According to the experts, you aren’t really living a fulfilling and happy life unless you’re earning at least $130K per year.  This newsflash comes courtesy of a new analysis from USA Today which says some pretty ridiculous things about what it now costs to live the “American Dream.”  I find these articles offensive because, for starters, making blanket statements about what the American Dream means is pointless.  Not only that, but perpetuating these lies can be detrimental to the American psyche as well.  Why?  Because it leads people to believe that will never have enough money to be happy and financially secure.

Why Does the American Dream Cost $130K?

According to the USA Today article, the rising costs of everything from food to insurance are making family budgets tighter and financial independence much harder to attain.  I get that.  I do.  I see it every time I go to the grocery store and balk at the prices, or fill up my gas tank and feel like my head is going to explode.

But, there has got to come a point where you control the things you can control and try not to stress about the rest.  And that’s why this previously mentioned article infuriates me; it assumes so much.  Here’s how they break down the 130K they claim is now required to live a full and happy life:

Essentials

  • Median Housing Expenses: $17,062 (median house purchase of $275,000 minus a 10 percent down payment)
  • Groceries: $12,659
  • Medical Expenses: $9,144
  • Car Expenses (4WD SUV): $11,039
  • Education (2 children): $4,000
  • Clothing & Apparel: $2,631
  • Utilities: $1,956

Extras

  • Family Vacation: $4,580
  • Entertainment $3,667
  • Restaurants: $3,662
  • Cable, Satellite, Internet, Cell: $3,100
  • Miscellaneous: $2,000

Taxes/Savings

  • Taxes (State, Local): $32,357
  • College Savings: $5,000
  • 401K: $17,500

Total Income Needed to Live the American Dream: $130,357

I find the median housing cost troubling because it is inflated by coastal cities and huge metropolitan areas with higher than average real estate prices  Fact: You can get your own starter castle for $275,000 in Central Indiana and in most rural communities across the U.S.  Do you live somewhere expensive and hate it?  Try moving. 

And food.  Don’t get me started on food.  Why does this family need $12,659 for groceries and an additional $3,662 for restaurant dining each year?  For those who are too lazy to do that math, that’s a total of $16,321 per year and $1,360 per month for this family of four to stuff their faces.  I have to ask, what in the hell are these people eating?  Filet mignon every night?  Try meatless Monday, folks.  It works great!  I feed my family of four for $500-$600 per month and no, we are not starving or eating Ramen for every meal.  My suggestion to this family: Stop eating so f%&king much.

And car expenses?  How many people actually need to pay over $11,000 per year for a 4-wheel-drive SUV?  How many people actually need to have an SUV to begin with?  And this mythical family (who I am starting to hate, by the way) is spending almost $1,000 per month on transportation.  Who are these people?!?!?!

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there.  Apparently they also need to spend $4,580 on their annual vacation in order to be happy as well, in addition to another $3,667 on entertainment.  And that amount doesn’t even include their cable, satellite, or internet bill, for heaven’s sake, nor does it include $2,000 in miscellaneous.  Shut the front door.  That is by far one of the dumbest things I have ever read in my life.  Try checking out free movies or books from the library, playing Scrabble, or playing in the dirt like my generation did for a change.  *facepalm

The American Dream is What You Make It

Sorry “experts,” but the American dream doesn’t cost anywhere near $130,000 per year.

If only we could show people how to take control of their lives instead of constantly encouraging them to adopt a victim mentality that helps no one.

The American Dream is what we want it to be.  It’s what we make it, and it’s different for everyone.  Don’t let someone else define what your life should look like based on statistics, charts, and graphs.  And don’t let someone tell you that you are not living the “American Dream,” just because you don’t waste money frivolously, need a new car every year, or have every gadget known to man.

Exercise your freedom to be different instead, and forge your own path.

That’s what the American dream means to me.