I don’t really understand the American Dream. At one point or another I guess it made sense, and I was convinced that it’s what I wanted with my life as well. The house, the family, the white picket fence, the pension after 20 faithful years of service to a company. Wait, what do you mean that doesn’t happen anymore? Pensions are a thing of the past? Well shit I guess if they’re just going to change stuff on us, we need to change our values as well.
We need a New American Dream. It can still involve the house and the family, but we need to do something to replace the non-existent pensions in today’s workplace. We need a way to combat the dependency on Social Security, because who knows if it’s even going to exist when Gen X/Y/Z go to retire? I’ve been saying for a while now that I’m planning my retirement as if Social Security won’t be there. It isn’t a guarantee like it once was, so what should we do instead?
The realization that you need an alternative to a government retirement check is a great first step. The second thing you need is an idea of what you want your life to be like. If you don’t give in to the “Wahhhh! I’m so broke! It’s everybody’s fault but mine!” mentality then you stand a chance at making your life match your dreams. The great part is that unlike the old American Dream, we don’t all need the same thing. The New American Dream is all about options, and the possibilities are limitless.
The concept of working a 40-hours a week didn’t exist ever in the 10,000+ years that humans have lived civilized lifestyles until the Industrial Revolution. Until then, people just did what they needed to do to survive. It wasn’t about commercialism, or saving up to buy fancy new things, it was about acquiring legitimate necessities like shelter, clothing, food and water. People spent the bulk of their time with family and friends. This was the typical behavior for thousands of years, going as far back as the hunter/gatherers. They would work for about 3 days collecting food, then they would take a week off to eat and play games.
Don’t misunderstand me, though. I’m not saying that people didn’t work 40-hour workweeks, it just wasn’t the only way to make a living. You were deemed successful solely on your ability to provide for your family. It wasn’t uncommon to have a 3 hour workday, until people were forced into factory work, and prices on common goods began to rise. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and the quality of life has continually decreased over time. You may say life is great, but you spend half of your waking hours behind a desk, working for someone else’s agenda.
Regardless of how or what you do to earn your living is irrelevant to the overall achievement of the Dream. All you need is a clear understanding of what it means to you. What do you want from life? Are your goals realistic? Do people tell you that your goals aren’t realistic because they go against social norms? Do you not have any goals at all?
Whether or not you have clear, defined goals now won’t hinder you from becoming successful, but it may be a good time to start thinking about what you really want in life. Do you want to work until you’re old enough to draw from your 401k/IRA (59 1/2 years old)? Would you rather be a corporate slave or work for yourself? How does early retirement sound? Did you even know that was an option? It isn’t conventional, but it’s the 21st-century. You don’t need a “conventional” lifestyle, because, hell, the current definition of the word only covers about the last 300 years.