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The American Dream and obsession with wealth

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Crown Royal, Jul 23, 2014.

  1. Crown Royal

    Crown Royal
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    Just call me Topher

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    The American Dream was a term coined to describe what an ideal but humble middle-class life: An income to support your family, a car, a house, education for your kids, security, food on the table and a vacation every year etc. The idea of it is not to be obscenely wealthy, but basically have a decent life for yourself and your family if you choose to start/raise one.

    In the past decade or so it seems that despite the fact that a lot of people don't even have this average lifestyle, it just isn't good enough. Pop culture and various talking heads have established that you need to be rich, famous and beautiful or you don't matter and if you were to just work a little harder, it will magically drop in your lap. I don't understand this thinking. The "American Dream" isn't really American, or a dream. It's a reality that can happen for most people so as long as bad shit doesn't happen/has happened or you're not a consummate fuck-up. The real dream is becoming rich, and to quote George Carlin "It's a dream because you have to be asleep to believe it".

    I had a solid, decent, and well-remembered upbringing. My parents were solid middle-class and I never had to complain. If we drove though a neighbourhood filled with giant homes, we never thought to ourselves "This will be us someday. We deserve this" it was more along the lines of "These people sure are lucky, but oh well life is good." I think that's what I personally want out of life: I don't need to be rich, just have a decent life where it never comes to digging through others' trash in order to survive (if it does, hopefully they will be fancy Jean-Paul Gauthier brand garbage bags with the platinum tie-handles). A life good enough that you have an opportunity to LIVE IT.

    It's not like we don't want to be rich, I'm willing to bet 99.9% (including myself)wish we were in the back of our minds. Some board members like LessTalkMoreStab ARE already wealthy. it would be a in fact a dream to have stress-free finances for life but unfortunately for the majority of us it doesn't work that way. And instead of dreaming about it, we realize have to take our reality head-on for our own sake and even more our loved ones.

    Focus: Are you currently happy with your lifestyle situation? Is being rich what you want, is money meaningless, or is the "American Dream"-style comfy middle class life just fine and dandy? How do you aspire your lifestyle and so-called "Social Status"?

    EDIT: This is NOT a thread to start Class War wealth-attacking, OWS-inspired bullshit. Not even a little bit.
     
  2. Juice

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    I want to be rich. I don't care about money that much, but I care about that the freedom it brings. I want to be able to do anything what I want without a second consideration. My personal aspiration is be able to have enough money to buy a Ferrari. Its a pretty arbitrary and materialistic goal, but its a personal one, for better or worse. I may or may not get there in my current career track, I may need to start diversifying and looking into secondary income streams, but a good quote from the sub-par movie Boiler Room is, "Anyone who says money doesn't buy happiness, doesn't fucking have any." And like I said, it doesnt buy happiness, it buys the freedom to do what you want to make yourself happy.

    This x2. Any BS in that realm results in a ban.

    Bump.
     
  3. Jimmy James

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    As I've gotten older, I've found that the idea of having a bunch of wealth doesn't have the same appeal to me. As I've gone up on the pay scale, mo' money definitely means mo' problems. I thought that as I made more, I'd have more saved up since I lived pretty simply. But now I have a wife, two dogs, a goddamn house, two car payments, credit card payments to make the house a home, etc. We want to have children, which means saving for college, stuff for said children, and saving for retirement.

    At this point in the game, we'd be happy to have one of us making enough to keep the other home to raise the kids and take care of the house.
     
  4. xrayvision

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    I'm pretty happy in my current situation. I have a nice place in a good part of town that isn't breaking the bank. For Houston, that's quite a feat these days. I wish I made just a little more money to make things slightly more comfortable for myself. But I am also aware that I make more than the average family of 4 in this city, so I don't forget that I have it pretty good.

    If I had a roommate or something, it would be the equivalent of me making around 5 grand more per year which would make a big difference for me as far as savings go. But I can't put a price on my freedom and independence. I don't like sharing my place or my bathroom or have to worry about being considerate of someone else. That sounds terrible but when I come home after work, I want to turn on the tv to what I want to watch, sit next to my dog and not think for a while.

    Doing what I do will not make me rich by any means. I would have to completely change careers or take on a terrible job where I would be babysitting people who don't give a shit about anything. I do strive for more so I can secure my future and retirement better, but I can't forget that there are people who probably envy what I have right now. Mostly because I didn't knock up some gutter trash and have a bunch of kids that I can't support.
     
