You Don’t Have to be Rich to Live the American Dream

by Kevin M on January 28, 2013

in Commentary

The American Dream has always been a loose concept at best. But a lot of people are taking their cues on it from TV, and I think that may be the reason why a lot of us are just not feeling it any more. Let’s face it, on TV everyone is rich and they live lives that ordinary folks can only dream of. Most of us don’t feel that we can ever be a part of that, so the dream gets old and dies.

We probably need to get away from the visual picture of what the American Dream is supposed to be, or at least what it‘s morphed into. In truth, the American dream is whatever we want to be in our own lives. There are multiple aspects to it, most of which don’t require a lot of money at all, least of which being rich.

American Dream

Be Free From Debt

Ironically, that may be the single biggest reason why the American Dream has died. Millions and millions people have gone deep into debt trying to pursue that TV image of the dream. TV isn’t real, but the debt accumulated to mimic the lifestyle is. We have to break free of that.

Living a life without debt is a true form of freedom, and freedom is a major component of the American Dream. By eliminating debt from your life, you eliminate stress and open up all kinds of other possibilities. Without debt, no one owns you, and you can do many of the things that you choose to do with your life. The strings that tied you down will have been cut.

Get Liquid

In the chase to have the physical possessions of the American Dream – house in the suburbs, late-model car and all kinds of technological gadgets – people have a lot of stuff, but not much money. An absence of cash is a major reason why people feel trapped, and even poor.

By getting rid of the addiction to shopping, eliminating debt, and becoming a systematic saver, you raise your liquidity. Liquidity means having the money that you need to do what it is you want to do, without having to borrow to get it.

The more cash you have in the bank, and the more you have in your wallet, the closer you will be to living the American Dream.

Have A Dream

Speaking of dreams – do you have one? We should always have a desire to pursue something that is bigger than we have right now. That doesn’t mean a bigger house or a more expensive car, but a bigger vision for ourselves. What do you want to be in your life? What do you want to accomplish?

The possibilities are endless, and by having a dream for ourselves we also have a purpose – a goal that we are striving for. It keeps us moving and hoping. As long as we can keep hope alive, we have a real opportunity to lead fulfilling lives.

Build Your Own Business

In recent years the real estate industry has done an outstanding job of hijacking the concept of the American Dream. They turned it into the pursuit of the better house in the suburbs. Personally, I think that’s nothing more than a marketing job. Owning your own home may be a part of the American Dream, but it’s nothing close to the whole dream.

In my opinion, having your own business is at the center of the American Dream. That’s the opportunity to achieve career and income independence, and also to build your business as big as you are able. You can run your business the way you want, and when you’re ready to pack it in and retire, you can sell it and hopefully live comfortably on the proceeds.

{Find out how to discover the right business for you!}

If that’s not the American Dream, then I don’t know what is!

Live An Interesting Life

Most of us get into routines early in life. It’s probably an unconscious thing – we imitate our parents lives, go to school and learn how to conform, then come out to get a job based primarily on salary and benefit levels. A few years later, we wonder why we aren’t happy.

That whole process, as necessary as it may be, is mostly about going through the motions. We do all of the things that we are “supposed to do”, but in the end it’s really not that interesting. But here’s a revelation: in order for your life to be interesting, you have to make it that way.

I know this sounds simplistic, but you should resolve to live an interesting life. It’s perfectly okay to have routines in your life, such as attending school, working your job and taking care of your family and your home. But what you do beyond that is completely up to you.

Don’t settle for being ordinary; be purposeful about living an interesting life. You will take on new challenges, explore beyond your comfort zone and dare to be as different as you are able. Life is a journey and not an event, so be open to whatever comes your way. Find some avenues that interest you, and follow them as far as you can. Don’t box yourself in because of your personal routine. We all need routines, but we also need challenges. Go for them.

America has historically been a nation of non-conformists; that’s the whole reason so many people came here, and continue to do so today. It’s an underappreciated component of the American Dream, and one that we need to pursue with a passion.

Each of these is a part of the American Dream, and you don’t need to be rich to pursue any of them. Start living your part of the American Dream–and don‘t attach dollar signs to it.

© 2013, Kevin M. All rights reserved.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Buy & Hold Blog

Loved this post. I do agree that people’s concept of an American dream is clouded by the stuff they see on TV, read in the media, and their social network. Living debt-free and saving/investing for the long-term is the way to go to achieve the American dream. The key is long-term.


2 Kevin@OutOfYourRut

The whole concept if the American Dream has been hijacked by slick advertising. Just being debt free and having some money put away puts you on your way, and from there you can do just about anything you can imagine.


3 Integrator

To me, the American dream was always more about anything is possible and can be achieved rather than you need to accumulate as many material possessions as you can to outshine your neighbor. That seems to have been lost somewhere along the way.

If you have an idea, you can make it happen if you have the passion and desire to follow through with it. That’s something that’s motivating and inspiring, not where I desire to accumulate as many physical things before my time on this earth is over.


4 Kevin@OutOfYourRut

Absolutely, somewhere along the line, the American Dream became the pursuit of stuff mostly for the purposes of making us look better to our peers. No wonder so many people are so unhappy. Stuff can make you comfortable, but it can never give you a meaningful life because it’s external.


5 Pauline

Very well put. I liked the part about not thinking what we want in life and just trying to imitate our parents. First, where your parents are in life at 60 is not where they were when they got married. We assume our parents always lived the life we saw them live (and that they were never young!). And, on top of living in different times, they are different individuals and their dreams don’t have to be ours.


6 Kevin@OutOfYourRut

Excellent point Pauline, where are parents are now isn’t where they were at when they were our age. They had to struggle and do without, but if all we focus on is where they are now we’ll get a distorted view.


7 krantcents

Too many people think that the American Dream is accumulating possessions. It is the opportunity to be successful which may not necessarily mean great wealth. I think you can achieve it with just modest success. My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the early part of last century (1920s) and started businesses and was successful with 2 homes etc. They had no debt because they went through the Great Depression although it left them unscathed, it did affect them.


8 Kevin@OutOfYourRut

If anything is killing the American Dream it’s the late 20th century concept of wanting guarantees for everything. Up until the 1950s people came here for opportunity–knowing they weren’t guaranteed anything.

Of course, those guarantees are also degrading opportunities–there’s an inverse relatiopnship between success and risk, and the more you do to lower risk society wide, the less chance we’ll have to succeed.


9 TB at BlueCollarWorkman

When I used to think about the American Dream I would think of cars and big hosues and lots more cars. But when I got older I realized that I think the Dream is really just the ability to move up if you want. The ability to get any job you want. The ability to not starve. It’s not really to be absurdly wealthy. I have a wife, two girls, and we have a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our backs, and just enough for a trip every once in awhile. We don’t need more money to live the American Dream. We already are! And I think most Americans already are, but they might not know it.


10 Kevin@OutOfYourRut

Don’t minimize your life–you live better than 95-99% of the world’s people do! But I think that freedom, as in self-determination, is really at the heart of the dream, certainly much more so than being wealthy. That’s what truly leads to happiness, not a big pile of money, a mansion or a fleet of fancy cars. That’s the point we need to focus on.


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