Growing up in “Middle America,” my parents were able to provide our family with a really nice life. Like their parents before them, my mom and dad worked hard to provide things for us that they never had.

And so goes the “American Dream” – building off of the success of previous generations to create a wealthier lifestyle for our own families. An unfortunate byproduct of achieving the dream is that it tends to create a sense of entitlement among us.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that millennials are better educated than their parents’ generation. The percentage of bachelor’s degrees held by those age 18-34 has increased to about 23% from just over 15% in 1980. Housing statistic also show a (mostly) steady increase in owner occupied residences dating back to the 1940’s. (Blast you Great Recession!) So, the dream appears to be continuing.

However, the statistics also show a downside. When adjusted for inflation, 18-34 year olds are now earning about $2,000 less than they were in 1980. So, while we’ve increased our standard of living, our children are now earning less while accumulating more debt. If this cycle continues, aren’t we just setting our children up for failure?

What is a Sense of Entitlement?

Merriam-Webster defines entitlement as: 1) the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something, or 2) the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges). Clearly, having a sense of entitlement isn’t always a bad thing. For instance, you have the right to your own religious beliefs. You are entitled to your own opinions. (Haters gonna hate.) Most of all, having a healthy dose of self-confidence and expecting success can get you far in this world.

Of course, there are times when feeling entitled can be a hindrance. Having a sense of entitlement gets you into trouble when you start expecting things to be given to you when you haven’t earned them. This is especially true when it comes to finances. Feelings of entitlement may be costing you big bucks if you:

  • Constantly spend money on wants but can’t manage to save an emergency fund.
  • Feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, even if that means going into debt.
  • Expect others to meet your unrealistic demands of them.
  • Resort to pouting or punishing others when you don’t get your way.
  • Expect a job should be given to you simply because you have a degree.
  • Expect a higher salary based on tenure instead of merit.
  • Expect the government to take care of you…even your cable and internet. (Yep. I’ve actually seen people say this on Facebook.)

Getting Beyond a Sense of Entitlement

Look, we all feel entitled to a certain extent. But, if you want to grow rich, you have to find ways to make sure that you don’t allow your sense of entitlement to derail your goals. Here are a few ways you can get beyond your entitlement issues:

  • Lower your expectations. – We all want to jump right into the job market and make bank, but that probably isn’t going to happen. Employers are looking for education as well as experience. Your shiny new degree may pay well, but only after you have proven that you are an asset. Until then, take a job – any job – to gain experience…andvput some coin in your pocket.
  • Have patience. – Your parents, friends and relatives didn’t get where they are over night. It took years for them to build the life that you are accustomed to living. You probably can’t have it all right away. It may take a while, but it will come if you work for it.
  • Seize opportunities. – Although it takes patience to build your wealth, that doesn’t mean that you should wait for good things to happen. Seize opportunities and capitalize on career and wealth building opportunities when they present themselves. Make thoughtful, decisive decisions…and don’t look back.
  • Learn to say “no.” – I know you love your space, but you may have to settle for that queen size bed instead of buying a California king. Part of growing wealth and maturing into an adult is learning how to tell ourselves “no.” Differentiate between needs and wants. Wealthy people know this and practice it often.
  • Take responsibility. – Always remember that nobody owes you anything. It is your life. You know what you want. Now go earn it.

Dealing with a sense of entitlement can be tough. But if you lower your expectations and watch your spending, your hard work will get you exactly where you want to go. All it takes is a little planning and a lot of patience.

Do you know somebody dealing with entitlement issues? What are you teaching your kids about entitlement? Let us know in the comments below!

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