  5. whathasbeenseen

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    I think this has changed for me with time and circumstance. I've never been a money driven person but just wanted to be comfortable. The culture of where I live is defined by the ability to go to the beach, hang out with friends, have the occasional barbecue and go fishing. People here don't really care about what you drive or what your house looks like. They care if you're an asshole and if you put all of your focus onto work or if you put it into family. That mentality has leaked into our lives in a major way. People here do what they need to do to get by and be able to support their community and not much more. I like that. I like this life. Things are relatively cheap here so my wife doesn't have to work. I freelance from home for one client who I used to work for in the UK. They give me a pretty wide berth as long as I get them their deliverables.

    On a side note, from Crown's post:

    I spoke to my nephew a few years ago. He asked me for money (He was about 15 at the time) and complained that he never had anything. I told him that I'd give him two options: A business plan and $50 seed money with all of the advice and help I could offer or $100 and I couldn't promise him that I'd ever give him money again. He was initially intrigued about the business plan so I laid out how he could start a snow shoveling business in the winter and a landscape business when the weather changed. I laid it out conservatively and said that if he got started that weekend he'd be able to afford a decent truck by the next summer and expand his business. He thought about it for a day or so and opted for the $100.

    I have rarely spoken to him since that day. The fundamental problem with he and his sister (who says she just wants to be famous) is that they want something for nothing, preferably less than nothing. I don't really understand.
     
  6. JWags

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    I think its all a matter of perspective. Not so much in appreciating what you have, but a realistic view of what it is to be "wealthy" and how to get there. I've been accused by a few people being too "money focused" especially when talking about my life aspirations. But at the same time, I'm the son of an entrepreneur who is now "wealthy" when prior to that, he was destined for a sort of middle class "comfort" people talked about. He also didn't become monetarily successful until I was in my late teens, so I was in a position to see the work involved, but also the tangibility of it all. The problem with alot of the people "expecting" to be wealthy is like whathasbeenseen's nephew, they just think it happens.

    Juice's point about freedom is the key for my mentality as well. Whether it be not stressing about mortgage payments or being able to vacation in foreign countries and not have to stay in sketchy hotels to do it, that freedom is what makes monetary aspiration make sense. Not everyone wants a Ferrari (I want a Tesla personally) or a massive house or to travel widely, but I think almost everyone, simple or not, has a hobby or interest that would be alot easier or more fun with a bigger wallet.

    As much fun as being a billionaire would be, I don't want to be so rich that you get alot of the unpleasant aspects that go along with it. There are thousands of people worth $10-$50mm that have tons of toys, can do cool shit, and have complete anonymity as far as 90% of the population is concerned, thats the dream for me. You can have a normal family life, but not want for almost anything.
     
  7. Noland

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    I married really well. 'Nuff said.
     
  8. Kubla Kahn

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    Im not sure where Ill fall on this subject. Im extending my adolescence to damn near 30. Ill get back to you a few years once Ive settled on a career and what that'll mean for my living situation. Me personally, having watched my dad die of cancer in his early fifties I can tell you busting my ass 50-60 hours a week to the exclusion of friends, family, and my happiness is not very appealing simply to provide a wealthier lifestyle. Im not driven by work, Im not satisfied any more in my life if I put in extra effort in this regard, not something I'd admit in interviews for sure.

    We had a big discussion a few weeks ago about millenials and I think this plays a big part of it for me. The whole concept of the American dream was to work hard and leave your children better off than you were. At some point there is a a disconnect between being better off and being happy. The portion of my generation which I'd fall into, don't see the stress of the modern day middle class lifestyle as something worth the squeeze, so to say. Huge debt from schooling, home owner debt, cars, corporate job bullshit. I think a lot in my generation reject the notion that you should just grit and bare the bullshit that comes along with a career and all the rest. I wouldn't consider myself better off than my parents if I hated my life due to the daily grind trying to do better for any future kids I might have.

    The buzz phrase being tossed around about this is the "work life balance." The new paradigm seems to be that millenials are expecting their social lives to be more represented in their work day, with social media, team building, happy hour events, ect. We've had research studies done at my job as companies, some at least, are trying to cope with this. Hell this doesn't even mean young people aren't willing to bust their ass to get ahead, just that the soul sucking corporation management system is not what we want in a career.

    I think keeping up with the jones is a stupid way to live but enjoying the finer things in life is always nice. In today's technological world leisure time enjoyment can be had very cheaply. Comfort isn't hard to come by with 60 inch plasmas, blu rays, tablets, etc. While this is good in most regards it has given rise to the instant gratification culture that outcrops into celebrity worship to a stronger degree than it used to be.

