha, the culture, the scenery, the way of life. Thailand sounds like a paradise on earth.”

golden buddah

Despite being typically considered a carefree generation, the younger groups were the most keen to get on the property ladder – with 53% of the 18–24s and 49% of the 25–34s saying that being a homeowner topped their list of goals.

buying a house

“I would love to own our own home. I want somewhere for me, my husband and son to call our own. Somewhere we have our own safe space to bring up our little boy.”

However, a huge 63% of people felt they’d not yet achieved their dream. The 55–64s were the most pessimistic, with 18% believing their dreams wouldn’t ever become a reality. By contrast, only one in three of the 18–24s felt the same.

But our dreams might be more within reach than we think

As mentioned earlier, money was identified as the main obstacle between aspirations and making them happen – so it’s worth taking a look at what options are available to you.

Of those surveyed, 62% said that setting up a savings account and regularly putting aside an amount about each month would help them towards achieving a goal, while 18% said they would consider a loan.

Perhaps, if your dream costs more than you could realistically expect to save by the time you want to do it, thinking about a personal loan could be helpful. A third of all Nationwide personal loans taken out in the last year were between £10,000–15,000 – the figure most people think they’d need to fund their dream.



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

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