Author Topic: The "American Dream" is unachievable  (Read 13042 times)

Ohio Teacher

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The "American Dream" is unachievable
« on: June 04, 2014, 09:24:56 AM »
Another doomsayer article from our friends at CNN Money.  The definition of the "American Dream" is open for interpretation by the poll respondents, but I would define it as the freedom to pursue one's interests and FI, a view that MMM has helped me see is in fact achievable.

http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/04/news/economy/american-dream/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

MoneyCat

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2014, 11:23:42 AM »
Part of the classic "American Dream" (as far as I know it) is to be able to own your own house and retire when you are old with some kind of security.  All of that is absolutely achievable.  Maybe you can't buy a giant McMansion with a two car garage and acres and acres of land in a tony suburb, but it is possible to get an affordable house, especially if you are willing to work on a fixer-upper in a less desirable location.  For example, it's pretty much impossible to afford a brownstone in Manhattan anymore, but most people could definitely afford a house in upstate NY north of Westchester County.

As for retirement, cut your spending during your working life and save that money.  It is possible to live on very little of your pay while putting everything else away.  Ever since I started reading MMM, I've been putting away more than 50% of my income.  Americans need to reject consumerism and get back to the way people lived before our lives were completely overwhelmed by marketing. 

People need to get back to learning life skills like cooking, sewing, gardening, construction, etc. instead of just paying for someone else's skills.  There is absolutely no reason why the "American Dream" has to die, even during the worst economic times.

Jamesqf

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2014, 10:02:54 PM »
...but it is possible to get an affordable house, especially if you are willing to work on a fixer-upper in a less desirable location.  For example, it's pretty much impossible to afford a brownstone in Manhattan anymore, but most people could definitely afford a house in upstate NY north of Westchester County.

Then consider the problem of the mindset that considers upstate New York (outside of some of the cities) to be a less desirable location for retirement than Manhattan.

frugalecon

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2014, 04:09:45 AM »
I agree with the OP's implicit point that part of the problem is definitional, what people consider to be the "American Dream." My parents probably thought they had achieved the American Dream when they were in their 30s, living in a 3 bedroom, 1 bath house, driving a used station wagon, using "vacations" to work on the house, growing our own food in the gardens, doing a lot of canning and preserving. Nowadays the American Dream is much more...expansive. BMW 3 series, eating out > 50% of meals, copious technology, a house cleaner, designer clothes, not to mention a turnkey updated house with all of the bells and whistles. People's expectations have changed. Advertising says it all. How often do you see the word "luxury" in advertisements? Certainly never saw that back in the 70s.

Worsted Skeins

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2014, 06:06:00 AM »
One of the poll questions concerns whether kids will be "better off" than their parents.  I am not even sure about the context of that question--better off how?  As stated in the article, young families are often earning more; they are just not saving. 

Just another whine-fest...


homeymomma

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2014, 06:08:10 AM »
I'm in a mood today so this is probably going to sound a little complainy-pants. My husband and I are in our late twenties, a perfectly normal time to have kids (in ye good ol days), with our second baby on the way. I'm a SAHM. We'd define the American dream at the moment as owning a very modest two or three bedroom house, a reasonable distance from work, and work at a job that is stable in terms of pay and longevity of employment. Neither of those things appear to be in reach, even though my husband is master's educated and a hard worker. We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC). Owning a home, while living a simple life with a parent at home to raise kids, while one works at a 9-5 to pay the bills, seems laughably unattainable.

Winston

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2014, 06:47:43 AM »
We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC).

I think your main problem is the high COL area you are in... is your husband's job something that can be done elsewhere, or is it specifically tied to DC?

frugalecon

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2014, 07:09:09 AM »
One of the poll questions concerns whether kids will be "better off" than their parents.  I am not even sure about the context of that question--better off how?  As stated in the article, young families are often earning more; they are just not saving. 

Just another whine-fest...

It would be interesting to see what choices people would make if they could choose between prices, income, and product availability today vs. what their parents had at a comparable time in life. The available bundles are very different. It would be even more interesting if you had to choose to live under the same social norms as your parents did. Fewer opportunities for women, open discrimination against certain racial groups and gays and lesbians, etc.

Elyse

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2014, 07:39:21 AM »
Owning a home, while living a simple life with a parent at home to raise kids, while one works at a 9-5 to pay the bills, seems laughably unattainable.

That is because we as a society have developed into two-income households.  Yes, it will be harder for one income households. 

Obviously as mustachians, we know it is doable. 

But since women joined the workforce, equality between races, and more acceptance of foreign workers... supply and demand will push what one income can accomplish down.  And that doesn't even take into account the "normal" families that have cable, two cars, loans, credit cards, etc.  That wasn't normal a few decades ago.  Obviously that doesn't apply to us, just making a general population observation.

I'm a woman, and I quite enjoy being equal and being able to get whatever job I choose.  But it can't be denied that doubling the workforce had a negative effect on one-income households.  I'm in no way saying that it was wrong to do so or that it should be undone.  Just that we need to realize that when two-income households are the norm, a one-income household will feel the strain.

