A recent survey of college graduates found that 63% of those grads think the American dream is dead, and you know what? They're right. The American dream their parents grew up with, or the one they see on Mad Men and other 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s vintage TV shows is definitely cold in the grave.
Ironically, knowing that is good news. The likelihood that they will go to work for a major corporation, spend 30 years there and collect a nice pension and a gold watch at the end is no longer the norm. Actually, it was on life support in the mid-90s. What the average American didn't see in the mid-90s was the alignment of growing out of control government spending, more sophisticated manufacturing with higher levels of automation and less people, cheaper labor in foreign markets, higher costs of producing goods and services in the U.S. and more college graduates with less marketable degrees.
The good part of all of that is knowing that the burden of taking care of yourself and your future falls on your shoulders. If you're of the belief that your job is never fully secure, the government will not have sufficient resources to support you in your old age and you can only depend on you - you're on the right path. With those simple observations, you should become more proactive in saving, building and creating sources of wealth creation.
My wife and I came to this conclusion in the mid-to-late 90s. We had accumulated a substantial portfolio of stocks, mutual funds and real estate. We decided we would live more humbly and frugally. When the markets took a hit in September 2008, we lost 90% of our investment portfolio. If we had gone out in the 90s and early 2000s and bought the McMansion, high-end cars and all the trinkets of the image of wealth when we had the resources, we would have been swept away with the rest of masses.
Did we take a hit? Absolutely. Was it devastating? You bet. Can we ever recover? Without a doubt. We're doing it now. We're rebuilding wiser and more aware than ever that there is no bailout for the average American. If we want to accomplish the American dream it will depend on what we do, not on what someone else does for us.
The markets are always shifting in this country. The constant uncertainty that is born out of Washington makes employers nervous about hiring, continuing business and raising wages and benefits. If you desire those things, they are out there, but this time you will have to provide them for yourself. That's good to know. If you want to accomplish the American dream, roll up your sleeves and get busy. It is your responsibility now (and it really always has been).