It appears Americans may no longer equate success with the "Daddy Warbucks" lifestyle. The fictional benefactor in the comic strip "Little Orphan Annie," Warbucks had it all: a lavish house, indoor pool and foreboding bodyguards.

But in a new study commissioned by American Express, most survey respondents said you don't need to have a lot of money to be successful. Instead, good health, good relationships and a good job were deemed by respondents to be more indicative of a successful life.

Weighing money and success

The American Express study asked respondents to rank 22 factors on how important they are to success. On this list, "having a lot of money" ranked 20th, with only 33% considering it necessary for success. What was more important to respondents was how well they manage the money they do have -- an item that ranked fourth on the list.

The following factors were named most often by survey respondents as indicators of success:

  1. Good health: 85%
  2. Finding time for the important things in life: 83%
  3. Having a good marriage/relationship: 81%
  4. Knowing how to spend money well: 81%
  5. Having a good work/personal life balance: 79%
  6. Having a job they love: 75%
  7. Making the time to pursue passions and interests: 69%
  8. Being physically fit: 66%
  9. Embracing new experiences/changes: 65%
  10. Always trying to learn and do new things: 65%

While the survey suggests most Americans don't think they need a lot of money to be successful, that doesn't mean they have given up all aspirations of being rich. The study found that 57% of respondents would like to be rich, putting that goal at No. 8 on the survey's list of most-desired experiences.

Still, it may be fortunate that most people don't consider having a lot of money as a sign of success. The study found that 43% of Americans have recently experienced a financial setback. 

The importance of money management

On the topic of financial setbacks, employing the No. 4 factor for success -- managing money well -- may also be a useful strategy for avoiding money mishaps. Having a well-stocked emergency fund, managing debt wisely and planning for future expenses may all help in this effort.

In addition, these strategies may allow Americans to achieve their No. 1 goal of traveling, an ambition cited by 88% of the survey's respondents. That may help them feel just as successful as Daddy Warbucks -- even without their own indoor pool.

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Does money equal success? Not according to most