The Delusion of the American Dream

Posted on: 01/17/13 3:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Last week a youth worker friend called me up and began asking questions and advice about personal finances. The gist of his question was, “How is a youth worker supposed to try to make ends meet when starting a family, paying for diapers, trying to afford a minivan and actually having a little bit left over to go on a date every once in a while?!!”

Great question—one I know many can relate to.

I think a lot of the nation is thinking about finances and debt right now (I’ll purposely steer this article away from making political commentary), because I’m seeing more and more articles surfacing about how to get out of financial crisis. My own teenagers are even learning these lessons right now. My son just started at Azusa Pacific University, an amazing Christian college in Southern California. He loves his classes and his roommates, but he’s facing the same struggle every college kid encounters: the reality of being a poor college student who can’t buy everything he desires when many of his GEN Y counterparts are living check to check, buying everything on impulse. An article in TIME today just cited a study revealing more than 3/4 of renters age 18-24 spend more than they earn each month.

Unfortunately, when we graduate from college, land a job, get married and buy a house, the money shortage doesn’t necessarily go away. Sadder yet, many of us still dive headfirst into spending, trying to achieve that American dream, and before we know it… we’ve created a nightmare.

So what’s the solution?

Sadly, I think many people are looking for a golden egg. We want our problem solved NOW! There’s good news and bad news about that.

  1. You can start on the road to good financial decision-making right NOW! (I know, that sounds like a sales pitch, but it’s actually just a fact)
  2. If you’re in debt, that can be a long road, requiring discipline, and sacrifice. (I understand, I didn’t put a lot of sugar on that. But I risked just saying it, figuring you’d prefer the honest truth.)

What does that road look like?

I was inspired my youth worker friend’s sincere questions about financial troubles, so I began sharing some candid thoughts on paper… and that became a frank, but helpful article about saving ourselves from financial crisis. My friends over at Youth Specialties posted the article yesterday: Waking Up From the American Dream: Saving Yourself from Financial Nightmares.


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4 Replies to “The Delusion of the American Dream”

  1. Don’t borrow a ton of $ to go to school!!!!

    Borrow VERY LITTLE if you plan on going into ministry, teaching, social work or have a degree in history, arts or humanities.

    To owe $20,000 or more coming out of college puts you in a tight spot before your even started. Considering the state of the economy and the idiocy of the national spending policy, taxes will continue to make it more and more difficult to get ahead and stay ahead.

    Debt is the enemy.


  2. Jonathan, your post sums up a question I ask myself often… and I’m not even in a position to have to support a family yet. I like what Tim Schmoyer posted recently about diversifying income. That’s always a help.

    I also wonder how we can teach students and families in our churches about this, too. As important as college is, it doesn’t automatically pay off mountains of debt. I’m fortunate to have had all my college and seminary loans paid off 18 months after finishing school. It was a lot of hard work and at one point included working two jobs, but it worked.

    Thanks for your thoughts!


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