    On the other hand my older brother seems to be the exact opposite of me as far as this subject. He's done very well for himself at his age (33). He's commented how much he hates the corporate politics at his job and is unsatisfied in that aspect and would much rather make his mark owning his own business. He met some 30 something self made ultra millionaire while in China and wants to partner up with the guy hoping to have the same success. He is the exact opposite of the "keeping up with the jones" type but has said he would not be satisfied with how much he'd end up making staying in his current field, my conservative guess is that he could end up retiring making 500k a year type money at his current rate. Im not sure if he's truly money driven or driven more by success in general. I wish I had the drive he does though.
     
  9. xrayvision

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    This kind of thing makes me think this is the reason the whole wave of homesteading/off the grid reality shows have gotten such traction. It shows a simple no bullshit lifestyle where you appreciate little things and live on little to no money. I know after a day of putting up with my unintelligent and ineffective boss, I think of those shows and become envious.
     
  10. Crown Royal

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    Let's face it: it's nice to have nice things. I have nothing but respect for people who are able to chase their dreams and accomplish it in a self-made way.
     
  11. Now Slappy

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    I think whathasbeenseen hit the nail on the head. There's a certain number of young people(by no means all) that feel they should have the world laid at their feet without the required work. My wife and I are what I would consider very comfortable right now, but this came at a price. We had to sacrifice things like time off, vacations, nights out with our friends, ect. To a certain extent we still do. I work seven days a week, although now I don't have to be here every hour we're open and we're able to take occasional short vacations with our kids. But even a day off for me consists of 3 or 4 hours here at the bar/restaurant.

    This is what I chose to do, so with every monetary benefit that comes with owning your own business, there also come sacrifices that usually come in the form of your time.
     
  12. CharlesJohnson

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    Consumerism bothers me. People making 100k, 500k are still living pay check to paycheck because they buy crap. 6 bedroom houses for a family of 3, luxury cars, shit to fill the house. My cousin refinanced a 90k house for 200k, had to declare bankruptcy not even a year later. Other cousin makes 100k a year and has nothing saved, been through bankruptcy also, but has 2 Rolexes. Growing up, my mom and I lived ok, until we didn't in my teens. Because we were stupid. Then it was paycheck to paycheck, and once that clicked, it scared the shit out of me. It left a serious impression on me. No matter how much I make I will always be terrified of the idea being dependent on the whims of a boss, the market, my own stupid purchases, whatever. Fuck that. So, yeah, I want to be rich.

    My number one goal is that my mother stay retired. I worked a shit-ass retail job for over two years, I'd go straight back to it if I had to. My second goal is to fill my gut with good wine, be able to go to the places I want to see when I want to see them, and generally live in peace. These are not necessarily expensive goals of mine. I travel cheap, I eat what's on sale (and eat damn well), I live pretty goddamn frugally and that will not change. Living below your means is a great attitude. Occasionally getting something extravagant like a bottle of Chateau Margaux is icing. I don't give much of a fuck about the other possessions as long as I have a roof over my egg shaped head. Nothing wrong with being rich. That I can help friends as well? Wonderful. There is nothing wrong with a healthy attitude towards greed. Money is freedom. To me, it's safety. I don't believe money brings problems inherently. I'd rather have it than worry about how I'm going to afford a family, education, medical, and the thousands of surprises life loves to sodomize people with.
     
  13. The Village Idiot

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    I've been on both ends of the spectrum. When I was practicing law, my dad was sick without health insurance, so despite making ok money, I was really poor. I continued practicing law when my dad died, and unfortunately had to support my mom financially. So again, despite making ok money, I was really poor. I was working 60-80 hours a week, didn't take a vacation for 7 years, and ended up further in debt. It was a shitty lifestyle.

    Now? I work 25-30 hours a week (finally!) and have begun work on my book, which is what I wanted to do all along. I'm fortunate enough, like Noland, to have married well financially. My wife makes enough money that we're comfortable. We don't sweat rent or food, and for me that's great. I get to handle everything around the house, and work 30 hours a week doing something I love. I pursue interests that would bore the ever loving shit out of most people. From a financial standpoint, I'm luckier than 95% of the people out there.

    That being said, I'd love to make a fuckload of money. Nothing would make me happier than making millions writing. I wouldn't tell my wife. I'd go out, buy a house, put two nice cars in the garage, and wait. What would I wait for? Her to have an unbelievably shitty day, then bring her to the house and tell her 'we're covered, quit.'

