Sure, there are those that have opportunity made available either by family means due to inheritance or acquaintances, people that have opportunities come to them because of their looks (i.e. models or actors that are just approached at some point) and of course those very rare occurrences of a lottery win or hitting the jackpot! Who doesn’t have that dream?
However, the belief has always been that if a person had set goals, studied and worked hard they could accomplish the “American Dream.” Many people have grown up and done just that and have lived to tell their own version of the “American Dream” and many people have come to the United States from every other country for that reason and have accomplished their dreams as well.
Although the dream may be different for each individual, basically the idea was being able to get an education, find a career, buy a home, have a family and work toward a decent retirement at an age a person could still enjoy a retirement.
Between a retirement plan at a person’s job and social security, a person could plan on retiring as long as they had worked along the lines of saving towards their goals. The “American Dream” seemed to be within reach more and more through the years. Even when times were hard through the 80’s and 90’s, people continued to work hard and focus on what lied ahead because that is what they had been taught to do and it still seemed promising, enough.
As the younger generations have been raised, their parents have brought them up with the understanding to get an education, work hard at your job, set money aside and you can plan toward retirement. The question of whether social security would be around for retirement for the younger generation was causing concern so people were leaning more toward investments and attaining a higher level of education to move along further in a career. “Hard work pays off”, was said to be the key to success.
However, is this something to plan on? How solid is long-term planning? How solid are a person’s investments? Is the “American Dream” something to even strive for anymore? Is it possible?
Not to sound pessimistic, but here are some recent lessons learned.
Many companies let their long term employees go along with their benefits and pension plans. Financially, it saves more to keep those employees with lesser benefits and lower pay doing the same job.
A big investment for an individual or family is their home. However, if that investment suddenly depreciates at the same time a person has their hours cut at their job or loses their job and they find themselves unable to pay the mortgage, that investment is suddenly the hook, line and sinker that leads them to bankruptcy. The home that was once a part of their “American Dream” is suddenly a part of a terrible nightmare.
Unemployment or even being cut back to part-time from full time can take a person’s health benefits or for an employer trying to keep their employees but still cut back cost, an employer might just cut healthcare across the board. Health care cost for people without insurance causes more bankruptcies than most anything else. Bankruptcy can take everything away from a person they have worked so hard to attain. That definitely isn’t part of the “American Dream” and having this happen to a person isn’t something anyone would plan on.
Many people that have been planning for retirement, saving for retirement or putting aside for that “rainy day”, have either ended up having to use that money to replace lost income, increased bills due to possible loss of benefits, or possibly helping out friends or family that are facing financial crisis. It is a good chance that everyone knows someone facing a financial crisis due to the recent recession. The economy is still in a crisis and so are families, small business and therefore America.
The “American Dream” to those that have lost a job and cannot find work is simply to hear, “you’re hired”. Ask the 99ers. These are people that have been without work 99 weeks or more. To have a group, a large group of people that have formed a name and been on several news networks now because they have not been able to acquire work for that long shows how bad the job market still is.
For those that have been able to keep their job and benefits, the concern lingers about how steady their employment is and how steady the economy is.
For those still owning their home, the concern lies with how steady the housing market is, home values, property taxes and what will happen with homeowners insurance. What is around the corner?
People are concerned, very concerned. Voters are concerned about the choices in Washington D.C. and what the consequences of those choices will be. What will be the long term effects of today’s decisions and the lack of decisions? Who are the politicians looking out for, really?
What is today’s “American Dream”?