What Does the American Dream Mean to You?

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When I look back on my childhood in suburban Connecticut I am pretty sure that my family was living the American Dream.  We had a modest sized house in a close nit neighborhood.  It was not a mansion in a gated community but there was plenty of space as long as my sister didn’t hog the bathroom for too long when I had to go!  We felt safe playing in the streets, had good friends, and a community of parents who kept us under control even when we wanted to let loose a little.  There were a few new clothes for the first day of school but not those $300 sneakers that a few of the ‘rich kids’ were sporting.  The American Dream meant plenty of food to eat, a warm house to live in, and a few gifts on special occasions.  It was a simple way to live and we were happy.

Times have changed quite a bit from when I was a kid but I like to think that my version of the American Dream has stayed consistent with the way I was raised.  I want my kids to have good food on the table, although my idea of good food now means organic and grass fed which was not really a concern when I was a kid.  I want to provide my children with clothes, activities, and experiences that they will enjoy without giving in to every want and desire they express.  And boy, do they want a lot!  I want to save to put them through college, despite the fact that college costs have skyrocketed over the last few decades.  While my American Dream may be similar to my parent’s, the cost of that dream is considerably higher.

Mass Mutual american dream

Everyone has different financial goals for their lives but According to Mass Mutual, American families hold four core values very dear when it comes to their finances:

1. Putting family first;
2. Being actively involved in household financial decisions;
3. Educating children about money; and
4. Making sure that children aren’t burdened by parents’ care as they age.

While some ethnic and social groups placed higher importance on one of these core values over another, survey results show that when it comes to family finances, Americans are more alike than not.  Check out MassMutual’s State of the American Family Study to learn more about how American families define their own American Dream.

american dream

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One thing my husband and I really need to be better about is teaching our children more about money management.  If they are ever going to achieve their own American Dream, they first have to understand how to plan for it financially.  If this is a topic you need to include in your parenting like we do, check out the MassMutual Family Finances study.   They have some great tools to help the entire family become more money savvy.

The State of the American Family research series from MassMutual highlights the ways in which American families are putting their financial values into practice.   It also explores how their perspectives are changing the way they manage and plan for their households’ finances now and in the future.  I found it concerning that 7 in 10 Americans say they WANT to be actively involved in decisions  about their finances, but less than 20% of those people say they are satisfied with their current financial situation.  Clearly there is a disconnect there somewhere.  People need to determine what their priorities are and figure out how they can best use their limited finances to achieve financial goals.

american dream

My husband and I are working hard to provide our children with what we believe to be the American Dream.  Do they get everything they want?  NO!  Do they get a FEW things they want?  Yes…within reason!  They do, however, get everything they NEED.  Good food, a warm house in a safe neighborhood, clothes they aren’t embarrassed to be seen in, etc.  We are also working to make sure that when they grow up they can achieve their own version of the American Dream.  We are saving for college and planning for our own future so that we will never become a burden on them when we get old.  Planning for retirement and long term care is a big part of that.  I want my kids to look back on their childhood and realize “I had everything I needed as a kid” and not “I had everything I WANTED as a kid”.  There is a subtle but very important difference between the two!

Have you achieved your own American Dream?
What does it look like?





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  1. I was raised by my grandmother and we survived on very little. For me, the American Dream is raising my family with as many experiences as possible. Whether we are just out and about and active, or going on trips. It is not necessarily about money - just opportunities, even those that are not expensive (experiential). We do have a nice home, nothing huge or expensive, but we have the amenities and space I have always wanted. I am very grateful for what I have, even though we still have to be very frugal, I would say we are comfortable.
  2. I have a great family, home, and own my own business. These are many of the things folks consider to show you are living the American Dream.
  3. My dream has changed over the years. My dream today looks nothing like what it looked like when I was 17. I believe that's because dreams and goals are always evolving. My current goal is to make more money working from home blogging and in social media. I haven't achieved it yet but am working towards it.
  4. As I have gotten older this has become a priority for me. I am hoping to teach my girls to start younger. I do live the American Dream. I am super lucky to do what I love, have an amazing family, incredible friends. The perfect balance of "having it all" for me is those three things and doing it with ease.
  5. I think we are pretty much living the American Dream right now. My husband has a fantastic job (though it doesn't have very good benefits and the health insurance sucks), I own my own business that does very well, we own our home, we are financially stable with money in savings...life is really good!

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