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The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream Kindle Edition
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The American Dream. As a concept, it is so ingrained in our collective imagination that it doesn’t even need to be defined, right? Think about it: Did you ever need to have it explained to you? My guess is you did not and that even from a young age, you, like me, knew it represented a promise—of opportunity, of possibility—that came with being American.
But on closer inspection, it is not just an American impulse that the American Dream describes, it is a human one, and it unites us. No matter your socioeconomic, ethnic, or religious background, we all aspire to the same things: We seek to provide for our family and keep them safe, no matter what shape that family takes, no matter if we are talking about our parents or our children, a blended family or a family “by choice,” not blood. We want future generations to have even more opportunity than we ourselves have, a dream that is intrinsically linked with education and the advancement that follows from it. We want to live in a home that is secure in every sense—as a haven for our loved ones and as a wise place to have spent our money. We want the guarantee that our hard work will pay off, that it will support us financially, that it will allow us to achieve our goals, and that when it is time to stop working, we will reap the benefits of those years of dedicated service and live out the rest of our lives comfortably in retirement.
As universal as these desires are, we refer to them as the American Dream because for centuries this country has, for the most part, been able to make good on this promise of America as the land of opportunity. This belief has played a defining role in shaping our national psyche. It is at the heart of our Declaration of Independence—that we each possess “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
How truly terrifying, then, to take stock of the American Dream today and to question the truth of it—to wonder if it still exists in reality or if it has become an illusion, a myth. Take a look around: As of October 2011, nearly 14 million Americans were out of work; another 8.9 million were working only part-time because they cannot find full-time employment. That is nearly 23 million people who are struggling to make ends meet. Many of those lucky enough to still be employed in their 60s are looking to hang on to their jobs as long as possible because they simply cannot afford to retire—which also means there are fewer job openings for young people entering the workforce.
In many areas of the country, the dream of homeownership has backfired. Real estate values have deflated to such an extent that a record number of people owe more than their homes are worth. That’s not an American Dream—it’s a nightmare.
Because of the dire economic conditions of recent years, many parents are unable to afford the high cost of college tuition for their children. And there is a record number of student loans in default, making people question whether they ever should have taken them on to begin with.
The sum total of all these facts and figures? The home, the job security, the education, the retirement—the very standard of living that all of us took for granted for so long is completely under siege.
Whether we speak about it or not, we are grappling with the frightening possibility, the fear, that we no longer live in a land where effort applied to opportunity produces a better life. The doors leading to more and greater things, once wide open, now seem to be closing. It is hard to move up in an economy where there has been no job or wage growth over the past decade. Once a manufacturing powerhouse—“Made in the U.S.A.” was our calling card—we have ceded that engine of growth, and the jobs that go with it, to other countries as our own economy now relies on our ability to consume, not produce.
The impact of these economic shifts has been felt deeply within our homes. While the median household income for adults born in the 1960s is indeed higher than the income of their parents’ generation, much of that is a function of smaller household size and the fact that there are now likely two wage earners per household. It takes more of us working more to maintain our forward progress. Even so, the pace of our growth has slowed considerably. According to a study commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts, family income doubled in the postwar years, between 1947 and 1973, but in the three decades since then the increase has been a mere 20%. That statistic provides important context to why household debt relative to income more than doubled over the same period: For many, borrowing was a way to keep up with our parents and grandparents. To put it in more emotional terms, it is why so many of us wonder how our parents and grandparents seemed able to enjoy a higher standard of living even though their means were so much less than ours.
The meritocracy that underpins our economy and culture—work hard, move up the ladder—has also been weakening, as the distribution of income has become increasingly uneven. In the 1950s and 1960s, our national economic growth trickled down across a broad spectrum of income levels. Since the 1970s it has been more fractured, with much of the economic gains benefiting upper-income households. This concentration of wealth leaves the middle class, the heart and soul of this country, struggling just to hang on.
The epic financial crisis—and there really is no other way to describe it—that began in 2008 may have delivered a decisive blow to the stubborn optimism that we held on to in spite of the on-the-ground reality of how our financial lives have been marked by increasing struggle. For many, the crisis was a rude awakening; for others, it was a grim confirmation of the creeping anxiety we’ve been feeling about how we are going to make it all work. Either way, it is hard to find a family that was untouched by this financial disaster. It was a galvanizing moment for us as a nation—it has forced us to reckon with our beliefs in our country and our individual ideals.
Is it time, then, to pronounce the American Dream dead?
In many ways it pains me to say this, but in my opinion the American Dream as we knew it is dead.
But listen to me: That is not such a bad thing. The old American Dream has been in need of revision for quite some time; we have just been very good at avoiding that truth. It’s time to take that dream back into our hands and reshape it. It’s time to create a New American Dream that is based in honesty, authenticity, good intentions, and genuine need.
What is important to understand is that the American Dream is not something to put your faith in, to pray for, to embrace blindly, and hope that everything turns out okay—despite its long, dependable run. Rather, it is a concept, a loose set of goals that beg for individualization. The American Dream was never one-size-fits-all. The New American Dream asks you to fashion a dream that suits you—not one based on false premises and the expectations of others. It asks you to take measure of your own needs and understand what it will take to provide for yourself and those around you—your family, your community, and those less fortunate.
The truth is, we are on the threshold of an important moment. We can come together, right here, right now, and each one of us can envision our own New American Dream—a dream that is rooted in reality, not superficiality; in truth and integrity, not illusion and falsehood.
I am a great believer in the power of perspective. Often when we find ourselves in a difficult situation we come to believe we have no options. We convince ourselves there is no way out. Despair and frustration take root and convince us that things are more desperate than they may actually be. When I’ve found myself in those situations in my own life, I have learned that a change in perspective can change everything. What seemed insurmountable can be overcome. Not without difficulty, but through ingenuity and dedication. We can make a difference when we think differently. If you have any doubt about the truth of that statement, think of any significant achievement throughout American history, from our founding as a nation built on those inalienable rights and freedoms, to the civil rights movement.
What we need first and foremost then, to erase the feelings of hopelessness and to ease our fears, is a change in perspective. Let us recognize what the American Dream no longer is, in order to give birth to a New American Dream.
We must abandon any vestige of the old dream that suggested it was delivered on a silver platter as a matter of national birthright, and that our economy would forever be the rising tide that lifts all boats. The dream I am asking you to create—this New American Dream—is a very individualistic pursuit. It calls upon you to take stock of the challenges we face as a nation with an economy that is still struggling to recover from the effects of a crippling recession. And then it calls upon you to take stock of your own life, your own needs, your own security. We must transform ourselves from dreaming society’s dreams and putting our faith in a false and misleading sense of entitlement, to being a society where each of us strives for dreams that are personal and realistic and that are in the best interests—in the truest and most honest sense—of us and our family. I am calling upon each of us to rethink the very way we dream. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B004IPP8TG
- Publisher : Random House; Revised ed. edition (March 8, 2011)
- Publication date : March 8, 2011
- Language : English
- File size : 2254 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 322 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #786,976 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Top reviews from the United States
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By Chase on November 10, 2020
Top reviews from other countries
Suze gives great and very detailed lessons to grasp and get your financial stability under control.
For European readers, the book can result long, since all the details on fiscal advantages that can/should be used in the US, are specific for the US citizens. This means, outside that country you have to do the work to research what exists in your own country of residence.However, at the very end of each chapter there is a summary. Therefore for non-US readers, I advice to read first the summaries and then dive down only in the chapters of your interest.
Biggets take away: don't count on getting much money from the pension fund in 20-30 years and start saving now! Learn how to take pleasure from it!