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Is the American dream attainable?

November 19th, 2011 at 08:56 pm

As I catch up on my reading, Time had a story about what people think about the "American dream." It asked if people think it is attainable for today's youth, or has it become impossible?

How thought provoking! I've been talking about this with a lot of people and it is interesting to listen to their comments. Some people say they feel it is not attainable like it has been in the past because the economy is hindering the upward movement.

Yet others say it is still in one's reach, but people have to be willing to work hard and look for ways to reach it.

I'm going to agree with the latter. The reason I believe this is I think people can still move up and better themselves. I think it can be difficult and challenging. However, I also think people need to prioritize what their dream might be. Plus, they need to work for it, not figure it will be handed to them.

For example, I have a friend who works two jobs. Neither job is super high paying, but could be adequate. She still runs out of money. She rents, drives a beater, and complains about her situation. I have encouraged her to budget, open up a savings account, and not rely on credit cards. A few years ago she wanted to buy a house and went to the bank to be pre-approved. When she told me how much she was pre-approved for, I told her not to spend that much because it would keep her from having any disposable income. She looked at houses and since they weren't what she wanted, she never bought one. A friend of mine had a stroke and her daughters sold her house -- very reasonable and far less than what my friend had been pre-approved for. But, since it wasn't "perfect" she didn't want it.

Another friend of mine works one full time job. It's not anything that is going to make her rich -- in fact she makes less than the aforementioned friend. But, she owns her home, bought a used car where she can afford the payments, and saves up for things. When she bought her house, she bought it at a reasonable price and fixed up what she needed to fix up to move in and has been working on it since. She will probably never be wealthy, but she feels she has done very well and is satisified with her life.

I think in a lot of cases, the person needs to figure out what their dream is and then work towards it. Yet, I think it is that four letter word that is hindering many: work. There are those who feel "entitled" to a fancy house, big car, and large salary.

If watching some of the house hunting shows are any indication, many people are not willing to buy a house and fix it up -- they want a house with all the bells and whistles like what their parents have, the parents who have worked over 40 years to achieve what they want.

I think today's economy reflects this mindset. Another friend laughs at me when I tell them we have a regular savings, a Christmas club, a vacation savings, and then another account that we put money in for whatever thing we are saving for, be it a fridge, dishwasher, or now, a new furnace. I guess immediate gratification brought about by credit cards has made saving and anticpating a thing of the past for many.

So, I wonder what others think. Is the American dream attainable, or is the youth of tomorrow doomed?

Talking Finances

October 29th, 2011 at 02:35 pm

It's the end of the month and around our city, that means spending is usually down at stores and restaurants. I think it is because so many folks receive checks the first of the month and it is running low by now.

We know some folks who would rather put their expenses on credit cards than admit their money is running low. I am not sure why they think it is taboo to just admit they don't have the money for something. I guess they view it as something to be ashamed of. I don't know why unless they spent recklessly to begin with.

I've been kind of studying some of the people we know and how they are playing the keeping up appearances game. They will never admit that they don't have the cash for something. Some even go so far as to hit a home equity line of credit to get money for things, and I'm not talking for home improvements either.

One friend admitted they couldn't afford something to me the other day and how she didn't want to tell the person that invited her to go shopping that. I told her it was no shame, but actually showed wisdom that she knew she couldn't afford it and with so many people having money issues, it wasn't anything to be ashamed of.

I guess I grew up differently. I remember in high school one of the teachers planned a trip to Europe during the summer for students and she asked if I wanted to go. I told her that although I would love to, it wasn't financially possible. She said she understood and nothing more was said. I wasn't ashamed of that and she didn't belittle me for that either. It was a fact of life and we went on.

With all the "open" conversations about everything from sex to diseases, why talking money is such a secret still astounds me.