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Worsted Skeins

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2014, 10:12:15 AM »

It would be interesting to see what choices people would make if they could choose between prices, income, and product availability today vs. what their parents had at a comparable time in life. The available bundles are very different. It would be even more interesting if you had to choose to live under the same social norms as your parents did. Fewer opportunities for women, open discrimination against certain racial groups and gays and lesbians, etc.

Yup.

The follow up that dude linked contains this bit:
Quote
Certified financial planner Mari Adam of Boca Raton, Fla., works with a couple - a welder and a nurse - whose joint income is less than $75,000. But, Adam said, "they're very happy with what they have. And the irony is they have more saved than some people who make two or three times more than they do."

Imagine that!  ; )

My parents defined frugal and probably viewed many aspects of my life as extravagant.  Yet if my husband and I were to compare our lives to many of his work colleagues I think we would be at the basic end of things in terms of housing, cars, boats (only kayaks and canoes vs. fancy sail or power boats).

I suspect that many people who quote the platitude that money does not buy happiness may not really believe this at their core. 

Jack

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2014, 10:24:18 AM »
The follow up that dude linked contains this bit:
Quote
Certified financial planner Mari Adam of Boca Raton, Fla., works with a couple - a welder and a nurse - whose joint income is less than $75,000. But, Adam said, "they're very happy with what they have. And the irony is they have more saved than some people who make two or three times more than they do."

Imagine that!  ; )

Considering that that couple's $75,000 income is 50% higher than the US household median (as of 2011), they damn well should be happy and have decent savings!

Mississippi Mudstache

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2014, 10:49:14 AM »
I'm in a mood today so this is probably going to sound a little complainy-pants. My husband and I are in our late twenties, a perfectly normal time to have kids (in ye good ol days), with our second baby on the way. I'm a SAHM. We'd define the American dream at the moment as owning a very modest two or three bedroom house, a reasonable distance from work, and work at a job that is stable in terms of pay and longevity of employment. Neither of those things appear to be in reach, even though my husband is master's educated and a hard worker. We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC). Owning a home, while living a simple life with a parent at home to raise kids, while one works at a 9-5 to pay the bills, seems laughably unattainable.

I think the problem lies squarely at the feet of your location. I live in a low COL area, and my wife and I are living precisely the "American Dream" that you describe. We own a 3 BR 2 BA bungalow 5 miles from my office, we have 2 kids (oldest is 2, youngest is about to turn 1), and my wife stays home to care for our kids. My job is about as stable as you can ask for and I regularly receive reasonable raises and generous bonuses. I have a M.S. (although I would be better off today if I had entered the workforce right after my B.S.). We have a child with health problems that consume about 12% of our gross income, and yet we are still able to save about 40% of our gross income. I guess I'm wondering why you would stay where you are if your dreams seem, as you say, "unattainable" while you are there. There are a lot of fine places in this country that aren't Washington, D.C.

Jamesqf

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2014, 11:33:33 AM »
And that doesn't even take into account the "normal" families that have cable, two cars...

And then you have to figure that there's a considerable gap between having two cars, and having two NEW humongus gas-guzzling SUVs, or a NEW luxury sedan and NEW 4wd pickup.  ('NEW' here being anything you have to make payments on.)  I mean, I have two cars (actually a car & truck), but both together probably cost way less than half what the 'normal' familiy spends on one car. 

homeymomma

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2014, 02:49:31 PM »
We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC).

I think your main problem is the high COL area you are in... is your husband's job something that can be done elsewhere, or is it specifically tied to DC?

Well, it's not specifically tied to dc, but it's very tech/marketing/new construction specific. All of the jobs the company does are in dc and manhattan. He works a very weirdly niche job, in which they use aerial photography for a number of different functions, usually to assess various aspects of large (think super-skyscraper) building construction. He does (extreme) photo manipulation, digital building simulations, and the photography itself. He's a jack of all trades, but for a very narrow field...

He is quite sure any job that would pay as well as his current one will be near a large city like dc. I'm not sure this true but have no real reason to argue with him.

I'm in a mood today so this is probably going to sound a little complainy-pants. My husband and I are in our late twenties, a perfectly normal time to have kids (in ye good ol days), with our second baby on the way. I'm a SAHM. We'd define the American dream at the moment as owning a very modest two or three bedroom house, a reasonable distance from work, and work at a job that is stable in terms of pay and longevity of employment. Neither of those things appear to be in reach, even though my husband is master's educated and a hard worker. We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC). Owning a home, while living a simple life with a parent at home to raise kids, while one works at a 9-5 to pay the bills, seems laughably unattainable.

I think the problem lies squarely at the feet of your location. I live in a low COL area, and my wife and I are living precisely the "American Dream" that you describe. We own a 3 BR 2 BA bungalow 5 miles from my office, we have 2 kids (oldest is 2, youngest is about to turn 1), and my wife stays home to care for our kids. My job is about as stable as you can ask for and I regularly receive reasonable raises and generous bonuses. I have a M.S. (although I would be better off today if I had entered the workforce right after my B.S.). We have a child with health problems that consume about 12% of our gross income, and yet we are still able to save about 40% of our gross income. I guess I'm wondering why you would stay where you are if your dreams seem, as you say, "unattainable" while you are there. There are a lot of fine places in this country that aren't Washington, D.C.

