The idea of the American Dream is still a dream for many of us. Even as my generation moves away from the American dream as a whole, we all still want to reach aspects of it – pursuing our own destiny, achieving success, leaving the world better off for children or those that follow us.
USA Today recently looked at the traditional American Dream and calculated what it would cost to achieve that dream today.
The results weren’t pretty because the American Dream is quite costly.
They covered the “essentials”, extras, taxes, and savings to come up with a total of $130,357 per year. Of course this is a generalized number that depending on where in the country you live would be more than enough or barely enough. However, it’s an interesting number and idea.
Based on this figure, do you earn enough to live the American Dream? Could you afford the lifestyle?
The article made a few great points about the idea of the American Dream:
Historian John Truslow Adams, who coined the term, called it “the greatest contribution we have made to the thought and welfare of the world.” It has inspired millions of people from every corner of the globe to come here in search of liberty and opportunity.But the financial crisis, housing bust and Great Recession have caused more of us to worry that the American dream is out of reach.
For the vast majority of Americans, there is a sense that achieving the American dream is becoming more difficult,” wrote Mark Robert Rank, Thomas A. Hirschl and Kirk A. Foster in a new book, Chasing The American Dream.
In fact, three-quarters of Americans polled by the Brookings Institution in 2008 said the dream was harder to attain.
They’re right to worry. An analysis by USA TODAY shows that living the American dream would cost the average family of four about $130,000 a year. Only 16 million U.S. households — around 1 in 8 — earned that much in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
I know many people who feel like the American Dream is either unachievable for them personally. I’ve heard people I know say things like this not just about becoming rich but about living the kind of lifestyle they grew up with that was simply comfortable.
The American Dream isn’t just about money though:
In their book, the authors write that besides economic security, the American dream includes “finding and pursuing a rewarding career, leading a healthy and personally fulfilling life, and being able to retire in comfort.”
These things have almost taken more importance for people I know because it’s easier to control. I know personally that living a healthy and personally fulfilling life is very important to me.
This number doesn’t mean much for me since in my city the cost of living is much lower and therefore the number overall would be lower. For example, they used a median home price of $275,000 whereas it would be closer to $100,000. Additionally all other areas would cost slightly less in my city. the article does address this at the end by saying, “There are big regional variations, too. It costs a lot less to live the American dream in, say, Indianapolis or Tulsa than it does in metro areas like New York and San Francisco, where housing prices and taxes are sky high.”
Ultimately the article was created to sound pessimistic and create fear in people. It ends on a depressing note:
Nonetheless, it’s clear that though the American dream is still alive, fewer and fewer of us can afford to live it.
It made me feel the same way I feel every time I have a conversation with someone who talks about all the things they can’t afford while they are driving a leased car and drinking a $6 Starbucks drink. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a car payment and buy Starbucks weekly, but I also understand that my choices in the overall picture of my finances. I don’t have cable, I don’t take massive vacations, and I don’t think the “extras” are necessities in my own American Dream. Just because we were born in this country doesn’t mean we are owed a perfect lifestyle. We have to make choices and accept what we have and can have instead of complaining. At least that’s how I see it. Being grateful for what I have and my own little current American Dream makes me pretty happy.
My favorite comment on the article sums up some of my own feelings toward the idea. Paul said:
The difference is between the dream and the reality. We dream of what we one day want, but we deal with the reality that it must take some time and effort on our part to attain that dream. Nothing worthwhile is ever obtained easily.
The true American dream is to work toward the dream. The American dream is to feel that nothing is beyond our reach if we are willing to make the effort to obtain that dream. It comes with sacrifice, money management, education, and developing the feeling of doing things on our own and taking pride in the little accomplishments of our lives.
The dream is living free, caring about our communities, our schools, and helping our neighbors. The dream is setting an example for others to follow. It is made of respect for others, for their dreams, and for their rights to be free of want and worry.
The dream is how we approach our lives. We can surrender to the forces that would keep us down, or we can rise above the fray through our individual efforts. It is having confidence in our country, our way of life, and in ourselves.
We are Americans, and that is the greatest dream of all.
Want to learn more about the American Dream and how it has shaped us all?
Check out some of these books about The American Dream available on Kindle: