The American Nightmare

Lee Anne Marentes

Here is my fucking issue.

I spend my time spending money. Things I like. Things I don’t like.

Some are necessary, like housing, clothing, food and transportation. Others are less essential but important like education, personal hobbies, entertainment, leisure and etc.

Think of how common monthly subscriptions are nowadays.

But, It pays to save. Like, SAVE, save.

Nevertheless, I admit that as a college student I often engage in the verb “saving,” which is quite different from actually putting aside for my future or emergencies.

I quickly save a percentage of my income yet I spend it just as quickly on whatever, whenever and wherever, without giving much thought if it is in my bank account’s best interest to do so.

As irresponsible as that may seem, Why should I feel motivated to act differently?

The “American dream” of creating a family, finding a lifelong career and buying a house has turned into a nightmare — A shattered dream that has become more unrealistic and unattainable by most Americans each passing year.

It is an altered dream that has seen many different forms since colonial times and is not fully attainable by the same methods used generations ago.

To put it optimistically, don’t feel alone. This nightmare is not exclusive only to California so hip hip hooray.

This new nightmare is not only caused by the system but also by the people that participate in it blindly.

People, like myself, that arent allocating money with intent or putting effort into daily financial literacy.

No matter where you go in the U.S., adaptability and financial literacy are needed in the eternal race against inflation.

So, chop chop, buddy. Because the government is not waiting for you to catch up. Develop personal goals and research how to achieve such.

An ignorant individual once said… probably: “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

I understand that rhetoric, however I at least want to enjoy my life, it’s horribly apparent that I can not afford to live and I didn’t ask to be born.

So, let’s finally address the elephant in the bank. Because time is money– and inflation.



What the fuck can I do?

Well, I started looking.

I first landed at the Mountie Money Management Center.

Lisa Amos is the faculty coordinator for the MMMC and is solely focused on preparing students for surviving in the 21st century and how to earn a living in careers.

“We need to start thinking about things like retirement when we are young,” Amos said.

She said that when moving from part-time jobs to full-time careers, benefits like dental, 401k, pension plans and other benefits are just as important as the dollar sign attached to your projected salary.

It takes one’s own due diligence to overcome financial stress and take charge of their financial literacy.

From growing as a child with no money, to a college student who works part-time with a little bit more money, there definitely should be some responsibility, self-reflection and moderation for my own wellbeing as I continue to age.

Miraya Aguirre, student ambassador for MMMC, said students usually arrive for the free stuff and just leave.

“Everybody growing up needs to learn about their finances,” Aguirre said.

She and Jennifer Velasco, another student ambassador, believed that having a larger outreach will bring more people in and teach students a vital skill necessary for survival.

“It’s kind of hidden and that plays a huge part,” Velasco said, remembering her first time trying to find the center.

Cesar Rivas, MMMC student ambassador, agreed the center is underutilized but it has improved significantly over the past year.

Increased turnout is also great. Good, because besides surviving and actually finding an enjoyable, suitable career to earn some money– the hope is to efficiently use our benefits and earnings for personal or professional goals.

I ask the begging question to the MMMC faculty, student ambassadors and you: Is the American Dream dead or are Americans simply poor savers?

There are tons of everyday consumer strategies to encourage people to spend, spend, spend.

You know what they say, money is the root of all evil. The morality of this evil is dependent on the perspective of those involved.

It’s like buying groceries and the receipt spat in your face and said, “You saved $1.69 shopping with us today!”

Those savings don’t get sent back into my account. Those are theoretical savings. EVIL.

As I grab reins and take the charge needed to succeed in my hometown, calculating the income necessary to afford a life anywhere in California sets my hair ablaze a fiery red.

I, like many fellow Americans, underestimate the income required for one’s desired lifestyle.

At times it feels like the world is laughing at me, stuffing me in a polka-dotted clown suit to work for “the man” and plummeting me into the rain gutter of my mind.

Without doing my own part to seek guidance and inquiry it would have taken years to understand that financial anxiety of the future is natural and a necessary evil/call to action.

Being a functional adult in society means it pays to be penny-wise.

Being a functional adult is about getting started.

Look for local available resources, ways to budget monthly spending, receive aid with groceries or just gain knowledge from similar identifying communities. Local campuses and community centers list available resources in person or on their websites.

One resource I already mentioned near myself is the MMMC. There are also free and cheap resources to get groceries on my campus like the Basic Needs Resources center, CalFresh or Mountie Fresh food pantry. Even finding local events, communities and/or clubs that I identify with are huge outlets to experience other opinions and ask questions.

