The American Dream Needs Revisiting

The Statue of Liberty front shot, on Liberty I...

The big lie about the American Dream is the concept of upward mobility through dedicated effort to a career and a job. Statistics and surveys indicate THAT just doesn’t happen any more in America. The fact is great economic upward mobility comes from those who work not only harder, but smarter.

An article in the Seattle Times yesterday made us all aware of how bad things have gotten. “Problem With Paychecks” took much of its content from Parade Magazine’s annual “What People Earn” survey. Here are just some examples of what the story reported. The following list names the person, their location, and their annual income and descends from highest to lowest:

…11. Lorri Froid, Seattle
Office manager
$49,000
12. Heather Murphy
Woodinville elementary school teacher
$39,032
13. Anne Fogarty, Kirkland
Event planner
$37,760
14. Mary Purdy, Seattle
Dietician and adjunct college professor
$36,000
15. Nan Lammers, Skykomish
Forest services snowshoe ranger
$33,414
16. Curtis Hodgson, Burnaby, B.C.
Lacrosse player
$26,500
17. Ned Whalen, Seattle
Car sales professional
$26,000
18. Cara Sullivan, Seattle
Barista
$15,000
19. Betsy McPhaden, Seattle
Artist
$2,000

I didn’t list the Top Ten on the actual Seattle Times list since most of us are not them; i.e. Major League baseball pitchers, NFL running backs, CEO’s of billion dollar corporations, etc.

I know the income that my wife and I earn, and I know how much we struggle to meet our bills and live in what could only be described as a middle-Middle-Class lifestyle (8-10 years ago I would have said upper-Middle-Class, but that’s another story). Nine years ago when we bought our home in the Seattle suburb of Renton, WA it’s purchase price was exactly what the King County Association of Realtors was identifying as the median-price for homes being sold in King County at that time.

Map of Washington highlighting King County

Some up-grades may have pushed its price slightly above the local median price/value; but for the most part it serves as a pretty evident measuring stick for middle-Middle Class. My point is…for the people listed above…I don’t know how they make it.

The American Dream as it is defined by one on-line dictionary is as follows:

a·mer·i·can dream
Noun
The traditional social ideals of the United States, such as equality, democracy, and material prosperity.

The term was coined in 1931 by historian James T. Adams. It’s changed over the years but basically came to represent:

Owning a home and a car or two

Raising a family, with kids that grew up to do much the same as you

Working 40 hours per week for 40-50 years in a job or career

Taking 1-2 approximately week-long vacations every year to Disneyland or the big regional beach

Retiring in comfort to regularly play golf, bingo, and visit the grandkids once in a while. 

It became:

Leasing (buying) your home from the bank who charges you a low-interest rate for the right to do so; a home of 2500 square feet or more, 2-3 cars, and an RV.

Have kids raised by someone other than Mom or Dad who are too busy at the office to be home for dinner, let alone after school (whether as a family or not is optional); or raised by your 55-inch tv, or by Facebook. Pay $15,000-$20,000 per year per kid for 5-6 years for them to get drunk at college.

Work 50-70 hours per week for a wage capable of allowing you to save for retirement, or (as with the people listed above) 40 hours per week to barely scrape by and have zero retirement.

Vacation every year for 2 weeks in some exotic location, paying for all of it on your credit cards.

Retiring in your 70s with a reverse mortgage praying the 20-30% equity you’ve managed to accumulate in your primary residence is enough to maintain your lifestyle.

That’s some lifestyle. That’s a lifestyle in which children are sacrificed in favor of “stuff” and “status”.

Today working a job that keeps you from your family, or your recreations, 50-70 hours per week is something people wear like a badge of honor. Why? Wouldn’t you be better off working only 30-40 hours per week, making as much money or more, and devoting the rest of the time to your children, your wife, your husband, vacations, etc?  The obvious answer is, yes. And you can do it. But the key is to get money working.  Get multiple streams of income. The earlier mentioned Seattle Times article points out that median hourly income has rose only 11-percent since 1973. Additionally, in 2011, wages for males with college degrees were JUST 5 percent greater than in 1979. For men with only high-school degrees, entry-level wages were 25 percent lower than in 1979. Your single-solitary job is making you poorer and requiring you to work more hours. The 1-job, 1-career American Dream doesn’t work. You need money coming in from elsewhere.

We used a very large sales-commission check to buy our first home in 1994. Two years later being home owners allowed for us to borrow enough to move-up into a bigger house and keep the other house as a rental. We did the same thing again in 2003. My wife and I acquired nearly all our most valuable possessions, went on our most expensive vacations, and spoiled our kids during the time we had the additional income stream from owning rental property from 1996-2006. Warren Buffett, among others, is one who cites multiple streams of income as key to being successful.

The Missus and I have finally re-learned what we knew before. In our case AdvoCare is already giving us a new income stream. Based on the $20-25-thousand per month incomes our friends achieved with AdvoCare in just 3-years, we expect it to be a sizable stream, growing into a river. We’ve met many others who also are earning over $1000-per month with AdvoCare while working a mere 5-10 extra hours per week. And it’s a growing business. And it has the added benefit of paying us while we aren’t even doing anything. It has the added benefit of only paying us when we genuinely help other people. And it has the added benefit of being a continuing inheritable business and income stream, meaning should my wife and I die the income generated by our AdvoCare business becomes our children’s. Then they will have multiple income streams too.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

Click to go to our AdvoCare website.

