First Person: 'No Debt' is How I’m Redefining the American Dream

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Owning a home with a white-picket fence is no longer my American Dream. According to a recent poll by Credit.com, getting out of debt has replaced owning a home as the American dream for most people. A recent article by HuffPost Business pointed out that nearly one in four people age 18 to 24 polled defined the American dream as having no debt. Since most people have to go into debt in order to buy a house, homeownership may feel more like a burden than a freedom. I've heard a lot of talk lately about how young people are feeling like indentured servants because of their tremendous amount of student loan debt. My two sons, who are 19 and 20, avoid debt as much as they can. They aren't thinking too much about buying a home as much as getting careers going to pay the bills. According to the poll, the American dream is now open to a wide variety of interpretations.

Retiring at 65

The poll indicated 27 percent of people see the American Dream as being able to retire at age 65. I don't obsess about my future retirement because I am not opposed to working for as long as I'm able. I am just as concerned about having no debt now as I am worried about future debt. My goal is to eliminate debt and save so that I won't have to run up credit cards when I'm 65 or older. I still view freedom as not owing anything to anyone.

Owning a home outright

I was surprised that only 18 percent of those polled viewed owning a home as the American dream. Growing up in the 1980s in Maryland, I knew very few families who didn't own homes. In fact, the pervasive attitude was one of extreme pity for people living in apartments. Now that I'm 40, I do own a home, but it's not the fairytale I expected. I was underwater on my mortgage for several years during the housing collapse, which threw cold water on my dream. Now, I just hope to have my home paid off by the time I retire.

Sending my kids to college

I'm glad I wasn't able to tap my home equity in order to send my kids to college. For starters, I didn't have any home equity that I could even tap. My sons chose to go to community college in order to save money and avoid debt. Being able to afford to go away for college is still the American dream but a lot of people. After spending 10 years paying off my own student loan debt, I don't want my sons to become indentured servants over a private college experience.

Debt is a source of stress for everyone I know. I personally hate the feeling of owing someone else, even if it's a bank or mortgage company. My American Dream is to be completely free of debt with enough money to prevent ever needing to get buried in debt again.

More from this contributor:

Six Figures and Living Paycheck to Paycheck

We Stopped Paying the Grandparents' Debts

I'd Rather Be Fat Than In Debt

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