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My apologies up front for being too preachy but the world has changed (not for the good) and too many people elect to wait for the old world to come back rather than adjust to the new reality.

The cards may be increasingly stacked against the average person, but I think most can have a good life if they are good decision makers. By that I don’t mean being investment geniuses but rather realistic in the choices they make. If you choose not to get a useful education or acquire marketable skills you will find that there isn’t much room for you in the economy. By useful education, I mean that which the world needs. Far too many people get college degrees that don’t qualify them to do anything or that are otherwise a dime a dozen. Going into debt to acquire a useless education makes it even worse. By marketable skills I mean acquiring a technical trade. Having completely renovated our house these past few years, I’ve had lots of trades folks do stuff, and sometimes they are hard to find.

If you choose to be a druggie, alcoholic, or have a criminal record, odds are you will be operating on the fringes. I’ve recently watched up close as my nephew’s choices have all but guaranteed a far more difficult life than he’d of had if he hadn’t of made such poor choices in this regard.

If you choose to live above your means rather than below, the first bump in the road might push you over the edge. Bad things happen to good people and if you are over-extended, you’ll find you have no margin for error when something bad does happen. It is not a function of how much money you make. I’ve seen very high income people go broke and low income people weather storms that would push others over the edge. Much of the issue is recognizing needs vs wants. When I’ve watched people I know remortgage their homes to pay for a kid’s wedding, fund an expensive vacation with credit cards, or take out big mortgages that won’t be paid by time they retire, I shake my head wondering what are they thinking.

No matter what it is harder to achieve the so called American dream than it used to be, but it is very much possible still. At the macro level the Titans of Wall Street have stacked the cards against us, but at the micro level we make choices that affect our outcomes.