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?

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  1. I’m still figuring out what my American Dream looks like. I want some of the nice things and I also want the travel and adventure. For me, it’s just about choosing the nice things that are important to me in a minimalistic way so I can save and see the world :).

  2. Every night before I went to sleep it always come into my mind that I should reach financial independence before my 40’s. I want to have an investment, buy my own house and lastly to visit Paris!

    • CF says:

      I think reaching financial independence before your 40s is realistic! I say 35 but I like to aim high… before 40 is very doable. 🙂

  3. I just bought my house and that was something on the list but I bought a small property which is what I always wanted to keep costs low. I used to keep my cars for 6 years then upgrade. Now I plan to drive my car til it dies. I want to keep it simple and do more of what I love with my money.

  4. Steve says:

    I admit our goals (Canadian Dreams) are the same: financial independence. Not necessarily to retire early and bum on the beach everyday, but to have the freedom to work when we want, where we want, and on our conditions. Oh and because we find it fun, not because we have to.

    I think I said this before, but I think I’m drawn to this blog and it resonates with me because I feel like my wife and I are on a very similar journey as you guys! 🙂

    • CF says:

      Thanks Steve! I can’t imagine not working at all… I’d always like to have a project or two on my plate. Keeps things interesting!

  5. Best of luck on reaching your goal by 35. My goal for the next 5-10 years is to have enough cash or investments where I could pay off all my debt (student loans, mortgage payment, etc.) and literally have no debt payments of any kind.

    • CF says:

      Realistically, it’ll be “before 40” most likely, but I like to aim high… 😉 I’m not sure how I’ll become mortgage free yet, but I’m so close to being student loan free, I can taste it :p

  6. Like you, I used to want the big house and the fancy car and all the “things” that we’re taught make you successful and happy. These days my dream is a paid for house, a healthy family, and the ability to help others (family, friends, charity) once we have the house paid for.

    • CF says:

      Great goals 🙂 And with those dreams, you can actually be satisfied with what you have, whereas with things, you can always “upgrade”.

  7. Martin says:

    Great piece CF. Living in the UK I can’t say I have a Canadian dream, but I definitely have a UK one. Like you I felt that my life would be complete if I had all that wealth can buy you when I was young. Now I’m in my 30s and have gained a lot, lost it and started again from scratch, I’ve come to realise being content and happy is my real dream. Wealth would just be an added bonus.

  8. Great article CF from one Canadian to another 🙂

    What you wrote in your post is pretty much how I go about living my life. I much prefer renting to buying a house, I don’t own car, opting for a bike and public transit when needed and I work on my own as a self employed private guitar teacher. Suffice it to say that I am quite happy and living my version of the Canadian/American dream!

    Thanks again and take care.


  9. Love this! Our dream is to be very soon in a financial position where Rick can CHOOSE what he wants to do instead of being tied financially to his job. We’re taking the necessary steps to get there, and I can’t wait!

  10. eemusings says:

    Mine is pretty traditional, which I admit is a little uncool in the current wave of bloggers. Now we’re done with travelling (at least for the most part), I definitely want the house, dog and kids.

  11. Good luck on your 35 goal that is aggressive. If I can continue to invest and grow my investments at the same rate I did this year for the next 10 I’ll never have to worry about money again.

    • CF says:

      I like giving myself tough goals – it’s something to strive for 🙂 But like you, if I took ten years, yeah, I’d never have to worry again.

  12. Thats good that you have restraint over your cash especially when it comes to cars. I could buy a nice car too but I think I want to save that cash and invest in other things. Its all about what your priorities are.

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