Amelia and I grew up during the 1970s and 80s in the heartland of America. Amelia is from the Chicagoland Area. I was raised on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town.
Our parents told us we could do or be whatever we wanted when we grew up. The sky was the limit and opportunities abounded.
Our fathers had good corporate jobs with good benefits, including affordable health insurance. We were taught that if we got a job at a good company, the company would take care of us.
What they didn’t realize was that they were the last generation to experience that kind of employer loyalty.
When Employer Loyalty Died
In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, company benefits like health insurance and education reimbursement were slashed. Profit-sharing and pension plans were replaced with employee-funded 401k plans. And annual layoffs became a popular way to boost stock prices ahead of quarterly earnings reports.
Meanwhile, as the corporate mindset was shifting, the Internet boom was creating more opportunities for employees.
When I worked at Sprint in Kansas City, my annual pay raise was between 2% and 5%. Even when I got promoted two levels, my pay only jumped 10%.
In 1999, after 5 years of working at Sprint (and saving the company more than $24 million), I was only making $42K per year.
By quitting Sprint and going to work at a different company, I almost doubled my salary overnight to $80K per year.
My wife at the time also quit Sprint and more than doubled her salary at a different company. We went from making a combined $80K per year to $160K per year. Overnight!
Why on earth would we have ANY loyalty to a company that was cutting benefits, laying people off for no reason, and giving us mediocre raises when we could jump ship and immediately double our salaries?
When The American Dream Died
Somewhere along the way, companies forgot that employees were their most valuable asset. That caused employees to chase the next shiny object until there were no more shiny objects to chase.
Instead of weathering the economic storms like employers and employees had done in the past, it was everyone for themselves.
While this shift was occurring, the cost of food, housing, health care, and education were all outpacing the increase in wages, especially for those who remained loyal to a company.
Americans started using credit cards to buy food, borrowing a lifetime of debt to pay for education, and going bankrupt due to medical expenses.
This perfect storm of events killed the American Dream, at least for most middle-class people living in the United States.
The American Dream Lives Abroad
Thankfully, there’s more than one country in the Americas (as our viewers from Central and South America like to point out whenever they get the chance).
If you can bring your income with you, meaning you either have a pension, social security, or work online, you can still achieve the American Dream, it just won’t be in the U.S. of America.
The foundational component of “living the dream” is being able to afford it. If your expenses exceed your income, your life isn’t a dream; it’s a nightmare.
Most developing countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and even parts of Europe, have areas that feel a lot like the US, only for a fraction of the cost.
If you go outside the major metro areas, it can feel a little old-world, but near the major metros, it feels remarkably first-world.
That means you can have all the benefits, like high-quality food, housing, and health care, while paying a fraction for them compared to similar things in the U.S.
We calculated that by moving to Ecuador in 2017, we have saved over $250K in living expenses! That’s a quarter of a million dollars just by reducing our cost of living!
What have we done with that money?
Well, we paid off all our debt (including $43K in student loans), we took an amazing trip to Amsterdam and India, we’re traveling more in Latin America, and we’ve put more money into our retirement funds than we had in the previous 15 years combined!
It’s a shame that millions of Americans have already had to leave the US to find the American Dream, but that’s the reality in which we live.
The US is quickly heading toward a two-class society: the uber-rich who don’t need to leave and the uber-poor who can’t afford to leave.
The middle class is being decimated by a high cost of living and stagnant wages, which means the majority will have a tough decision to make over the coming years: stay, and risk poverty, or leave, and move to a country where The American Dream still lives.
George Carlin said, “It’s called The American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
Based on my experience living abroad, I’d like to modify his quote: It’s called the American Dream, but you have to leave to achieve it.
- How To Leave The United States (or Canada)
- Top 10 Cheapest Countries for Expats
- Top 10 Countries with Cheap Rentals
- Safest Countries in Latin America
- Cost of Living in Ecuador
- Our Ecuador Healthcare Experience
Watch Our Video About the New American Dream
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Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!