Close your eyes for 10 seconds and imagine one thing: The American Dream.
2 kids. 1 dog. White picket fences. Perfect lawns. Husbands wearing fedoras as they happily wave to their neighbor watering their prized azaleas as said husband is off to his office job with all the other husbands. Wives standing at the kitchen sink, gently putting a fresh apple pie on the windowsill to cool while her children play Candyland happily in the other room (note: she does this only because she is totally and completely fulfilled in her work as a mother and wife, not because she isn’t able to get a job).
And then there is my life:
3 kids. 2 dogs. No picket fence. A spotty lawn with broken sprinklers (hello, honey-do list!). Husband shuffling out before the sun is up, let alone the neighbors, usually dressed in nearly his pajamas. Me, standing at the kitchen sink, washing yet another load of kid cups. Me, having never made a fresh apple pie. My children watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates in the other room, while only not picking fights with each other when The Pirate Princess or Marina is on the screen.
Does this mean I am not living the American Dream?
By todays standards, The American Dream revolves around one thing: home ownership. Once you own a piece of American Soil, you’ve arrived.
Guess what… that’s not The American Dream.
[The American Dream] implies an opportunity for Americans to achieve prosperity through hard work… this includes the opportunity for one’s children to grow up and receive a good education and career without artificial barriers… the opportunity to make individual choices without the prior restrictions that limited people according to their class, caste, religion, race, or ethnicity. (emphasis mine) (source)
Real Estate makes an appearance in 1848, after well-educated Germans fled to the shores of America. F. W. Bogen wrote in The German in America (Boston, 1851),
[In America] wealth and possession of real estate confer not the least political right on its owner above what the poorest citizen has… In such a country the talents, energy and perseverance of a person … have far greater opportunity… (quoted in Stephen Ozment, A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People (2004) pp 170–71)
Yes, in America, you are ABLE to buy a piece of the soil. We are not limited in our opportunities due to our race, religion, or economic status. Which is a part of the problem.
Just because the poorest of citizens CAN possess real estate does not mean that they should. Home ownership should be a blessing because you’ve “achieved prosperity based on hard work”, not because you’ve worked the credit system to make
people some computerized system think you have! This, friends, is the reason housing values plummeted and many people walked away (sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of greed for a bigger/better house). People were given loans to buy houses based on the money they used that they didn’t actually earn/have. I know, because we were one of them.
We purchased our home in 2004, and rolled our consumer debt into a 2nd mortgage. We had a pretty great credit score (I seem to remember some high-fiving going on when we realized it was over 750), but we had absolutely NO business buying a home. We were a financial mess. A train wreck. But, we were livin’ The Dream.
When the housing market tanked, and our house was worth $250k LESS than our 1st mortgage was for, we could have walked away. Though we could have landed in a much newer abode, we opted to stick it out, make our payments. Not only were we able to make our payments, we paid off our debts during the downturn!
In the nearly 5 years of our journey to become and stay debt free, I have never found my worth in STUFF. That’s exactly what a house is… STUFF. It’s not your health. It’s not your family. It’s not your happiness. It’s not your passion. It’s not your dream. It’s not your life’s work.
It’s your STUFF. Just like your car is stuff. Your TV is stuff…
Owning a home is not a measure of your worth, nor ability to have a fulfilled and incredible life.
We here are GPS value prosperity through hard work, perseverance, and energy. We value the American Dream… the REAL American Dream. Not the dream fabricated to make you feel like you have to spend money that isn’t yours to keep up with the people you don’t even know.
If you need someone to hold your feet to the American Dream fire, we’re here to help.