Yes, I do think sometimes that all our problems would be solved by moving. Not quite sure how to get my husband's fire lit to do a real job search, though. While we live in a family home for free I'm not pushing it too hard, but in the next couple years I'm going to have to beg/plead/cajole him out of his current, comfy gig. He loves his job most days and it has great work/life balance, so it's a hard sell.

libertarian4321

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2014, 03:17:39 PM »
We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC). Owning a home, while living a simple life with a parent at home to raise kids, while one works at a 9-5 to pay the bills, seems laughably unattainable.

You'd be hard pressed to find a place LESS representative of America than Washington, DC.

It's an area represented by high income (beltway bandits, government fat cats), high costs, arrogant, self-important people, unfriendly people (they make New Yorkers look kind and warm hearted by comparison), no sense of community.  No one is actually from DC- they come from real parts of America, and are all just their to grab what they can for as long as they can stand living there.  If a person stays too long, he will become one of "them"- the vaguely humanoid, but not quite human, creatures that inhabit DC.

Just a wretched place.  I lived there for what seemed like 20 years, though it was actually only 3.

Grab your husband and children, toss them into the car, and GET OUT, before you become one of them...

Just drive 200 miles in any direction and you will be better off.


Eric

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2014, 03:23:10 PM »
Just drive 200 miles in any direction and you will be better off.

East?

homeymomma

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2014, 03:30:02 PM »
We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC). Owning a home, while living a simple life with a parent at home to raise kids, while one works at a 9-5 to pay the bills, seems laughably unattainable.

You'd be hard pressed to find a place LESS representative of America than Washington, DC.

It's an area represented by high income (beltway bandits, government fat cats), high costs, arrogant, self-important people, unfriendly people (they make New Yorkers look kind and warm hearted by comparison), no sense of community.  No one is actually from DC- they come from real parts of America, and are all just their to grab what they can for as long as they can stand living there.  If a person stays too long, he will become one of "them"- the vaguely humanoid, but not quite human, creatures that inhabit DC.

Just a wretched place.  I lived there for what seemed like 20 years, though it was actually only 3.

Grab your husband and children, toss them into the car, and GET OUT, before you become one of them...

Just drive 200 miles in any direction and you will be better off.

Bahahahahha. Soooo freaking true. I hate it here. (On the days I'm not actively trying to improve my attitude) I contemplate doing exactly that. I want to go and live in a cabin in the woods far, far away for anyone who even knows what the "beltway" is.

frugalecon

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #18 on: June 05, 2014, 04:21:49 PM »
Wow, painting with a pretty broad brush. I live in DC and, while it does have issues, there are some wonderful and authentic people there. I know quite a few!

Undecided

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2014, 06:16:36 PM »
...but it is possible to get an affordable house, especially if you are willing to work on a fixer-upper in a less desirable location.  For example, it's pretty much impossible to afford a brownstone in Manhattan anymore, but most people could definitely afford a house in upstate NY north of Westchester County.

Then consider the problem of the mindset that considers upstate New York (outside of some of the cities) to be a less desirable location for retirement than Manhattan.

You don't get tired of this, do you? I'm from upstate NY and lived in Manhattan before moving west. There's no place in NY that would be a top choice for retirement for me, but I'm not so egotistical as to think that others who think they'd be best served by Manhattan or Saranac or anywhere else must have a "problem" with their mindset.

Jamesqf

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #20 on: June 05, 2014, 11:05:42 PM »
There's no place in NY that would be a top choice for retirement for me, but I'm not so egotistical as to think that others who think they'd be best served by Manhattan or Saranac or anywhere else must have a "problem" with their mindset.

The problem is not with individuals making choices that reflect their own preferences (however bizarre I may think those choices), it's with the blanket statement in the post I was replying to, that Manhattan IS desirable*, as a matter of fact rather than personal taste.

*Which is disprovable, by simple math.  Per Wikipedia, the population of New York State is about 19.6 million, while the population of Manhattan is about 1.6 million.  Clearly, some 18 million New York State residents choose to live somewhere other than Manhattan :-)

Reepekg

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #21 on: June 05, 2014, 11:31:08 PM »
Just drive 200 miles in any direction and you will be better off.

East?

I lol'd at this.

The "American Dream" is stupid. I don't want a house, a car, or a stable job. Wish society would stop telling me I obviously want this. Time to start dreaming our own dreams.

greaper007

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #22 on: June 05, 2014, 11:37:49 PM »
Isn't the American Dream just to do what you want to do?   Sort of the opposite of what people in places like North Korea get to do.    I'm a stay at home dad sitting at home on a Thursday night drinking home brew and getting ready for a camping trip for the weekend.    If that isn't the American Dream, I don't know what is.    And it really doesn't cost that much.

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #23 on: June 06, 2014, 12:35:39 AM »
Wow, painting with a pretty broad brush. I live in DC and, while it does have issues, there are some wonderful and authentic people there. I know quite a few!

+1

rocksinmyhead

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #24 on: June 06, 2014, 07:42:56 AM »
Isn't the American Dream just to do what you want to do?   Sort of the opposite of what people in places like North Korea get to do.    I'm a stay at home dad sitting at home on a Thursday night drinking home brew and getting ready for a camping trip for the weekend.    If that isn't the American Dream, I don't know what is.    And it really doesn't cost that much.

just wanted to say this sounds absolutely delightful in every way.

