The New American Dream Is Found In Innovation
It seems so easy to plan your future when you glance at it with a distant perspective. Save this much for this long. Earn this much with regular raises. What becomes hard is the day to day work and feeling like you're not making progress. In the beginning it can be especially difficult - even more so when young and recently out of college. Before you establish a routine to your life, healthy spending habits, and create any goals, you may find your net worth stagnating. Mine did for quite a while straight out of school, and in some cases, it still is. Perhaps I'm one of few that didn't figure it out right away, but I'll share my experience regardless.
Even though your savings account may not be growing, it doesn't mean you're not on the right path. The ultimate test of your diligence in the battle of finance is the increase of your net worth with every paycheck. This echoes that battered and beaten cliche of "paying yourself first." Before everyone else gets a slice of the pie, you've got to take a share for yourself that can't be touched. Except for Uncle Sam - he gets to stick his dirty mitts in before even you can to take his cut. Anarchy aside, the concept of paying yourself first is critical and regurgitated because it serves and important point. If you let other things get in the way before taking your share, more often than not, it is gone and there is little more than crumbs to feed off of. Entitlement programs will largely be gone when X'ers and Millenials are in retirement age - and you've got to make sure you see the tide receding now before that Tsunami of truth hits you when you're 65 (or older) and no social security check is waiting for you.
You can check out our guest post written by Dave at Finance Superhero from last week about setting better financial goals - one of the important points I took away was that goals should be value driven, through conduits that speak to you on a personal level.
Stop working for someone else.
That is, up until recently. It's simple really, and pushing all of the other stuff aside I could realistically achieve that goal tomorrow. All I've gotta do is quit my job and I'm there! I am confident enough in my abilities as a freelance mechanic and mechanical designer that I could easily make ends meet doing my own thing and having no boss. The devil is in the details, of course. The goal is never just the goal. What the above phrase means to me is that I am also financially independent. Perhaps this is an example of me setting a poor goal - it's not explicitly measurable, and the value that it's driven by is in a deeper layer - financial freedom and living without the stresses of being dependent on a biweekly check for life's necessities.
It's important to have a set of measurable goals that you constantly have on your mind while you're committing your blood and sweat to what brings home the bacon. Have an exit date in your mind. Getting out and doing the thing on your own that you find passion in is the modern American Dream. If you work without a goal, that American Dream is dead. But really, it's far from it - it's just that many of us lack the courage to endeavor to create something that speaks to us - we instead fall in favor of "security" which is working for someone else until we can hopefully retire. When the concept of the American dream was in full force and people were flocking to the United States, it was because there were obvious opportunities to take advantage of. People were in need of goods and services in a new land, a land more bountiful and beautiful than anyone had seen before it.
Now, the USA is like a dated company who had its IPO in the stock market 20 years ago. There is still opportunity, but now there is competition. Take Apple - it was the golden child of the American stock market for the better part of two decades. Now it's dated. It has to fight for it's status and compete with contenders that do what it does, better and for less money.
21st century necessities are innovation and creativity, and they have rightfully taken the place of what were formerly obvious necessities when America was booming in the 1800s. Today, markets have gone global - which multiplies the capacity of sales 10 fold or more. The internet has paved the path to sharing of knowledge, ideas, and products the world over. There are more opportunities than ever before, but they're hidden because some dots need to get connected first.
Working without a goal is a one way ticket to your mid life crisis. Realize that there is that endless ocean of opportunity, and you'll never feel like you missed out. If you don't have established goals and values for what you're participating in the game for, then you'll find yourself staring back on your life, asking why you never pursued your dreams or aspirations.
Oh yeah. It's because you never gave yourself any.