Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Living the Dream

A letter to the editor of the Financial Times:
Sir, I have been living in the US for eight years now . . . .

[M]any of us [immigrants] are in high and well-paid positions, with green card applications pending or completed, wind in our sails and cheerfully cruising towards the American Dream.

Not me. The more I am achieving, the more I feel something is not right. My wife and I . . . have been holding back on the big purchases expected to be made by us at this point of our lives (early 30s) reflecting the material wellbeing we are revelling in. Maybe it was the uncertainty of our visa situation (my green card is still pending) or maybe it was something more, but we were taken aback by the fact that we need to invest $400,000 in a house or even $20,000 in a new car. I know these purchases are considered a right of passage in this country but doesn't anybody think of the opportunity cost? I mean - hello! -- you start a new job and the first thing you do is buy a new car and, a month later, a new house? What if the job does not go right? What if your boss hates you or you hate him/her? What if there are other things that drive you crazy at the job (you fill in the blanks)? Given your $400,000 mortgage and $20,000 car financing, will you have the guts to tell your boss to go where the sun does not shine and just leave? Or will you just put up with it, remain in a state of miserable hibernation at work and look for joy and satisfaction outside of work, usually piling up on your material possessions and partying hard to forget?

Unfortunately, from what I see, 90 per cent of the people choose option two. Because it is hard to make a free decision when you are loaded with so much burden. Yes, you can divest of this burden, sell the house, get a smaller car or (God forbid!) no car at all. But then you will be considered a loser. The peer pressure will destroy you. You think high-school was peer pressure? Try the young white-collar business professionals in a booming market (of your choice)! Divesting is out of question. Going back is not an option. Your goals becomes finding a company to sustain your lifestyle. You do not think of the opportunity cost. The grudges you have towards your job are normal and everybody has them. You strive towards a bigger house, better car and a corner office. When you retire, then you will "live" (meaning: do what you like and not what you have to).

Not me. I am not getting into this "affluent person" mentality. I would rather think poor but preserve my freedom of choice. No, I am not selling everything and becoming a shepherd back home. That would be too dramatic and stereotypical. But I am done with the office job. I am using the money I saved living below my means to do something I like NOW. Whether that would be travelling around the country or starting my own business is irrelevant. The important thing is I have the choice to do it and the means to achieve it. And that is what I consider my real American Dream.

Vassil Nikolov,
Washington, DC 20007, US

Well done, Mr. Nikolov. But no car at all? Clearly you have not been in America long enough.

¿"...in America? Excuseme, you are wrong, because America is more extensive, means South, Central, and Canadien country.
Good point. I apologize, both for the error and for the fact that our autophilia has not swept across both continents yet.
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