CarDude

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #25 on: June 06, 2014, 07:48:57 AM »
Just drive 200 miles in any direction and you will be better off.

East?

Gave me a snort. :D

CarDude

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #26 on: June 06, 2014, 07:49:16 AM »
Isn't the American Dream just to do what you want to do?   Sort of the opposite of what people in places like North Korea get to do.    I'm a stay at home dad sitting at home on a Thursday night drinking home brew and getting ready for a camping trip for the weekend.    If that isn't the American Dream, I don't know what is.    And it really doesn't cost that much.

just wanted to say this sounds absolutely delightful in every way.

Seconded.

CarDude

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #27 on: June 06, 2014, 07:53:23 AM »
I agree with the OP's implicit point that part of the problem is definitional, what people consider to be the "American Dream." My parents probably thought they had achieved the American Dream when they were in their 30s, living in a 3 bedroom, 1 bath house, driving a used station wagon, using "vacations" to work on the house, growing our own food in the gardens, doing a lot of canning and preserving. Nowadays the American Dream is much more...expansive. BMW 3 series, eating out > 50% of meals, copious technology, a house cleaner, designer clothes, not to mention a turnkey updated house with all of the bells and whistles. People's expectations have changed. Advertising says it all. How often do you see the word "luxury" in advertisements? Certainly never saw that back in the 70s.

Yup...expectations are a huge part of it. Then again, advertisements are so much more pervasive now than they've ever been in history. But yeah, it reminds me of the research indicating that people tend to be happier if they make 2x more than their neighbors, even if x is a small value, than those who make .5x of their neighbors for large values of x. Basically, we want to feel we're doing at least as well as everyone else (and ideally better), and certainly not worse.

Undecided

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #28 on: June 06, 2014, 10:59:03 AM »
There's no place in NY that would be a top choice for retirement for me, but I'm not so egotistical as to think that others who think they'd be best served by Manhattan or Saranac or anywhere else must have a "problem" with their mindset.

The problem is not with individuals making choices that reflect their own preferences (however bizarre I may think those choices), it's with the blanket statement in the post I was replying to, that Manhattan IS desirable*, as a matter of fact rather than personal taste.

*Which is disprovable, by simple math.  Per Wikipedia, the population of New York State is about 19.6 million, while the population of Manhattan is about 1.6 million.  Clearly, some 18 million New York State residents choose to live somewhere other than Manhattan :-)

So Fords are more desirable than Ferraris, too?

Jamesqf

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #29 on: June 06, 2014, 11:42:07 AM »
So Fords are more desirable than Ferraris, too?

Maybe not Fords specifically, but a lot of vehicles are more desirable than a Ferrari.  Say you want to travel on rough dirt roads, carry backpack & dogs, carry a load of firewood or pull a horse trailer...  Ferraris just won't do those things.

Now I won't say that if I had unlimited money, I wouldn't have a Ferrari TOO (or in my case, a Lotus or Tesla Roadster), but it certainly wouldn't be desirable as an only vehicle. (Indeed, if I had a billion or so to spare, maybe I'd have a Manhattan penthouse too.)  But even if you factor out the price difference, you can get a Mazda Miata for about the price of typical compact/midsize sedans, so why don't more people drive them?

libertarian4321

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #30 on: June 06, 2014, 03:08:48 PM »
Just drive 200 miles in any direction and you will be better off.

East?

If you can find a road going 200 miles east of DC, go for it!

libertarian4321

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #31 on: June 06, 2014, 03:20:32 PM »
Wow, painting with a pretty broad brush. I live in DC and, while it does have issues, there are some wonderful and authentic people there. I know quite a few!

Yup.

Those are just the people who either can't get out (e.g. assigned there by the military as I was) or who haven't figured it out yet.

Just a horrible place.  Terrible traffic, wall to wall self-important a-holes, corruption in both the local and federal government, con men and chiselers everywhere, humidity that makes it seem hotter than Texas, pollution, brutally high COL, no right to vote (in the district proper), DC and Baltimore have ridiculously high murder rates, no sense of community at all.  Hell, even the sports teams SUCK.

DC was built on a fetid, disease infested swamp that no one wanted.

It's been all downhill since...





I

libertarian4321

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #32 on: June 06, 2014, 03:25:20 PM »
We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC). Owning a home, while living a simple life with a parent at home to raise kids, while one works at a 9-5 to pay the bills, seems laughably unattainable.

You'd be hard pressed to find a place LESS representative of America than Washington, DC.

It's an area represented by high income (beltway bandits, government fat cats), high costs, arrogant, self-important people, unfriendly people (they make New Yorkers look kind and warm hearted by comparison), no sense of community.  No one is actually from DC- they come from real parts of America, and are all just their to grab what they can for as long as they can stand living there.  If a person stays too long, he will become one of "them"- the vaguely humanoid, but not quite human, creatures that inhabit DC.

Just a wretched place.  I lived there for what seemed like 20 years, though it was actually only 3.

Grab your husband and children, toss them into the car, and GET OUT, before you become one of them...

Just drive 200 miles in any direction and you will be better off.

