What Is Your American Dream? Part 4
I’m about to ask you an important question—something that involves your finances, hopes, and dreams—but first I want to discuss a current economic “anxiety” with you.
Many people in the United States are growing a little nervous about our economy. Over the last several years, we’ve been slowly but strongly recovering from a stock market crash and a collapse of the housing market bubble. The stock market has re-reached highs, and median home income and housing prices have climbed—and people are beginning to talk.
Maybe it’s partly because anxiety sells news, but announcers and genius economists are making speculations: “Are we on the brink of another collapse?”
You Don’t Have to Respond in Fear
When we are struggling with money, it’s easy to feel afraid and to respond in ways that are rooted in fear. Many people become upset with their fellow Americans who are living in financial freedom when it is better just to learn to think the way they do.
The wealthy think differently than most people. They aren’t focused on how much they’re making and spending, how to spend less, how to stretch every dollar while maximizing their enjoyment. Instead, they are focused on building their net worth.
If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me describe net worth as altitude. Your balance sheet demonstrates how far off the ground you are, and you can find this number by subtracting your debts from the value of your assets. What is your actual net worth?
Here’s how this works:
If I have $100 cash and $0 debt, 100 minus 0 equals 100 feet of altitude.
If I have $100 cash and $75 debt, 100 minus 75 equals 25 feet of altitude.
Does that make sense? When we subtract our debts from the value of our assets, we generally wind up with a lower net worth than most of us expect or understand. That number reveals our financial “elevation,” and many of us discover that we are not as high as we would like to be.
Protecting Your Net Worth
Some speculate that in the next eighteen months to two years, there will be another “readjust” in our stock market. That makes sense to me because the stock market is always turbulent around presidential election years.
But instead of looking at this possibility and responding in fear, we can be wise and choose to put this information to good use right now. In the next eighteen months, what can we do to protect our net worth?
We may not be able to keep the housing bubble from deflating, but we can try to lower the amount of debt we owe on our houses. We can make sure that the debt balance on our home loans is lower than the likely decline in home value. This will keep us from finding ourselves in an unwanted position: upside down in our homes.
Your American Dream in the Midst of Today’s Economy
What does all of this have to do with the American dream?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve encouraged you to write down what the American dream means to you—not what it “should” mean or what you feel pressured to write down, but what do you, personally, want to see happen in your life?
My list includes being healthy, having grandchildren, writing a best-selling book, having my family close by. Some of the items on my list come face to face with what we covered earlier in this article: to own my own home and to have a million dollars in net worth.
To reach these things, I will need to be what the Bible talks about: as shrewd as a serpent and as innocent as a dove (Matt. 10:16). Therefore, it is imperative that I don’t ignore my money or be “dull” in my understanding of how money works. The same is true for you and your dreams as well.
Your Heart Behind Your Dreams
This week, take some time to look at the dreams you’ve written down and answer this important question: “Why?” It’s great that you want these things—but why do you want them? What is your heart behind them?
Why does not equal entitlement. The American dream is fundamentally built on this understanding: “I am free to pursue my life, liberty, and happiness.” We aren’t entitled to those things, but we have the great pleasure of working for them—of applying ourselves, trusting in God, and stewarding our dreams.