What Is The American Dream Of Today
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The past few years I have been thinking a lot about the American Dream. As you probably know, I grew up in France. And honestly, I would have never thought that I would live in this country one day.
The funny thing is when you are an adult, the definition of success is similar everywhere around the globe. And the American Dream pretty much summarizes it.
But after talking with a few of my friends I realized that what used to be the American Dream is no longer the case for our generation.
What used to be the American Dream
1. Having a good job
Before, it was common to find a company to work for after graduating from college and slowly climb the ladder there.
Seriously my dad started working for his company when he was in his twenties and is going to probably stay there until he retires in a few years.
In the eight years since I graduated from college, I already worked for five companies, without counting my side hustles like La Parisienne Boudoir and Hello Peaceful Mind.
2. Getting Married
It was also important to find a partner to share your life with. It still is but now people don’t necessarily get married, or they wait later in life to do it.
For example in France, a lot of couples are having kids and buying a condo before getting hitched.
In the USA I think it’s different. Most of my friends are married. Actually, I think I only have a couple of friends that are not married but they both are single.
3. Buying a car, or two
I guess it depends where you live, but the public transportation in the USA is not as good as it is in France. You need a car even if you live in the city. Today, it’s getting better but if you don’t live downtown, you still need to have a car to be able to commute.
Where we live, there’s no bus stop for about two miles, so even if you want to take the bus, you need to drive to the bus stop.
It’s so much different from the Parisian suburbs where I grew up. There are buses going everywhere plus the RER to go from one town to another.
4. Buying a house
Buying a house is one of the first things I was thinking about when I started working. I felt like I was wasting money by paying rent.
So after buying a car, with a loan to build my credit score, we started to save money toward a down payment.
5. Having kids
If you are in your thirties and have been married for a few years, you are probably aware of social pressure about having kids. I feel like it’s especially harder on women.
Seriously, for our 6 years wedding anniversary we went to a nice restaurant to celebrate and the waiter asked how many kids we had.
We are used to this, so we automatically started joking with the fact that we have a cat. But sometimes it can be uncomfortable.
As of today, we are not planning on having kids in the near future and it feels weird to have to justify our choice to strangers. Don’t you think?
My American Dream Checklist
- Having a dream job: Check
- Getting married: Check
- Owning two cars: Check
- Owning a house: Check
- Having kids: on hold for now
How the old American Dream made me feel
I feel that the old model of the American Dream is too much focused on consuming goods like owning a car and a house that you can’t afford.
The deeper into the American Dream, the higher your monthly payment, and you have to make a certain amount of money to be able to afford your lifestyle.
Since my husband is still a student, we are living on my income. So I had to make enough money to cover our monthly mortgage and two car payments. It can get very expensive in the Seattle area. So I was stuck in jobs in the tech industry to make sure to bring home enough money to cover our lifestyle.
On top of feeling stuck, I was always stressing about losing my job. The tech industry is always changing so they might not need you quickly. Especially in my line of work.
Feeling stuck and anxious all the time led me to a mental health crisis in 2016. I decided to make changes and went to the doctor who diagnosed me with anxiety and moderate major depression.
Basically, my work was my life, and when I got home I was too tired to do anything but binge-watch Netflix.
On top of feeling depressed, I was feeling guilty because after all, I was closer to the American Dream than most of my friends.
So who the hell was I to be depressed?
I had it all: the amazing job, the perfect husband, the cars, the cozy house. But I was missing something: happiness.
What Is The American Dream Like Today
After talking to a few of my friends I realized that I wasn’t alone. Actually, a lot of them are feeling the same. This is why I think it’s time to redefine the American Dream.
The truth is that the old model was focussing on security because of the great depression. But our generation grew up in a pretty secure economy so we don’t feel the need to worry about similar areas of life. Instead, our worries are going toward our wellbeing.
So here’s what I think defines the new American Dream.
(Feel free to share your own definition in the comments)
1. Financial Freedom
Money can be stressful, especially when you feel stuck because you have an expensive lifestyle.
One topic that we talk about a lot with my husband and some of my friends, is how to become debt-free.
Especially once my husband will be done with school in a few months, we will have to pay around 70k of student loans on top of our house and one car.
Sometimes, we are talking about moving away from the city to get a cheaper home but then it would make it harder for my husband to have clients for therapy.
So it’s a bit tricky, I will keep you posted on our progress on this.
2. Being your own boss
A few of my friends in the USA are working on their own business on top of having full-time jobs. I also have a friend talking about quitting his engineering job to buy a farm in South Africa.
I think it’s because technology is getting better to work faster and because of that, employers are expecting more work is done which leads us to burn out.
The irony is that if you want to create your own business, you will probably work longer hours than if you are in corporate.
It also goes with the Financial Freedom aspect of the new American Dream. Our jobs are no longer secure so being your own boss would help you know where you stand anytime.
The past couple of years we talked a lot about getting an RV and traveling around Canada and the USA for a year.
The funny thing is that more and more people are doing it every year. I actually have a friend in France who just took a break from work to travel around the country with his wife and two kids.
Why should we wait for retirement to see the world?
4. Health and wellness
I don’t know if it’s because I am getting older but I feel like we are more caring about our wellbeing than we used to.
People are starting to talk a lot about:
- Healthy food
- Mental health
Save For Later
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Over to you
How would you define the American Dream today?