Is the American Dream Dead? Maybe, but . . .

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Cornerstone Business Group Inc 0225086119

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, American Dreamspend 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).


Re-Blogged 2 times:

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  2. Beverly Herdman 11/24/2012 11:05 PM
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Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group
Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001 - Gaithersburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

. .then the American Dream is a simple methaphor. .

it should be replaced with "Your Own Dream"

That is the only part we can actually control .. .

Nov 24, 2012 08:40 PM #40
Conrad Allen
Re/Max Professional Associates - Webster, MA
Webster, Ma, Realtor

Hi Mike.  The definition of the "American Dream" changes but hopefully not the opportunity to find it.

Nov 24, 2012 08:45 PM #41
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

These are still the best of times, you can fulfill dreams in the right real estate market, area. Hard work, creativity and you can accomplish anything as a little red hen. Lazy does not cut it. 

Nov 24, 2012 09:06 PM #42
Amanda Christiansen
Christiansen Group Realty (260)704-0843 - Fort Wayne, IN
Christiansen Group Realty

Amen Amen Amen.  My wife and I realized this same thing some years ago and decided to stop counting on somebody else for our well being and getting out and doing our own thing.  We have been through hell at times, but it's totally worth it.  Great post.  

Nov 24, 2012 09:34 PM #43
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Mike, this is so true! If anyone expects the government to protect them in their old age, they are going to be in for a big surprise.

Nov 24, 2012 09:52 PM #44
Mike Cooper
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro

Wow!  The comments have gotten away from me, but I've read them all.  Thank you all for your thoughtful insights.  Have a great Sunday.

Nov 24, 2012 10:37 PM #45
Olga Simoncelli
Veritas Prime, LLC dba Veritas Prime Real Estate - New Fairfield, CT
CONSULTANT, Real Estate Services & Risk Management

Maybe it's a good thing for the younger generation to "shift" their aspirations or to change their values as to what's important.

Nov 24, 2012 10:45 PM #46
Norma Skeete
Samson Properties - Arlington, VA

You should send a copy of this to the current administration.

What you say is absolutely true.  What concerns me is that this administration from its actions and philosophy is preaching the exact opposite.  The dream they are selling is that you do not have to work hard anymore and the reason you have not gotten ahead and will not is that someone else (who is working hard and seeing the results of that labor) is responsible for your failure.  They, the government, see this "unfairness" and is going to correct it by making it as difficult as they can for you to achieve the rewards that are normally the result of honest effort.  They are going to proceed with their redistribution efforts.

Nearly 50% of the population has already bought into this "sitting on your behind-hold out your hand" philosophy.  It is going to get worse.  For the first time I am really afraid for this country.  Our system of working hard and enjoying the rewards is being destroyed.  I am hoping we can survive it, but in the meantime, I very,very afraid.  You know the goose that laid the golden egg. 

Nov 24, 2012 11:01 PM #47
Susan Haughton
Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545 - Alexandria, VA
Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results.

As I was reading your post and then the comments, because this is a topic about which I am passionate, I came upon Norma's comment in #47 and it gave me chills because she so eloquently just said what I had  been thinking.  I am with her - and absolutely concerned and afraid for this country.  I am a very optimistic, positive person who always sees the silver lining in every situation - for once in my life, it's not so shiny. 

Nov 24, 2012 11:13 PM #48
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Opportunity never goes out of style....Add some legs to the situation and you have a living dream in the making

Nov 24, 2012 11:41 PM #49
Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate
Kelly Right Real Estate - Hood River, OR
Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs

The American dream isn't dead, it just might take a little more hard work than it used to. Love some of the previous comments here... how did so many people in our country get to believe they deserve so much for doing so little? What ever happened to old fashioned work ethic?


Nov 25, 2012 12:30 AM #50
Gregory Bain
Mezzina Real Estate & Insurance - Little Egg Harbor, NJ
For Homes on the Jersey Shore

Well, I just can't resist---> the american dream.


Nov 25, 2012 12:40 AM #51
Lloyd Binen
Certified Realty Services - Saratoga, CA
Silicon Valley Realtor since 1976; 408-373-4411

Oh darn it Mike, you mean I have to work hard and take care of me and my family?  I wanted the government to do it.  It's not too late to bring back the American Dream, but structural changes need to be made soon and I don't see that happening.  The High Tech companies in Silicon Valley hire top notch software engineers with starting salaries over $110,000/yr, but a lot of schools teach politically correct courses rather than hard core math, science and engineering. 

Nov 25, 2012 05:14 AM #52
Connie Harvey
Pilkerton Realtors - Brentwood, TN
Realtor - Nashville TN Real Estate

Mike, I hope all the young people in your life heed your wonderful advice. My husband and I live frugally too. Haven't as much in savings as we would like but we keep working on it. Didn't hurt that I started a plan B too. :)

Nov 25, 2012 06:28 AM #53
Erica Ramus
Erica Ramus - Ramus Realty Group - Pottsville, PA - Pottsville, PA
MRE, Schuylkill County PA Real Estate

Great advice Mike. I also think higher education is all screwed up. Looking at what we do every day, I think it's terrible we encourage kids to only go to college (most Americans anyway believe college is the only way to succeed). Trade school, 12 month certification programs -- all are alternatives we should be encouraging our kids to look at. 

Nov 25, 2012 06:48 AM #54
Pam Graham
All Real Estate Options - Jacksonville, FL
Jacksonville, Clay & St Johns Counties

I'm with Norma, #47, the landscape has changed dramatically and the ones who don't want to get off their arse to work with be reaping the benefits of the ones who take care of themselves.

Nov 25, 2012 06:55 AM #55
Mike Cooper
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro

Thank you all for all of the thoughful comments.  I hope you all have wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. 

Nov 25, 2012 08:05 AM #56
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

Mike:  There is good and bad news, as you well point out.  The bad news is fairly obvious and has been repeated often. The good news?  Those that have been in real estate for any length of time have ... in great numbers ... learned to "go with the flow".  They've experienced the highs and lows of the markets (both real estate and financial), have probably learned the lessons you speak of, are resourceful, independent in nature, and are survivors.  And they're always learning.  Perhaps (at least to me) the most important character trait they have.  You pass on very valuable info on which to establish future business.  Wise professionals will take note ..


Nov 25, 2012 08:19 AM #57
Eric Michael
Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI - Livonia, MI
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519

Mike, I still want to own property. My own home, rentals, maybe even flip some properties. Gotta keep moving forward. The companies aren't going to give us a retirement.

Nov 25, 2012 09:12 AM #58
Michael Delaware
North Sky Realty LLC - Battle Creek, MI

The American Dream has certainly become polluted with an entitlement mentality in the last several years, but underneath the dream of homeownership is still alive.

Nov 26, 2012 10:20 PM #59
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