Bahahahahha. Soooo freaking true. I hate it here. (On the days I'm not actively trying to improve my attitude) I contemplate doing exactly that. I want to go and live in a cabin in the woods far, far away for anyone who even knows what the "beltway" is.

You need to get out before it's too late.

If your husband is there because he was forced to go there by the military or some other government agency, have him work the system to GET OUT.

There are a lot of crappy places to live in the USA, but I can't think of anyplace less desirable than DC.  If I was given a choice between DC and Detroit (a Hell-hole in it's own right), I'd take Detroit in a heart beat.

frugalecon

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #33 on: June 06, 2014, 03:34:58 PM »
We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC). Owning a home, while living a simple life with a parent at home to raise kids, while one works at a 9-5 to pay the bills, seems laughably unattainable.

You'd be hard pressed to find a place LESS representative of America than Washington, DC.

It's an area represented by high income (beltway bandits, government fat cats), high costs, arrogant, self-important people, unfriendly people (they make New Yorkers look kind and warm hearted by comparison), no sense of community.  No one is actually from DC- they come from real parts of America, and are all just their to grab what they can for as long as they can stand living there.  If a person stays too long, he will become one of "them"- the vaguely humanoid, but not quite human, creatures that inhabit DC.

Just a wretched place.  I lived there for what seemed like 20 years, though it was actually only 3.

Grab your husband and children, toss them into the car, and GET OUT, before you become one of them...

Just drive 200 miles in any direction and you will be better off.

Bahahahahha. Soooo freaking true. I hate it here. (On the days I'm not actively trying to improve my attitude) I contemplate doing exactly that. I want to go and live in a cabin in the woods far, far away for anyone who even knows what the "beltway" is.

You need to get out before it's too late.

If your husband is there because he was forced to go there by the military or some other government agency, have him work the system to GET OUT.

There are a lot of crappy places to live in the USA, but I can't think of anyplace less desirable than DC.  If I was given a choice between DC and Detroit (a Hell-hole in it's own right), I'd take Detroit in a heart beat.

I actually prefer DC to several other places I have lived. Great museums (many free), terrific theater scene, lots of restaurants, decent public transit, lots of international folks. I am also a member of a wonderful congregation, which brings me into contact with lots of thoughtful and good people. My life is arranged so the traffic doesn't really affect me, and i love my neighborhood. Overall, I would be happy to stay here, though it might make sense to cash out and move someplace cheaper at some point. For someone who likes urban amenities, though, DC can be attractive.

homeymomma

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #34 on: June 06, 2014, 03:40:04 PM »
We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC). Owning a home, while living a simple life with a parent at home to raise kids, while one works at a 9-5 to pay the bills, seems laughably unattainable.

You'd be hard pressed to find a place LESS representative of America than Washington, DC.

It's an area represented by high income (beltway bandits, government fat cats), high costs, arrogant, self-important people, unfriendly people (they make New Yorkers look kind and warm hearted by comparison), no sense of community.  No one is actually from DC- they come from real parts of America, and are all just their to grab what they can for as long as they can stand living there.  If a person stays too long, he will become one of "them"- the vaguely humanoid, but not quite human, creatures that inhabit DC.

Just a wretched place.  I lived there for what seemed like 20 years, though it was actually only 3.

Grab your husband and children, toss them into the car, and GET OUT, before you become one of them...

Just drive 200 miles in any direction and you will be better off.

Bahahahahha. Soooo freaking true. I hate it here. (On the days I'm not actively trying to improve my attitude) I contemplate doing exactly that. I want to go and live in a cabin in the woods far, far away for anyone who even knows what the "beltway" is.

You need to get out before it's too late.

If your husband is there because he was forced to go there by the military or some other government agency, have him work the system to GET OUT.

There are a lot of crappy places to live in the USA, but I can't think of anyplace less desirable than DC.  If I was given a choice between DC and Detroit (a Hell-hole in it's own right), I'd take Detroit in a heart beat.

I actually prefer DC to several other places I have lived. Great museums (many free), terrific theater scene, lots of restaurants, decent public transit, lots of international folks. I am also a member of a wonderful congregation, which brings me into contact with lots of thoughtful and good people. My life is arranged so the traffic doesn't really affect me, and i love my neighborhood. Overall, I would be happy to stay here, though it might make sense to cash out and move someplace cheaper at some point. For someone who likes urban amenities, though, DC can be attractive.
.

 I'm assuming your home is worth about 600K+++, depending on the neighborhood? I actually like many neighborhoods around and in dc, but they are simply out of our price range, as a single income family making slightly above the national average, not local average, salary.

frugalecon

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #35 on: June 06, 2014, 03:53:46 PM »


 I'm assuming your home is worth about 600K+++, depending on the neighborhood? I actually like many neighborhoods around and in dc, but they are simply out of our price range, as a single income family making slightly above the national average, not local average, salary.

Our house is worth a ridiculous amount...purchased 15 years ago before things went crazy. The high housing costs are definitely the biggest issue. Young people in my office end up with ridiculously long commutes. I am not surprised that it affects people's perceptions of the area. We were lucky to get in when we did.

