It’s time to redefine the American Dream.

By Mike Aux-Tinee.

I caught 60 Minutes this past Sunday and one of the segments was called Jobs program for people trapped in unemployment. I usually do not suggest watching a specific television show, but there are several things about this segment that every one of us needs to see…

I really hope you have hit the link and watched the video. Because I hate to blow the story for you. If you have not done it yet, please do… I will insert some elevator music

Alright, now that you have watched that video, what did you notice? Here is what I noticed about nearly every person there…

Everyone was in their 40’s and older.

Many were college educated.

There were both men and women.

There were both black and white.

They were all out of work for a very long time.

And drum roll please…

They all are productive, experienced and want to work…

But for some reason, the market place just does not want them. How sad is that? One line in the segment that set me off, was how companies search the internet and if you are not there, you are irrelevant. Irrelevant! Isn’t that just the dumbest thing! But yet, there is it.

One of the men, in the interview talked about how he did everything he was told, from going to college… getting a job… etc…  He was following instructions to achieve the American Dream. What it got him and so many others is nothing close to a dream but more of a nightmare.

And that is the problem. We are listening to people tell us how to live our life. From early on we are receiving instructions: from what to eat, how to dress, what college to attend, and when to have kids. As we go through life, following that advice, we take on so much debt that if and when something like a job loss happens, it destroys everything.

Combined with a negative savings rate, our high debt load is tearing up this country and destroying the American Dream. But what many people do not know, the original meaning of the American Dream came from James Trunslow Adams. Please, take a look at the link. He states, the American Dream is about  “a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work.”

What do you notice about his definition of the American Dream? It is vastly different that the current version in circulation. You know, the one that says, you need to go to college (take on debt), buy a house in the suburbs (take on more debt), that happiness is about having more and more things (and more debt!).

And believing in that American Dream, so many people have become over their heads in debt and their lives have come falling down.They have landed and smacked face first into the earth at terminal velocity. I think that would probably sum up the pain and severity of losing everything you have worked for.

Maybe you do not care because it has not happened to you. It’s better to turn off the television or change the channel so you are not bummed out. I know, let’s play pretend that it will never happen to you so there is no need to change your life and how you spend and save money.

So… what happens when it does happen to you? How do you think you will feel when you, like those people who have been unemployed and cannot find a job, will live? Well, maybe it’s time we do an about-face, and recognize that it could and most likely will happen.

But there are ways to protect yourself. You will not like to hear what I am going to say, but you do know, I am very direct and to the point. So, without further delay here are my ideas.

NUMBER 1: Stop spending!

That is right… I DID just say that. It’s time to come to terms that you do not need the latest and greatest version of whatever toy comes along. Life will go on, you will not die if you do not get it. And oddly, you will have more money. Because you saved it, did not spend it on this thing that will ultimately lose favor in your life and be replaced by something else that you just had to have.

NUMBER 2: Pay off all debt

It’s the overwhelming amount of debt we are carrying that is also making us poorer. We not only lose the money from the initial purchase, but the interest that accrues when we do not pay the bill off next month. Think of it like the school bully who comes around every day to take your lunch money. Every day at the same time, here he comes, and there is nothing you can do about it. Well, that is not true, you can pay off all of your debt and he will stop coming around. Debt is holding you back from being richer. Unless you like losing more, it’s time to pay off what you owe and end the defeating cycle of using debt.

NUMBER 3: Redefine what makes you happy! Things don’t!

The version of the American Dream that is being circulated is about having things, more and more things in our life that are supposed to make us happy. And maybe for a moment, there is a sliver of truth to that. But you wake up the next day and pursue another thing that will make you happy! All the while, you are accumulating so much more debt! Do you have a storage area or basement? What is down there? It’s filled with many of those most have items that you really are not interested in using any more. But, you cannot bring yourself to part with them. Silly isn’t it?

NUMBER 4: Live for tomorrow, not today! Save, save, save!

For some reason, it has become quite in vogue to only live for today, tomorrow is forgotten about. It does you no good to spend more than you make, trying to make your life better today. The ones who benefit from you spending your money are the retailers, banks, advertising companies and anyone else who stands to make a buck when you spend your money. They want you to spend, and continue spending even if it puts you further in debt. Once you are at your limit, they just sit back and continue to make more money or move on to someone else who can pay. It’s time to get out of this cycle and just save your money! That is right, you need to have 5-10 years of living expenses in a savings and rainy day fund. I know, that’s not what other people are telling you to have on hand. But if you remember, those people in the 60 minutes video were out of work for 2 or more years!

 

NUMBER 5: Your house is on fire… you have 60 seconds, what 3 things will you take out?

These are the only things that truly matter to you. And for most of us, we would include our family members on that list. For me, I would take my family, my wallet and car keys, that’s it! Everything else I own can burn. The only thing that cannot be replaced is my family. This list is what you should focus on every day because is brings more meaning to your life, more happiness and does more for you than any thing you can buy.  

Debt and financial ruin does not care… who you are…what race you are… what gender you are… what your educational background is…how much money you have (or don’t have)… or for that matter any other demographic characteristic. It will attack and ruin any and everyone’s life, whenever it can.

As in the 60 Minutes episode, becoming unemployed is very likely going to happen to you and you will struggle finding another job. I know that sounds very alarmist and completely puts a damper on the fun times. But one day, something is going to happen and I think, you will be much better off with money in the bank versus a basement of things you no longer use…

Peace Dudes!

 

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