Should American buy in American Dream?

  • #51
I made my way up from nothing. My dad was the first in his family to get a college degree and he got it even though he was legally blinded by a shrapnel hit to the face during WWII.

I finshed high school when I was 14 due to being an over acheiver, went to Europe to visit family, then returned and started college at 16 in a business degree, which I didn't want. (my apologies to the members that have heard this a thousand times). My dad was an EE and we weren't rich. I started as a long distance cord board operator for Bell Telephone while I was in school.

Long story short, through hard work and intelligence, within a few years I was promoted to a managerial position at AT&T making well over 6 digits a year.

It can still be done, but due to overpopulation, there is much more competiton. You really have to stay on your toes if you come from a poor family and have no connections, but it can be done.

Whoa! That's just amazing! I mean your life... it could be made into a movie! It's pure saga, I can't even imagine!

And I'm so overwhelmed I can't think of any question to ask right now...
 
  • #52
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I made my way up from nothing. My dad was the first in his family to get a college degree and he got it even though he was legally blinded by a shrapnel hit to the face during WWII.

I finshed high school when I was 14 due to being an over acheiver, went to Europe to visit family, then returned and started college at 16 in a business degree, which I didn't want. (my apologies to the members that have heard this a thousand times). My dad was an EE and we weren't rich. I started as a long distance cord board operator for Bell Telephone while I was in school.

Long story short, through hard work and intelligence, within a few years I was promoted to a managerial position at AT&T making well over 6 digits a year.

It can still be done, but due to overpopulation, there is much more competiton. You really have to stay on your toes if you come from a poor family and have no connections, but it can be done.
I'm not questioning your accomplishments, that is impressive that you succeeded so well, but I have to ask, how was your family poor if your father was an EE? Do you mean relatively poor to a spoon-fed trustfund kid? And how can you say you came from nothing? You had high school provided at least. I really wish my father or mother had a post-high school education in sciences/math, and I even just wish I grew up in a scientifically literate family, which you had with your father. Did he not mentor/instill anything in you or devote attention to you?
 
  • #53
turbo
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There is (or at least was) a viable American dream. My father was a sheet-metal worker doing his best to support a family of 6. I studied hard and worked on all school breaks/summers and saved all my money for college. I was the very first person in my very large extended family to go past HS. I got accepted to MIT, but the financial-aid package wouldn't have allowed me to afford that school. I got early-acceptance letters from Michigan State and Arizona State, though I never applied to either one. In the end, I stayed with Maine's land-grant college in Orono. I played guitar and sang for frat parties and bought, refurbished, and sold electric guitars and tube amps, and spent every summer working in veneer mills back home. Those earned me enough money to pay for tuition, books, rent, food, etc. It didn't seem too stressful or tough for me, but I had to budget my time so I could keep up with engineering school.
 
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  • #54
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There is (or at least was) a viable American dream. My father was a sheet-metal worker doing his best to support a family of 6. I studied hard and worked on all school breaks/summers and saved all my money for college. I was the very first person in my very large extended family to go past HS. I got accepted to MIT, but the financial-aid package wouldn't have allowed me to afford that school. I got early-acceptance letters from Michigan State and Arizona State, though I never applied to either one. In the end, I stayed with Maine's land-grant college in Orono. I played guitar and sang for frat parties and bought, refurbished, and sold electric guitars and tube amps, and spent every summer working in veneer mills back home. Those earned me enough money to pay for tuition, books, rent, food, etc. It didn't seem too stressful or tough for me, but I had to budget my time so I could keep up with engineering school.
That is an impressive story too.

Sadly today you can work as many part time jobs as you want and still be in big debt after graduation because of the costs of tuition, books, and rent, and you aren't even guaranteed to find a job. The universities are saturated with people who probably are not even qualified to go to them, and the demand only brings the tuition costs higher and higher.

One way around this is to do well in high school and earn scholarships, but even this is not guaranteed since scholarships are often more politically motivated than scholarly motivated.

In Europe, many universities offer free tuition, which I think is more of a dream enabler for poor people than the American higher education system.

I think what Evo said rings true, that there is a lot more competition today than in the past and so it is more difficult to float to the top if you are starting at the bottom, and I think a lot of it is based on luck and being in the right place at the right time, unfortunately.

