Thomas Jefferson wrote that Americans have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He did not say that we had the right to happiness itself. We have to work for happiness. It will not just be handed to us. The same can be true of the American Dream. In today’s financial crisis, we have lost sight of that fact a little bit. We have become accustom to easy credit, a prosperous stock market, McMansions, and the like. We seem to think that we are owed our grand lifestyle and should not have to work hard for it. We are not entitled to the American Dream. If that were the case, it would have been called the American entitlement or just the American way of life.
A dream is a goal, and goals are lofty…at least good ones are. Home ownership is a goal, not a right. Much like owning a nice car is not a right of passage in our lives. It is something to be worked and sacrificed for in order to have. In our troubled times, we need to get back to the mindset that renting is okay while we save for our down payments and repair our credit scores. We need to keep in mind that the stock market cannot continue to go up indefinitely. If dreams and goals were easy, everyone would be doing it, and they would not be our goals anymore. They would just be our stepping stones on to the real goals.
The American Dream is not dead. It is the bright shining star just out of our reach. Maybe the past few months, the star moved just a little further away, but it is still there shining down on us. The American economy will bounce back. We will keep buying homes, sending our kids to college, and trying to make their lives just a little easier than ours were when we grew up. It will just take us a little bit longer to reach.
What do you think? Is home ownership still the American Dream? Does the dream need to change? What is the dream now? I’d love to hear your thoughts.