Icecreamarsenal

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #36 on: June 06, 2014, 04:31:58 PM »

I agree with the OP's implicit point that part of the problem is definitional, what people consider to be the "American Dream." My parents probably thought they had achieved the American Dream when they were in their 30s, living in a 3 bedroom, 1 bath house, driving a used station wagon, using "vacations" to work on the house, growing our own food in the gardens, doing a lot of canning and preserving. Nowadays the American Dream is much more...expansive. BMW 3 series, eating out > 50% of meals, copious technology, a house cleaner, designer clothes, not to mention a turnkey updated house with all of the bells and whistles. People's expectations have changed. Advertising says it all. How often do you see the word "luxury" in advertisements? Certainly never saw that back in the 70s.
Well put.


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homeymomma

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #37 on: June 06, 2014, 05:12:09 PM »


 I'm assuming your home is worth about 600K+++, depending on the neighborhood? I actually like many neighborhoods around and in dc, but they are simply out of our price range, as a single income family making slightly above the national average, not local average, salary.

Our house is worth a ridiculous amount...purchased 15 years ago before things went crazy. The high housing costs are definitely the biggest issue. Young people in my office end up with ridiculously long commutes. I am not surprised that it affects people's perceptions of the area. We were lucky to get in when we did.

Another young family we know just purchased a tiny sh*#hole of a house in falls church. They were only able to do it because her parents gifted them 100K for the down payment. The house cost over 350K and they have no extra cash flow to fix it up. It's all original from the time the home was built many decades ago. There are many parts of the home that are unsafe for their kids but they are unable to fix.
Doesn't sound like the American dream to me. I'm really not meaning to be a complainy-pants. But many young people move to cities because that's where the jobs are. Unfortunately, housing prices are so far out of reach in many urban areas that the life stage that comes after get a job (I.e. buy a house, have kids) is stalled by the massive difference between salary and housing prices. At least this has been the case with everyone I know. Anyone my age who owns a home (in DC and otherwise) has only been able to buy because family has gifted them the down payment amount. We are no different. We are living with family to save up 60K for a down payment. Even with that amount, we are absolutely priced out of anywhere within an 1-1.5 hour commute of my husband's office. Definitely not mustachian!
« Last Edit: June 07, 2014, 07:42:48 AM by homeymomma »

warfreak2

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #38 on: June 06, 2014, 05:29:42 PM »

libertarian4321

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #39 on: June 06, 2014, 05:47:55 PM »
We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC). Owning a home, while living a simple life with a parent at home to raise kids, while one works at a 9-5 to pay the bills, seems laughably unattainable.

You'd be hard pressed to find a place LESS representative of America than Washington, DC.

It's an area represented by high income (beltway bandits, government fat cats), high costs, arrogant, self-important people, unfriendly people (they make New Yorkers look kind and warm hearted by comparison), no sense of community.  No one is actually from DC- they come from real parts of America, and are all just their to grab what they can for as long as they can stand living there.  If a person stays too long, he will become one of "them"- the vaguely humanoid, but not quite human, creatures that inhabit DC.

Just a wretched place.  I lived there for what seemed like 20 years, though it was actually only 3.

Grab your husband and children, toss them into the car, and GET OUT, before you become one of them...

Just drive 200 miles in any direction and you will be better off.

Bahahahahha. Soooo freaking true. I hate it here. (On the days I'm not actively trying to improve my attitude) I contemplate doing exactly that. I want to go and live in a cabin in the woods far, far away for anyone who even knows what the "beltway" is.

You need to get out before it's too late.

If your husband is there because he was forced to go there by the military or some other government agency, have him work the system to GET OUT.

There are a lot of crappy places to live in the USA, but I can't think of anyplace less desirable than DC.  If I was given a choice between DC and Detroit (a Hell-hole in it's own right), I'd take Detroit in a heart beat.

I actually prefer DC to several other places I have lived. Great museums (many free), terrific theater scene, lots of restaurants, decent public transit, lots of international folks. I am also a member of a wonderful congregation, which brings me into contact with lots of thoughtful and good people. My life is arranged so the traffic doesn't really affect me, and i love my neighborhood. Overall, I would be happy to stay here, though it might make sense to cash out and move someplace cheaper at some point. For someone who likes urban amenities, though, DC can be attractive.

"Great museums (many free),"

Every city has museums.  DC more than most.  So hit them up on a vacation, you don't have to live there.

"terrific theater scene, lots of restaurants, decent public transit,"

Same can be said of almost any decent sized city.  Most of which are far cheaper and nicer than DC.

"lots of international folks. "

You want international?  Try, for example, San Antonio, far more "diverse" than DC, at a fraction of the cost, a much lower violent crime rate,  and with a vibrant economy not built on government.

"I am also a member of a wonderful congregation, which brings me into contact with lots of thoughtful and good people. "

You can't swing a dead cat in the USA without hitting a church.  Unless you are into some very bizarre religious sect/cult only available in DC (The Church of our Holy Father, the grand exalted poo bah Marion Berry?), they probably have a church (or multiple churches) in every decent sized city in the USA that will serve the same purpose.

"My life is arranged so the traffic doesn't really affect me, and i love my neighborhood. Overall, I would be happy to stay here, though it might make sense to cash out and move someplace cheaper at some point. For someone who likes urban amenities, though, DC can be attractive."

