The Malingering American Dream

We still have golden opportunities ahead of us, but only if we become, and live, more independently. Golden Opportunity, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the American Dream has had the flu lately. At least, that’s the latest from the Washington Post, which published an article by Carol Morello, Peyton Craighill and Scott Clement (why did it take three people to write an 8-paragraph story?) entitled, American Dream Fades for Many, or a variation on the theme.

I’m so glad that an article has been written about this matter because now I know it’s true, along the lines of, once something’s put on Facebook, it’s gold.

Despite being assured for years  that the 2007 Recession is over and recovery begun in 2009, I always wondered, and actually began wondering long before that. Well before 2007 people in their 50s were being regularly downsized from private corporations that long ago traded the pensions our parents knew with classy little 401Ks, which didn’t look particularly classy for most people when the stock market jumped more down than up.

An expensive college education bought many people part-time work with no benefits, multiple jobs and juggling schedules; prices and taxation outstripped wage increases. But nobody really talked about it — other than real people over their dining room tables — and media, politicians, and socially concerned university sorts continued to assure us that life is fine. For them, I’m sure that it is.

The lesson in all the verbiage is this: it doesn’t matter what the experts say or the policy wonks propound, when it comes to your home, family, life, and personal finances, it all hinges on you and your tribe. If things aren’t going well, you know it, and the steps you take to make things better are the ones that work best for you.

Turn off the white noise from media and government agencies: YOU are the person who cares most about your, and your family’s life. Beachside Diversions, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

In these uncertain times, it wouldn’t hurt for us to look back a few generations to our parents and grandparents who lived through the Great Depression, and pick up a few pointers about life, and living it:

  • Be more independent. The more you know how to do for yourself, the better off you are, and not just financially.
  • Don’t believe everything you’re told — even when it’s repeated everywhere. Consider the source of the information, and accept or reject it based upon the integrity of the person or organization behind it.
  • Live green — not because it’s freaky cool, but because wasting resources wastes money — yours. Turn off lights; don’t scatter all over the house each doing your own thing (family togetherness is a memory many Depression era survivors mention); put on a sweater before turning up the thermostat; learn to renovate food leftovers into something new and exciting; discover your public library as a free or inexpensive source of entertainment. Most money saving tips are simple, and are a matter of lifestyle choices.
  • You know that village Hillary Clinton kept harping about? She met establishments and agencies, but traditional villages consist of family members who are related to one another. YOU are the village. Seaside Story, licensed open edition print by Steve Henderson at Great Big Canvas.

    Join together as a family. This does not negate being more independent; it strengthens us. The person who cares most about the members of a family are the family members themselves. No school, beneficent organization, government agency, health care establishment, financial endeavor, or outside third party cares about your life as much as you do. Take care of yourself, and take care of the people in your life.

  • Laugh. Life is short; life is tough, and if we’re always waiting for Someday to arrive, we’ll miss the moments we’re living now.
  • Give. Choose carefully, because there are a lot of voices clamoring for any extra cash in your wallet. Make sure that your hard earned cash goes someplace where it provides the most benefit for the people you want to help.
When you live your life in accordance to what works for you, the ups and downs of the economy don’t have to be quite so scary. You know that — good times or bad — the most valuable resources in your life, the people you love, pull together to make it all work.
I write Fridays on Financial Health from the perspective of a real person, with a real life, who isn’t elected and who doesn’t receive stock options. If you want to learn how to use what money you have, better, I encourage you to look at my book, Live Happily on Less — Renovate Your Life and Lifestyle, which is $12.99 paperback at Amazon (but usually on sale) and $5.99 digital.
I have a number of friends and acquaintances who have dropped $100 or so to take video conferences from financial “experts” who provide complicated workbooks and funny little stories wrapped around common sense. People feel like they have to do this because they don’t know anything about mutual funds or investing for retirement or such.

Yes, I want to sell books. But if I didn’t believe in the message in this book, I wouldn’t keep urging you to look at it. Times are hard. Learn to live well, and independently, in them.

Despite not being an expert in Wall Street, I am sitting in a house that we owe no mortgage on, and never have. We drive a car that we paid cash for. And we have no creditors. We’re also not raking in money off of financial savings seminars, and we live on a normal income like most normal people.
I’m one of you. And I know how to live, happily, on whatever comes my way. Take a look at my book. I’m guessing that it won’t take you long to recuperate the purchase price.
This article was originally published at ThoughtfulWomen.org.
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