The American Dream (part 3): Realities

Quick summary: we have looked at how the Dream is different for different people, and how spending what you don’t have is a surefire way to not achieve it.

Many people complain about the external barriers to the American Dream: inopportunity, discrimination, the Recession… But the Solvency Shark focuses on the internal barriers: misinformation, bad planning, bad choices.

If you’ve been reading these posts in hopes of learning the “secret” to the Dream, you’ll be disappointed with this last installment. Your economic Dream is something you design and achieve for yourself.

But to be successful, you must stop paying attention to myths and take certain realities to heart. Today we will look at some of those realities, and see what they teach us.

Working hard is only half the equation. Ever feel like Boxer the horse from Animal Farm, whose response to misfortune was “I will work harder”? Americans seem to love working overtime and multitasking. The UN’s International Labor Organization found that Americans work longer hours than any other industrialized nation in the world.

But hard work alone cannot solve your financial woes. What good is extra pay if you’re overspending for basic needs? What good is a paycheck at all if you don’t pay back your debts?

If you work overtime only to lose your house, you might wonder where that effort went.

You and only you can manage your money. There are expenses we can’t control: certain taxes, emergencies (especially health related), high rates, etc. But everything else is a reflection of what we do with our money.

Do we waste our utilities? Higher bill. Do we make late payments? Worse credit rating. Do we not look for credits? Higher income tax.

Liquidating your savings into cash and then stashing the bills in your shoe sounds like a lame strategy. But what if you never considered investing beyond a savings account? Just as unproductive.

Asking for help is not giving up. None of us want to appear like we’ve made a mess, or admit that we’re trapped in an impossible situation. But it happens, and it can happen to the best people.

Getting debt counseling and/or declaring bankruptcy isn’t cashing in your chips on the Dream, or admitting that you’re a failure. On the contrary, it shows that you’re taking charge of your future.

Alexander Carl

Alexander Carl

I find it difficult to brag about myself. Too modest? Perhaps.

Anyway: my name is Alexander Carl. I am a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I spent four blissful years earning a degree in Communication Studies. Now I face the real world of economic downturns, student loans, and the absence of “academic” camaraderie.

Yet I refuse to be bummed. My economic philosophy is to live simply, save, and maximize whatever I can. Consumer culture is undeniably pervasive, but you don’t have to sell your soul to co-exist with it— there is great power from using your economic resources wisely.

I started writing when I figured out how to hold a pencil. Since then I’ve written short stories, poetry, screenplays, and have blogged. In fact, three of my screenplays have been produced into short films, two of which I directed. I’m no stranger to the media, having served as a DJ at a freeform radio station and worked as a crew member for live TV.

Pastimes include traveling (I’ll visit virtually anywhere), swimming, jogging, hiking, and hunkering down with a good movie.

Overall I’m a peaceful person, though not in a creepy New Agey way. I get my energy from music, good conversation, and the outdoors (I was an active Boy Scout, earning my Eagle). I consider myself “inquisitive” and “wry”, and for the sake of autobiography I’ll assume that I am.
Alexander Carl

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