    Yes, I'd like 'Fuck You' money. Not for the things it could buy, but for the 'not having to take bullshit for money' that it would buy. What a sweet day that would be. For me, money = freedom to do what you want. The nice things would be cool, but the ability to always have an out? That would be totally worth it.
     
  14. shimmered

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    I like money.
    Money lets me travel, buy things I like, and of course - feed/clothe/house my kids. Having money, and a reassurance that I can earn more money, is security like nothing else.
    I like working.
    I'm too goddamn talented, driven, and hardworking to NOT work.

    I don't care about having a huge home or luxury car. I want a home (which we have) that is comfortable, safe, holds value, that I can be happy and proud to have people visit. Obviously, enough room for a cat, dog, two teen boys, and us is necessary.
    I don't care about expensive purses or wallets (which is apparently an army wife thing? I don't know. I hate carrying a purse.), though I do enjoy spending money on clothing that will last beyond a season and will actually be timeless.

    I don't need money so I have things. I need money so I have security. Having security lets me experience things I want to experience.
     
  15. Juice

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    #15 Juice, Jul 24, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2015
  16. Parker

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    My parents grew up poor. Then both of them navigated themselves into the middle class, yet they still had the grew up poor mentality. Saving money was more important than anything else, they never bought anything extravagant even if they could afford it.

    To paraphrase Adam Carolla "I don't want fuck you money, I want fuck me money. I want to have so much money I can fuck myself over and still have fuck you money."

    Now, that's what I want, but I also don't want to lose my youth and life to get to it. I firmly believe in work to live not live to work. No problem staying late and work, putting in hours, but I don't want to be cancelling vacations and holidays over corporate bullshit. In terms of money, right now at 28, I have a few friends making more than me and a few making less than me. I'd feel pretty damn comfortable now if I didn't have student loans, even though I'm about 10-15k behind pace where I should be in my mind. I'd be perfectly fine with upper middle class so I could go on vacations and do what I want to do without having to worry if we can afford it. I only want to be concerned with "Can I afford it?" if I'm talking about a large boat or personal airplane.

    Primarily I never want to hesitate looking at the following things: restaurant menus/wine lists, 4 star hotel prices, 30-day out airfares, and everday use home furniture/appliance purchases.

    Luckily my career path allows me to escalate to that level where I'll be comfortable. Given that the SO and I don't plan on having kids, that also gives us lots of extra cash.
     
  17. silway

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    I would like to be rich for the ability to not stress over expenses, provide for my wife and future kids, and build a long term legacy for my descendants to come. It's going to be a while in coming since I have a lot of law school debt weighing me down, but I think I can get there. Luckily, I plan to do it by helping people like Jimmy James and others plan *their* long term finances, which means that I not only feel good about what I do day to day, but I also have the knowledge necessary to do it for myself and am implementing it.

    Growing up, however, the American Dream was defined to me as each generation being better off than the previous. My parents were x, I will be x+1, my kids will be x+2, and so on. And the ability to choose your destiny more than most places. I think these are both still possible and even thriving, but not everyone is going to have those chances, even here, and I think we're focusing on those people, and the ultra rich, in popular media a lot more than the quietly successful people all around us.
     
  18. xrayvision

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    I would like to be in a place where if something happened to me or my family or my dog, I won't be completely fucked financially. I don't want an insurance deductible or a vet bill to own me for a few years. If my car breaks down in a big way, I don't know what I would do right now.

    That's the shit that keeps me up at night.
     
  19. E. Tuffmen

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    This. Exactly this. I'd be happy just having enough. Enough to pay off my house and my monthly bills. Enough to afford a couple of nice cars and the maintenance that goes along with them. Enough to afford to pay for emergencies around the house. Oh, HVAC blew up? "Take five grand out of the bank and get a new one installed." "It's okay there's plenty left." Enough to have a nice chunk of savings to protect my wife and family should something happen to me. And enough so that we can comfortably afford to go pretty much anywhere we choose for a couple of weeks a year without it being an issue. That would be fucking bliss.
     
  20. Aetius

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    The most valuable thing money can buy is the ability not to care. In college I had to care about every little thing I spent money on. The difference at Chipotle between getting guac or not mattered. How frequently I ate out mattered. But now I have the luxury of not giving a fuck, and making the decision purely on whether I want it or not.

    Ideally I'd like the ability to not give a fuck about anything I could reasonably want to do. Go on a trip? Don't need to give a fuck about the money. Pick up a hobby? Don't give a fuck.

    As it stands I make a good living, but I'm paranoid about the economic ruin the Baby Boomers have in store for us, so I save most of it.

    Fun Fact: My current salary is more than 6X my 2013 expenses. For everything.