Investopedia’s most fascinating financial term of 2023 by a long shot

The financial media website Investopedia posted the top 10 financial terms searched by its readers in 2023, and while some of them were dry (“Treasury Bill”) and others slightly sexy (“racketeering”), the term that seemed perhaps most revealing about the current state of the country was “American dream.”

Here’s Investopedia’s description of the term:

American Dream

The term “American Dream” originated in the depths of the Great Depression in 1931, and was coined by writer James Truslow Adams in his book Epic of America. He described it as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” It’s typically used to refer to a collection of milestones like buying a home and car, getting married, having kids, and economically prospering. Yet the economic dynamics of the past year made most of those accomplishments too expensive to achieve for many. Saving, owning a home, raising a child, and building wealth were severely impacted in 2023 by persistent inflation, a spike in mortgage rates, and ever-rising home prices, putting the modern day American Dream out of reach for millions of Americans.

As the site noted, although the “American dream” began as more of an aspirational idea, it came to symbolize something more concrete: a home, a family, kids, cars, an education, etc. For decades, that has been the standard by which many families gauged their success and even the extent of their belonging in a country that commoditizes everything.

But as the trappings of the American dream increasingly become financially unattainable for broad swaths of the country, it appears people are looking not only for the meaning of the term but also for how it might be redefined moving forward.

I have suggested several times recently that I believe President Joe Biden and Democrats must reimagine the American dream as part of their 2024 campaign to save our democracy. They must put forward a more meaningful and inclusive vision for the country, a vision in which people in both urban and rural, blue and red regions can see themselves participating.

I’m not sure exactly what that vision looks like, much less how to message it, but I’m certainly curious to hear the community’s thoughts on it. What does the American dream mean to you these days? What do you wish it meant? If you could rewrite the narrative around this iconic phrase, what would you say? Or would you scrap it altogether?

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