Edit: Also, in my opinion, private companies should be doing more for their employees to compensate the investment that the employees made in their skills and knowledge (or employees should be demanding more). The employee is doing hard work for them in addition to basically doing 4-8 years of hardwork of training themselves that the private companies got for free. From tuition rises, can we say that higher level training and education is more valuable now than it used to be? I think retro paying some tuition is a fair expectation considering all of the sacrifices that need to be made to get to the technical level that these companies demand of people. I am really confused at the pay discrepancies between educated and uneducated workers, where it is more often becoming financially sound to skip college education and to go into trades or other occupations that don't demand so much education. I don't think less of someone who skips college, because they might love or be really good at their occupation, but I think its a shame if someone with the potential for academic success should be torn between investing in education and having a better job. In the end, it seems to be up to supply and demand though, and its very easy for companies to get what they want as cheap as possible.
 
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  • #55
turbo
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Many of my jobs were self-employment, and the summer jobs were much more than full-time because I worked all the overtime I could get and a lot of the other employees at the veneer mills (2 in town) wanted at least some time off in the summer so they could go fishing, etc.

As I said, I could not get enough financial aid to attend MIT, but this was back in 68-69 when a lot of young men wanted college placement to avoid being sent to 'Nam, and colleges rolled back the aid packages. Not that it mattered much. After I was already in engineering school, the US came up with a lottery system based on your birth-date. No more student deferments.
 
  • #56
russ_watters
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I'm not questioning your accomplishments, that is impressive that you succeeded so well, but I have to ask, how was your family poor if your father was an EE? Do you mean relatively poor to a spoon-fed trustfund kid?
Evo didn't say she was poor, she just said she was not rich [growing up].
And how can you say you came from nothing? You had high school provided at least.
IMO, you're setting an unreasonably high baseline. "Came up from nothing" may be a technically inaccurate cliche', but what it really means is nothing more than what everyone else is provided. I personally consider anyone who passed age 20 without spending a large fraction of their time in a hospital with cancer and didn't earn a high school diploma to have been abused. A parent has to do little more than make sure the kid goes to school and provide a modest amount of encouragement to make sure the kid gets that diploma.
Did he not mentor/instill anything in you or devote attention to you?
My own family history's bullet points look a lot like Evo's so I'll just speak for myself: absolutely, he did. I played the trumpet because he handed me his old trumpet when I was little and started teaching me and before most other kids knew what the word meant (something with trains, right?) I knew I would be an engineer because he was - and we thought alike.

So yes, short of handing a kid a trust fund, the most important gift a parent can give their kids is the gift of ambition. But really - is there anything that makes ambition something anyone can't give their kids? Two examples:

My mother was the first in her family to earn a college degree (caveat; my grandmother had a teaching certificate which at the time was similar to an assoc. degree). She earned it when she was ~50. Why? Because at some point in her early 30s, she discovered ambition. I assume she learned of its power from my dad. So in my house, the idea of college wasn't even something to be discussed. It wasn't even expected: it was assumed. My sister and I were going to college. Period. So we did.

My girlfriend's family was the opposite. She was recently disowned by her family. Her crime? Ambition. The college discussion in her family was a negative one: 'Do you really think you can do it? What makes you better than the rest of us? Heh - good luck with that!' Now she only has an associates degree that she mostly paid for herself, but she's been successfully living on her own, with a job that has a decent career path, since she was around 22. This ambition alienated her from her parents. She's now 33 and is the second oldest of 4 kids and until a few months ago was the only one to move out of the parents' house. The other girl just moved in with her boyfriend - she's 31. That was disappointing for the parents - the rent money was nice to have.

I find my girlfriend's family situation to have been abusive. And, in my perception, this is the most common "barrier" to achieving the American Dream (in quotes because it is psychological, not physical). I've seen few people who were on a path to it who got permanently sidelined by a roadblock completely out of their control. It is my perception that most people who fail to achieve some level of the American Dream fail because they don't believe they can succeed by their own doing, so they choose to make compromises that guarantee failure without luck.
 
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  • #57
mheslep
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...short of handing a kid a trust fund, the most important gift a parent can give their kids is the gift of ambition.
Aside: from what I can see giving a *kid* a trust fund (beyond paying for education) in most cases is one of the worst things a parent can do. Later in life maybe, but not to youth. Trust funds kill ambition, and may be a metaphor for the larger ills of the country.
 