Just sayin' that every "good" thing DC has, is available in dozens of other cities, usually at a much lower cost.  Without all the bad stuff that DC comes with.   I honestly can't think of anything that DC offers that can't be found elsewhere at a much lower cost- unless you just can't live without murder/violent crime and corruption. Explore your options, don't feel like you need to be stuck in DC. 

Take my word for it, there is life outside the beltway.


frugalecon

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #40 on: June 06, 2014, 06:49:52 PM »
We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC). Owning a home, while living a simple life with a parent at home to raise kids, while one works at a 9-5 to pay the bills, seems laughably unattainable.

You'd be hard pressed to find a place LESS representative of America than Washington, DC.

It's an area represented by high income (beltway bandits, government fat cats), high costs, arrogant, self-important people, unfriendly people (they make New Yorkers look kind and warm hearted by comparison), no sense of community.  No one is actually from DC- they come from real parts of America, and are all just their to grab what they can for as long as they can stand living there.  If a person stays too long, he will become one of "them"- the vaguely humanoid, but not quite human, creatures that inhabit DC.

Just a wretched place.  I lived there for what seemed like 20 years, though it was actually only 3.

Grab your husband and children, toss them into the car, and GET OUT, before you become one of them...

Just drive 200 miles in any direction and you will be better off.

Bahahahahha. Soooo freaking true. I hate it here. (On the days I'm not actively trying to improve my attitude) I contemplate doing exactly that. I want to go and live in a cabin in the woods far, far away for anyone who even knows what the "beltway" is.

You need to get out before it's too late.

If your husband is there because he was forced to go there by the military or some other government agency, have him work the system to GET OUT.

There are a lot of crappy places to live in the USA, but I can't think of anyplace less desirable than DC.  If I was given a choice between DC and Detroit (a Hell-hole in it's own right), I'd take Detroit in a heart beat.

I actually prefer DC to several other places I have lived. Great museums (many free), terrific theater scene, lots of restaurants, decent public transit, lots of international folks. I am also a member of a wonderful congregation, which brings me into contact with lots of thoughtful and good people. My life is arranged so the traffic doesn't really affect me, and i love my neighborhood. Overall, I would be happy to stay here, though it might make sense to cash out and move someplace cheaper at some point. For someone who likes urban amenities, though, DC can be attractive.

"Great museums (many free),"

Every city has museums.  DC more than most.  So hit them up on a vacation, you don't have to live there.

"terrific theater scene, lots of restaurants, decent public transit,"

Same can be said of almost any decent sized city.  Most of which are far cheaper and nicer than DC.

"lots of international folks. "

You want international?  Try, for example, San Antonio, far more "diverse" than DC, at a fraction of the cost, a much lower violent crime rate,  and with a vibrant economy not built on government.

"I am also a member of a wonderful congregation, which brings me into contact with lots of thoughtful and good people. "

You can't swing a dead cat in the USA without hitting a church.  Unless you are into some very bizarre religious sect/cult only available in DC (The Church of our Holy Father, the grand exalted poo bah Marion Berry?), they probably have a church (or multiple churches) in every decent sized city in the USA that will serve the same purpose.

"My life is arranged so the traffic doesn't really affect me, and i love my neighborhood. Overall, I would be happy to stay here, though it might make sense to cash out and move someplace cheaper at some point. For someone who likes urban amenities, though, DC can be attractive."

Just sayin' that every "good" thing DC has, is available in dozens of other cities, usually at a much lower cost.  Without all the bad stuff that DC comes with.   I honestly can't think of anything that DC offers that can't be found elsewhere at a much lower cost- unless you just can't live without murder/violent crime and corruption. Explore your options, don't feel like you need to be stuck in DC. 

Take my word for it, there is life outside the beltway.

It is interesting to see the hostility people have for DC. There are many good places to live in the US, we are certainly fortunate in that regard. I only posted in this thread to point out that it is possible to have a quite satisfying life here. And it can be quite lucrative, as well. Lots of well-paying jobs. But whether it is a good match depends on one's own personal situation. I certainly don't feel stuck here, but it has been an enjoyable place to live and permitted the accumulation of significant savings. Of course, it may make sense to move elsewhere during retirement.

Several people have mentioned that there is high crime in DC. I am a little surprised. Actual crime statistics don't show it as unusually dangerous compared to other large cities. Crime rates are a little tricky to interpret. The rate for DC is comparable to Nashville, for example, at least in terms of statistics. But the District itself comprises only a small fraction of the population of the metro area. To get a more meaningful measure, it may make sense to look at crime rate by MSA (metropolitan statistical area). Here is an example: http://os.cqpress.com/citycrime/2012/CityCrime2013_MetroCrimeRateRankings.pdf

DC is kind of in the middle there. Lots of places that one might think are better (San Antonio?) score far worse in terms of crime.

My point about mentioning my church is that, once you are installed someplace, you may form a web of relationships with people that make it worth staying, even if it falls short in other dimensions.

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #41 on: June 07, 2014, 07:33:07 AM »
Yeah, I'd live in DC over Detroit if I had to choose between the two, and I've been to Detroit multiple times.

Mr Mark

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #42 on: June 07, 2014, 08:32:35 AM »
Yeah, I'd live in DC over Detroit if I had to choose between the two, and I've been to Detroit multiple times.

