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American Dream – What is it, and is it achievable?

The American Dream means different things to different people. What is it today, is it achievable for everyone (no matter income, race, etc.) and what the heck does the term even mean? A few people have said or communicated to me that I have achieved the American Dream going from single parent, low income household to extreme financial as well as professional success, and while I do not know about me achieving the dream, it is interesting to hear.

Dictionary.com defines the American Dream as “the ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity traditionally held to be available to every American” as well as “a life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S.”. A general google query defines it as “the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.”

The last google definition seems to be the reason that people say I have achieved the American Dream…going from single parent, low income household and through hard work, talent, and determination to being in the top by income as well as assets per federal reserve data. But I do not think the dream is that “shallow”, and there is more to it.

Like some of our posts, this one is hard to write as they are not about “black and white” issues or answers, and life is often “gray”. There is a level of complication to this topic and many posts, and many different opinions, all of which are of course valid. So we did ask for some feedback on the forum several weeks ago, from some contractors we have used in past and others, and received only a few replies. But I wish we had more feedback and readers can send us comments anytime.

Anyhow we will incorporate that information along with my own views as well as some articles we have read over the months/years. But this is a topic in which there is no right or wrong answer, and everyone will have their own opinion of the American Dream and whether it even exists or not or is possible.

What is the American Dream?

It seems the general consensus from what we read, a few comments, and my own views is that the “American Dream” itself is different for different people. Some may want to have a healthy child (children) and be able to support them, some people may want to be rich or well off, some people may want to travel the world, have a job or activity that makes a difference, make a better life for themselves then they were born with or whatever. Financial success is not what the dream is always about…though that seems to be the most common thought of the American Dream and it is usually part of the dream.

A low income family may just want to be able to make it through the year, keep current with their bills, and provide for their family as they work towards a higher income. Someone else may dream of a family, or seeing the world, or giving back to others or the American Dream varies. So just want to wake up every morning, look themselves I the mirror and say they made a difference while keeping their integrity. So the dream itself may be thought of as a “goal” or what one wants from life, and that may be different for everyone.

But it seems like the “American Dream” has to do with being able to hit those goals (no matter what they are) by working hard, and that no matter your race, religion, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status etc. that the “dream” or goal is achievable. Now this part is much more complicated. As is it really achievable for all?

While I have greatly exceeded the dream financially (and well beyond my wildest dreams), and have also been able to travel, volunteer, and give back, I am not naive and I know some of it was luck. My business has also impacted and assisted maybe millions if not tens of millions of struggling families, so I have been fortunate in able to give back to society as well. Some of the success also has to do with the fact I am a white male. But I also worked so hard, took investment risk, and helped others along my path to financial success. I worked hard, but am also blessed and fortunate in many ways.

Would someone else of a different sex or race have the same opportunity as me? I don’t know. This is one reason I volunteer and donate to charities such as Kiva and others. I want to help as many people as possible hit their dreams, no matter what it is. But I also have other dreams to eventually hit too.

We have recently reported on how women are not paid the same as men, and average 80 cents on the dollar. They also are unfortunately not often given the same opportunity for career advancement, politics, or other positions of power as the data shows. So is the American Dream achievable for them? Is the playing field fair for immigrants, people of different religions, or races? While I, and no one, walks in someone else’s shoes, I have many doubts that the American Dream is possible for everyone. What do others think? And what is your version of the dream?


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

2 thoughts on “American Dream – What is it, and is it achievable?

  • March 12, 2019 at 8:08 am

    There is no American Dream these days. Everything goes to one percenters and the rich. They get the ridiculous wealth that their mommy and dad passed down on them.
    I do know as a lower middle class American my life is probably better than 99 percent of the world. I don’t think I’m any better than people who are born into poverty in the third world. But it is not fair here when it comes to this so called American Dream. Maybe these new politicians can help.

    • March 16, 2019 at 7:22 am

      No offense, but so wrong. More than a half-million of computing jobs are currently unfilled, and they are high paying. Only 11 percent of job seekers relocated for work, down from 30 percent in past. Only have people have education. You can move for a job, get computing skills for high paying jobs, more ways to invest than ever. If you want the American Dream, do the work. Americans are lazy, entitled, and point fingers at others instead of themselves. Look at immigrants
      and immigrant entrepreneurs create about 25% to 40% of new American businesses. They do the work.


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