  • #58
chiro
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Aside: from what I can see giving a *kid* a trust fund (beyond paying for education) in most cases is one of the worst things a parent can do. Later in life maybe, but not to youth. Trust funds kill ambition, and may be a metaphor for the larger ills of the country.
Just to add to the ambition comment, I think it's also important to give the kid a level head. Someone with ambition but without being grounded in some sense will not end up in a good situation. Sometimes this situation will help them become grounded and this is probably a good thing, but if they don't become grounded then that can be a potential catastrophe especially if the ungroundedness goes on for a very long time which will probably end up with an equally huge fall.

Chances are though, the ambitious kids that stay ambitious after getting hammered with some kind of failure will probably turn out really well: IMO, but still I think it carries some weight.
 
  • #59
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Ambition cannot be taught and ambition is more coupled with other things than itself alone. Today's youth, I guess the ones I tend to spend time with (age bracket), aren't exactly ambitious although they talk about ambitious goals most of the time. I say it is a lack of work ethic to see those goals brought to fruition. And the problem is the mindset of young people and how they are brought up, not their trust fund.
 
  • #60
mheslep
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Apropos:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rg24frs_3oQ
 
  • #61
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Not necessarily how they are brought up? That is true, and I was rethinking it when reading over it, it isn't so black and white as I put it, so I agree.
 
  • #62
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IMO, you're setting an unreasonably high baseline. "Came up from nothing" may be a technically inaccurate cliche', but what it really means is nothing more than what everyone else is provided. .
I suppose we have different definitions of coming up from nothing. I don't think "nothing more than what everyone else is provided" is coming up from nothing. I think that is succeeding with fair opportunities. Its still an amazing accomplishment, but its not really rising in the face of adversity.

To be fair, her father was an EE and you mention your own father was also an educated engineer who was able to mentor you and that helped set you out on the right path. I think this is invaluable, and I would consider it a huge advantage over other children who have no one to guide them or even answer basic science questions, even if their parents are rich (but more likely poor). It is just impossible for me to consider someone who had parents who were college educated with engineering degrees raising them to come from nothing, unless there were some other extreme circumstances preventing them from having successful lives.

I can think of some kids I grew up with who were extremely dirt poor and abused by their parents, and had so much unnecessary burden in their early lives that they had little chance to make a life for themselves. When people like that succeed, I consider them coming up from nothing.

And I think your girlfriend better represents someone coming from nothing. When her own family does not support her or give her opportunity, she still is able to rise and pursue her goals.
 
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  • #63
turbo
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I can think of some kids I grew up with who were extremely dirt poor and abused by their parents, and had so much unnecessary burden in their early lives that they had little chance to make a life for themselves. When people like that succeed, I consider them coming up from nothing.

And I think your girlfriend better represents someone coming from nothing. When her own family does not support her or give her opportunity, she still is able to rise and pursue her goals.
Many of my friends did not live in houses that had running water or any kind of viable septic systems. They lived in shacks that were put up in the 1920s to house workers building Wyman Dam. The shacks were shelter, but they were not viable, long-term. By the time I was 10, my father had put a down-payment on a run-down house, and we had a bit more room and hot running water!! What a nice upgrade!

Most of my friends had to draw water from a spring or use a hand-pump at the kitchen sink to get water. My wife grew up the same way. They had a hand-pump at the kitchen sink, but everybody preferred the taste of the spring-water, so the younger girls had to fetch water from that spring several times a day.
 
  • #64
rhody
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Aspiration is a good thing, but it must be tempered with a sense of reality/sobriety.
Plus the realization that if you borrow (as opposed to saving and investing your own money), the fruits of your labors may be subject to liens and foreclosures. Easy credit should not be confused with prosperity because credit can be fragile.
Good advice, Turbo, Astro. You need passion, a plan, persistence, a level head, be flexible to take advantages of opportunities that may come your way, have resouces (cash not relying on banks for success is important, at least to me), work hard, stay focused, have a bit of luck and never ever ever give up on your dream, no matter what others say. I have learned to take things one step at a time, to be patient, and always keep a "Big Picture" in your mind.

Rhody... :cool:
 
  • #65
russ_watters
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Ambition cannot be taught and ambition is more coupled with other things than itself alone.
That logic leads down a dangerous road that ends with the conclusion that the poor are genetically inferior to the rich. Do you really believe that?
 
