Living the Canadian Dream

Tagging along with posts from Jordann and Michelle at Making Sense of Cents, I’d like to throw in my thoughts on the Canadian (or American) dream.  Wikipedia has a good blurb on the “American Dream”, describing it as a “national ethos” that, while changing over time, includes personal components such as home ownership and upward social mobility.  It epitomizes a sense of achievement, gained through persistent hard work.

Photo credit via flickr

Photo credit via flickr

My parents were refugees to Canada, and growing up, I’d say that we were a good example of the Canadian Dream.  My dad worked hard at the local factory and brought home $20/hr through plain old hard work – no formal education or anything.  Our family lived in a small apartment until I was 4 and then they bought a house.  As a child, my definition of the Canadian Dream would have mirrored this route.  Work hard at school, at jobs, and then one day, get the keys to a beautiful house with a yard.

Indeed, when I was young, I desperately wanted all the physical trappings – the big house with the spiral staircase, the fancy car, the nice things.  It didn’t help after we moved out to BC.  Many of my friends were immigrant families who came to Canada already flush with cash and always had the biggest houses and the nicest things.

But as I got older, I realized that everything has a cost.  And that cost is not only measured in terms of dollars, but also in terms of your life.

To get the big beautiful house, I’d have to spend a lot of money.  Even a smallish house would cost me the majority of my paycheque.  That means I’d sacrifice other things: savings, debt payments, and even non-essentials like travel.  And in order to even qualify for a mortgage on a nice house, I’d likely move out of Vancouver to find something the banks would consider affordable.  I’d have to live further away, therefore spending more time commuting.

I realized that the dream was not to have the big house and the fancy car, but the dream was the freedom where I *could* have those things, if I wanted them.  And that basically encompasses my current vision of the Canadian Dream – financial freedom.

Right now, I *could* buy myself a fancy car, in cash.  It would be glorious.  But I’m not going to, because that restricts my freedom to do other things, like save and travel.  I *could* get a mortgage on a nice house but I’m not going too – again, I’d have to sacrifice more things.  And, if I did either of those things, I would sacrifice more of my life by having to work more to make up that spent money instead of living more.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want nice things!  My little condo might be only 500 square feet, but it is beautiful  🙂  Instead, I want to do what we’ve been trying to show through this blog – living life just a little bit differently. You can live well without the giant house. You can eat well without spending hundreds every month.

In the end, my Canadian Dream would be to reach financial freedom (before 35 I hope!) according to the Master Plan, and spend my days doing the things I love.  It might include working, but more of it would be spent with friends and family and travel.  That dream doesn’t require a big house or a fancy car to be a reality.

What’s your American (Canadian) Dream look like?

Posted in: Philosophy

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