A chicken, car, credit card, and debt.

herbert hoover american dreamOn April 2, 2011, Suzy Orman again mentioned her opinion of the "new American Dream": freedom from debt. I am very fond of her idea, and I will tell you why in just a moment. It is important to first take a look at the image of the American Dream many of us grew up with.

The old American Dream, the one I grew up with, portrays us as owning a home and car, going on exotic family vacations, buying fun things, and working at a secure job to pay for all of it.

Herbert Hoover and his promise of the American Dream: "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage."
Where did this image come from? It may have started from Herbert Hoover's 1928 campaign promise of "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage". Hoover knew that everyone wanted prosperity, and that it was possessing material goods that made people feel as if they were prosperous. His vision implied that prosperity would look like things, and it may have created a materialistic image of what his voters thought their lives should look like.

However, when our reality and our image of prosperity are misaligned it is tempting to use dangerous tools, such as credit, to force the two to come together. That is where we get in the most trouble. To a degree it is about being dishonest with yourself. The person who refuses to accept their current financial reality and then chooses to use credit in order to create an appearance of what he thinks prosperity looks like is only going to steal from tomorrow's potential prosperity.

The very first American Dream
In a sense Herbert Hoover's view of the American Dream wasn't the first time a President had a dream for Americans. What was wrong with this one, by Jefferson? "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Today, how many people are truly experiencing life, or liberty, or happiness? How can they really be happy with their things when they are crushed with student loans, mortgages, and credit card debt? I like the idea of a "new" American Dream even though it was the original American Dream! Life is about liberty and happiness. We can enjoy those things without more things!

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