Click to go to our AdvoCare website.

Uncommon Friends and What You Can Do Together

uncommon-friends-life-with-thomas-edison-henry-ford-james-d-newton-paperback-cover-art

A book I have yet to read and has long been on my GET list is called Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel and Charles Lindbergh. It is a 1987 publication that tells the story of the close life-long friendship that existed between these five extraordinarily accomplished men as well as James Newton the book’s author.

It has long been my belief that if you surround yourself with enough good people and discard the folks in your life who have a negative influence on you, you can’t help but be successful. These five men written about in Uncommon Friends could hardly be higher in achievement. Ford, Lindbergh, and Edison need no introduction to anyone educated beyond the 6th grade. Alexis Carrel and Harvey Firestone are less familiar historical figures, but nonetheless accomplished. Alexis Carrel was a French surgeon and biologist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1912 for pioneering vascular suturing techniques.  Harvey Samuel Firestone was an American businessman, and the founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, one of the first global makers of automobile tires, and early investor in Henry Ford’s Ford Motor Company. These men set high goals for themselves and met regularly through life to discuss how to accomplish them.

It’s not an uncommon thing to have friends who together and/or separately accomplish great things. I believe it’s not unlike a leaf on the water being caught up in the wake of a fast-moving rowboat or canoe and subsequently moving along the surface of the water at the same speed as the boat…at least for a moment. I frequently take my canoe to nearby lakes where I fish; though, rather than a leaf I’m far more familiar with a lily pad getting caught…not in my wake…but in my fishing line.

My family is blessed to have several extraordinary people, who have impressive, even great accomplishments on their resume’s. For a middle-aged guy, with a middle-income life, from a lower middle-income single parent upbringing my connections to greatness or near greatness are, I believe, unusual. My brother, just one year older than I, is a millionaire several times over. He travels the world. He sets up companies for public stock offerings hopping from company to company collecting stocks and equity as he goes. My sister-in-law is an attorney at Microsoft. She’s educated at Cal-Berkley. And has made quite a name for herself in Seattle philanthropic circles. My father-in-law, George Fleming, is a University of Washington legend. He was awarded MVP of the 1961 Rose Bowl while leading the Huskies to a surprise victory over then Number 1 rated Wisconsin. He followed that with a 25 year career in the Washington State Legislature.

But despite my family connections and their accomplishments my wife and I are not unlike most people. We are on our own. And while grateful for all the support and help we’ve received over our 25 year marriage, what we have accomplished or failed to accomplish comes strictly from our own efforts. We’ve never hitched our wagon to another high-flyer and joined them for the ride.

I thought of the connection between high achievers recently since I had a difficult decision to make. My wife and I got into the direct-sales industry through an incredible company called, AdvoCare, only 4-5 months prior to this writing. We did so after first enjoying the benefits of using the AdvoCare nutritional products. They were fantastic and literally changed my life and the life of my wife. Our health has not been so good since decades before. In determining that we would try representing AdvoCare we agreed to give it 3-6 months of effort. If the company, the products and the income were worth continued effort after that then we’d certainly give it.

A trip to AdvoCare Success School in Dallas, Texas in mid-February is fast approaching. Finances are tight. And if I am to go to Success School I’d first have to determine, in conjunction with my wife, that we did want to continue working AdvoCare as a business. And secondly, I’d have to figure out how to pay for the trip. Because though my company, Total Broadcasting Service, is and has always been profitable in its 8 years and my wife makes a good living outside of our company, the economy of 2009-2011 impacted us to the tune of high credit card debts. And catching up is tough. A trip to Dallas and two-day hotel stay would just mean more credit card debt.

We made the decision to go, to make the trip, to incur the debt and to continue to help people by introducing more and more of them to AdvoCare, in part because of my belief in our friends who got us into AdvoCare. (I’m not sure they’d want me to use their name’s publicly here. So I won’t. But contact me and I’ll tell you all about them) My friend, to whom I refer is someone I’ve known since shortly after he got out of college. In age, he’s about 10 years my junior. I worked with him for several years at the same company. I only met his wife in the past year. But it’s clear that she, like him is special. And I intend to benefit from the association. I intend to be taken up in their wake and pretty soon make my own wake.

My wife and I live what most would term an upper middle class lifestyle. But we can do a lot better. By better I mean more income, more vacation time, more money to help our grown kids, more time and money to help and care for more people, and a freedom to do things we cannot currently envision. My friend may not be Thomas Edison or Henry Ford or Charles Lindbergh. But then again. He might be. And if he is I intend to gain from it.

Some cliche`s come to mind: Familiarity breeds contempt. And A prophet is never known in his own land. Too often we allow familiarity to blind us to a person’s true greatness and thus deny ourselves of that which is great about a person because we know what aspects about them or their history aren’t great. When you do so you only hurt yourself.

Thanks for listening. Comments are welcome.