MARIETTA, Ga. — At 27, I am studying law and accounting while proving that the American Dream is possible.
While news polls reveal a lack of faith in the American Dream, I live it every day as I play with the kids in my own home, run errands in my paid-for car and cheer as statements from two retirement accounts show growing funds in a recession economy. I have to work hard, but the benefits are worth it.
My life started out tough — cerebral palsy, vision loss, hearing loss and poverty have made my journey to success both difficult and interesting. I realize that my success is my responsibility. My keys to success are my family, hard work, due diligence, a sense of humor, organizational skills, a fierce determination, a will to succeed, the belief in possibility, patience, trust and occasional help.
My first step was a smart choice in careers, choosing grocery retail for stability and job security. I developed a career and have actively sought out mentors to guide me toward promotions into management. I secured a recent promotion and several raises by earning my reputation as a detailed, accurate, loyal and hard worker. I work for the success of the team and actively support management in reaching their goals. I will stay late or come in early as needed. I’m assertive in my honesty and I support recycling in my department to save money.
Successful people often share a creative entrepreneur spirit. I worked various side jobs while maintaining my full-time employment. I’ve never stopped exploring ways of making money. I have worked in tech support, built websites, worked in day labor, cleaned as a maid, sold toilet paper, edited papers, illustrated for two children’s books and have delivered newspapers. I paid for my car with extra money and my husband bartered for a van.
My husband and I cut expenses in an extreme way by living on friends’ couches for a year while saving up the money to pay closing costs on a house. The Fed banned zero down loans the night before the closing. We had nine hours to come up with thousands of dollars, received from our families at the drop-dead last minute.
After we found our house, we had our children. I was temporarily disabled after major surgery and we were in foreclosure when I applied for a Making Home Affordable loan modification. We copied everything, duplicated the whole package and made records of calls and trial payments. When the final loan modification contract arrived, I hustle-packed back three notarized and signed contracts within two hours.
We called in weekly for nearly a year to keep close tabs on all people and processes involved. The bank denied the existence of a loan modification. I walked into the bank with my file, ready to sue. I sat down with bank staff in person and we worked to repair the material breach of contract with all proof of contract and fulfillment of my burdens at hand. My loan modification was fixed that day, within one hour.
I’ve worked to prepare for retirement. Five percent to 10 percent of my income goes into a 401(k) account and the company matches up to 1.5 percent. I invest in company stock and receive yearly dividends. My company match and dividends beat bank rates for savings accounts. My second account is a company-funded stock account that grows yearly.
So how can you reach your own American Dream? It’s simple. The American Dream is really broken down to the goals we set and achieve — usually they are a house, a car, a career, a family and security in retirement.
These goals can be met if we cut the spending and start the saving. I have paid off more than $20,000 in debt (some not mine) in four years by spending less. Bringing industry back to America will further our goals; workers paid here will spend money here. We can secure our retirement by standing up for our individual rights. My freedom of speech and my right to sue for contract enforcement has enabled me to take on one of the largest corporations in the world (my mortgaging bank) and succeed in fighting to save my house.
The American Dream is still within our reach. We just have to work hard and possibly ask for a little help along the way. So I raise a call to action for everyone who reads this to get started today with reasonable goals for success. Then start the search for mentors and teachers in your life who will keep the ball rolling. Together, we can make it happen. For those who may need a helping hand up, consider asking your local United Way.