The American Dream has been a focal point and topic of debate since the financial crisis of 2008: Citizens and politicians alike are asking whether it's time to redefine what success looks like in the U.S.
According to Howard Gold, columnist for MarketWatch and founder of GoldenEgg Investing, the white picket fence and security that hard work can bring is still alive, but it will cost you ... a lot. In a USA Today article, Gold calculated that, for a family of four, living out the American Dream costs just over $130,000 a year.
"This isn’t about being rich,” Gold tells Yahoo Finance. "It’s about providing security and a good life for your children and opportunities for your children... this is probably what a good middle class to upper-middle class life in America would cost."
Considering that the average household in the United States makes $51,371 per year, it seems that the dream is unobtainable to most. In fact, according to Gold’s estimates, only one in eight, or about 16 million, American households achieve this standard of living.
“A lot of this is subjective,” Gold admits. Costs vary according to location and ideals. "In Indianapolis or Tulsa, your cost of living is much lower than if you live in New York or San Francisco, where arguably living the American dream would cost a lot more than this," says Gold. “I even got a Twitter comment saying, ‘You should come visit us in Pennsylvania; we’re living the American Dream on $40,000 a year.’”
Across the U.S., fast food and other low-wage workers have been protesting, calling for income equality and demanding a living wage. President Barack Obama has also called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage.
In a recent press conference, the president stated that, "This increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country, and it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people." He has also called income inequality "the defining challenge of our time" and has said it defines "everything I do in office."
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