Hey! Detroit rocks. I love this city. I'm just about to walk our dog and daughter in a beautiful leafy area, the sky is blue, about 76deg F,  and we'll pick up a few groceries at the store a couple of blocks away.

This afternoon we have a bbq with friends on belle isle, a huge island park in the Detroit river, which is 5 mins by bike from our house. Tomorrow we go on a kayak tour of the canals.

For  FIRE location it has a lot going for it. House prices for 1.

mango

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #43 on: June 07, 2014, 10:40:06 AM »
We live in a high COL area, where we are competing with almost entirely two-income families and lobbyists (DC). Owning a home, while living a simple life with a parent at home to raise kids, while one works at a 9-5 to pay the bills, seems laughably unattainable.

You'd be hard pressed to find a place LESS representative of America than Washington, DC.

It's an area represented by high income (beltway bandits, government fat cats), high costs, arrogant, self-important people, unfriendly people (they make New Yorkers look kind and warm hearted by comparison), no sense of community.  No one is actually from DC- they come from real parts of America, and are all just their to grab what they can for as long as they can stand living there.  If a person stays too long, he will become one of "them"- the vaguely humanoid, but not quite human, creatures that inhabit DC.

Just a wretched place.  I lived there for what seemed like 20 years, though it was actually only 3.

Grab your husband and children, toss them into the car, and GET OUT, before you become one of them...

Just drive 200 miles in any direction and you will be better off.

So who are talking about here? People from DC or people from the other "real parts of America"?

Full disclosure, I was raised (from a few months of age) in DC and now I live in Falls Church.  I have to admit, I've had my share of frustrations living in NoVa with the traffic, but as a kid growing up in DC, traffic didn't bother me at all;walking, buses, and metro all day everyday.

Oh, and as for the American dream, my parents managed to live in DC for 20+ years and bought at house in Arlington and paid it off in 10 years by renting it out. You can do it, but it takes some hustle (as evidenced by my parents who don't exactly speak English and are blue collar workers). I would say nowadays it takes a heckuvalot more hustle but you can't complain if you chose to live here and not participate in the labor market and get paid a high salary (I seem to recall a MMM post on this).

mango

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #44 on: June 07, 2014, 10:45:41 AM »


 I'm assuming your home is worth about 600K+++, depending on the neighborhood? I actually like many neighborhoods around and in dc, but they are simply out of our price range, as a single income family making slightly above the national average, not local average, salary.

Our house is worth a ridiculous amount...purchased 15 years ago before things went crazy. The high housing costs are definitely the biggest issue. Young people in my office end up with ridiculously long commutes. I am not surprised that it affects people's perceptions of the area. We were lucky to get in when we did.

Another young family we know just purchased a tiny sh*#hole of a house in falls church. They were only able to do it because her parents gifted them 100K for the down payment. The house cost over 350K and they have no extra cash flow to fix it up. It's all original from the time the home was built many decades ago. There are many parts of the home that are unsafe for their kids but they are unable to fix.
Doesn't sound like the American dream to me. I'm really not meaning to be a complainy-pants. But many young people move to cities because that's where the jobs are. Unfortunately, housing prices are so far out of reach in many urban areas that the life stage that comes after get a job (I.e. buy a house, have kids) is stalled by the massive difference between salary and housing prices. At least this has been the case with everyone I know. Anyone my age who owns a home (in DC and otherwise) has only been able to buy because family has gifted them the down payment amount. We are no different. We are living with family to save up 60K for a down payment. Even with that amount, we are absolutely priced out of anywhere within an 1-1.5 hour commute of my husband's office. Definitely not mustachian!

A few of my friends who are from this area have purchased all around NoVa. One particular couple (mid 20s) bought a house last year with 3.5% down (FHA), and they're planning to have it paid off in 10 years (being rented out now and they're also living in it); Fairfax near GMU for 400k+. When the time comes for them to need space for growing their family, they won't run into a housing issue, they're planning far ahead and they're willing to hustle to make living here happen. My friends come from modest backgrounds. And actually..most of the people I know around here buy their first homes with an FHA loan.

How tiny is this shithole? How much space did they want and how much did they buy?
« Last Edit: June 07, 2014, 10:47:30 AM by mango »

greaper007

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Re: The "American Dream" is unachievable
« Reply #45 on: June 07, 2014, 09:17:17 PM »
I've lived all over the country, west, wast, midwest, south and now mountain west.    Including a stint in DC for about 9 months when I was based in Dulles.    Honestly, everywhere is almost exactly the same, with the exception of topography and housing prices.     I understand loathing areas like DC, NYC or LA for their commutes and excessive housing prices.   But, they're all great cities that I'd love to live in if I had a much bigger stache.   In DC you can drive east and hit the ocean, head south and be in the Blue Ridge mountains (not sure how far the drive is, but I used to fly from Dulles to Shenandoah everyday and I think it was only about a 30 min flight).    Same goes for just about everywhere else.

The only reason I ever really disliked a city was col.    I lived in CT for a few years and had to get out, taxes and housing were killing us.    Otherwise, it was a great place to live.    Luckily, we bought a house in a Denver suburb right at the bottom of the market.