  • #66
turbo
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That logic leads down a dangerous road that ends with the conclusion that the poor are genetically inferior to the rich. Do you really believe that?
As a child,I was brought up to be a hard worker. Not aggressive or nasty, but a winner. That was over 40 years ago, but perhaps we could benefit from a bit more of that attitude.
 
  • #67
rhody
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...perhaps we could benefit from a bit more of that attitude.
Amen. Anything else is an excuse and/or a cop out, IMHO.

Rhody...
 
  • #68
turbo
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About '64-'65 I asked the sexton of the local cemetery if I could work for him, mowing and clipping. He gave me a shot, and when he showed up that afternoon, the other kids (2-3 years older than me) shut off their mowers and made a big show of cleaning the under-decks, checking the oil, etc. They were also making grand gestures, including the areas that I had mowed. The next spring, the sexton called me and asked me to start keeping up the cemetery, and I was the only one that he hired. The other kids could go pound sand, because he couldn't afford the time to ride herd on the slackers. He never had to check up on me, because he knew that I would work hard all day and report my time accurately. All my money went right into my savings account, though I was pretty pissed about how much FICA was taking.
 
  • #69
mheslep
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Aspiration is a good thing, but it must be tempered with a sense of reality/sobriety.
Aspiration nearly always becomes so tempered in my experience; life naturally does that. But the aspiration has to come first, a roll where parents can be very detrimental.
 
  • #70
That logic leads down a dangerous road that ends with the conclusion that the poor are genetically inferior to the rich. Do you really believe that?
I'd strongly disagree with that. Based on my experience, most ambitious kids are from those under-achieved parents' parenthood. Some of them even openly showed there discontent to me "I can't believe my parents wouldn't put up a fight" "Boy I hope they wouldn't settled down that fast" they say.

If you are from a low-income family, and saw what rich parents could offer, there got be a loud "ringing" noise in your head reminding you "this is not gonna happen to my kid".

Sorta like, super conservative families sometimes brew super liberal kids and vice versa.
 
  • #71
Drakkith
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Hmmm. I feel that since people from all walks of life are successfull, the issue is much more complicated than simply who's from a better off environment. Nor do I see any one aspect that is the "most" important thing. Aspiration, hard work, smart choices, all of these are important, along with more.
 
  • #72
BBQgoat
The American Dream is possible but unfortunately not for everyone (not sure if that goes against the whole idea of the American Dream). Also those who do succeed in reaching this feat will not necessarily be the smartest, the most perseverant, or the most hardworking. Hate to sound pessimistic -especially since I'm always looking for motivational movies, videos, speakers, and quotes- but sometimes no matter what you're capable of or how hard you work, the harsh reality is that you may never reach your goal. We all have hopes and dreams but not everyone can succeed in reaching them, especially in a society of 8 billion where we need people to be at the bottom, middle, and the top in order for it to function.

Life is prone to drastic, unforeseen occurrences. Nobody really plans on their wife cheating on them or their parents dying but sadly, it may be imminent. Similarly we may not plan on living a life we loathe, but it may certainly be our fate; and for 90% of the world it will be. But to just write it off as impossible and not even try would be stupid.
 
  • #73
Drakkith
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Luckily the end goal is usually just the final steps in a long process, so even if you don't reach it doesn't mean your a piece of crap with no job.
 
  • #74
russ_watters
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The American Dream is possible but unfortunately not for everyone (not sure if that goes against the whole idea of the American Dream). Also those who do succeed in reaching this feat will not necessarily be the smartest, the most perseverant, or the most hardworking. Hate to sound pessimistic -especially since I'm always looking for motivational movies, videos, speakers, and quotes- but sometimes no matter what you're capable of or how hard you work, the harsh reality is that you may never reach your goal. We all have hopes and dreams but not everyone can succeed in reaching them, especially in a society of 8 billion where we need people to be at the bottom, middle, and the top in order for it to function.
Um - 8 billion is more than the population of the world. Certainly the American Dream is not available to most of the people in the world, but I would say that it is available to almost all Americans except for a very small fraction who have been very unlucky.

Based on education vs income statistics, I'd say that the primary barrier to achieving the American Dream is failure to finish high school: http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm
 
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