All of the MMMC workshops are resources that discuss topics like buying a car or house, insurance, investments, debt, taxes, retirement and more in person and virtually over zoom.

This is free information that could help keep a roof over your head, help afford an education and bills, and help balance personal and professional goals.

Shit I am subconsciously afraid of thinking about. Shit that ends up meaning fucking nothing, especially if the information isn’t put to use.
So starting is a great start.


It’s also great to understand that no amount of financial information will help anyone unless it is being put into real-life practice.

The lesson that has been whooping my ass is that I am my own person that has to research and apply what’s best for myself.

Trust me, I’m not an idiot. I understand how slim of a possibility it is for one to operate at 100% efficiency 100% of the time– shit I’m far from perfectly applying every learnt lesson myself. It is a draining challenge to discover reasons for becoming financially stable beyond just daily survival.

Nevertheless, I feel I financially owe my future self for surviving in America and I want to take proper steps to reflect that lifestyle. I want to live a life I am proud of. Not everyone will place financial literacy as the most important value, some could say family or experiences are keys to a fulfilled life.

But to earn that reflection, the reflection that I value– I. Must. Try.




Why the fuck is it like this?

The simple answer: America.

A poll from The Washington Post found widespread agreement amongst Americans on what it means to be middle class in America.

A commonly-used definition from the Pew Research Center sets a middle class income between two-thirds and twice the national median income, or $67,819 to $203,458 for a family of four in 2022.

But when it comes to the actual amount of Americans who meet that financial security, just over a third of U.S. adults actually met that definition.

Milk doesn’t cost the same anymore, people.

The poll of around 1600 Americans stated that the top six conditions of financial security are health insurance, steady employment, ability to save for the future, pay their bills, afford emergency expenses and retire comfortably.

Only 35% of Americans meet all six.

Now let’s talk specifically about why California is expensive and just how impactful California’s economy is.

And I’m not buying expensive hats, sitting courtside with celebrities and beachside saddleback riding. But one’s geographical location does affect the value of the dollar.

I’m fortunate enough to have parents that could afford to raise me in the Golden State where minimum wage is three times the minimum federal wage.

Compared to other states like Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee which all have no state minimum wage set, fast food workers received an increase to minimum wage in California.

The law, Assembly Bill 1228, was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and required over 60 restaurant establishments nationwide to bump up starting wages to $20 an hour.

Cheers to that.

Now every morning I say “thank you” for wage increases, high taxes, strict regulations and California’s high annual gross domestic product.

And when I go to sleep, I have adult nightmares of never being happy enough with any job, being financially capable to buy a house or even own assets to sustain myself or my future.

Cheers to that.

Ah, California. Nicknamed the Golden State for its revolutionary gold rush in 1848, it brought approximately over 300,000 people from their homes across the U.S. for a chance to strike it rich.

Fast forward to modern day, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, California is the number one largest state economy in the U.S., which is thanks to the state’s annual GDP.

Gross Domestic Product is the total value of goods and services produced in a country.

If California was a sovereign nation in 2024, it would rank in terms of nominal GDP as the world’s fifth largest economy. That is a single state ahead of India and the United Kingdom. That is a single state ahead of entire countries.


California grew individually year by year in terms of nominal GDP, which is ranked based on 2023 estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis for U.S. and States International Monetary Fund countries other than the U.S. (

This is not the sole reason Cali is expensive but this factor plays a huge role in who decides to do business in California.

Have you heard of Silicon Valley? Apple? Google? Facebook?

Companies have seen California as home to an expansive sort of the world’s most valuable industries; technology, agriculture and trade, retail and finance, and tourism since the early 19th century.

All the elements of expensive have always been part of California.

Companies bring in the people, people bring in the money and the cycle inevitably creates a longer list of reasons for people to live here.

Just like the gold rush days, baby.

Who knew the past could explain the future?



Do yourself a fucking favor.

Look, I can’t halt the natural laws of capitalism, ease up taxes or loosen up regulations on new infrastructure.

But understanding ways to get more bang for your buck and how to coexist with the evil corporations that we KNOW only want us for our guap could progress toward self control and growth.

Do some self reflection. Personally, I’m not oblivious to my spending habits. I need to take my future self seriously and plan steady actions to improve that.

I plan to analyze my weekly expenses, break down my monthly habits and take advantage of every opportunity around.

The cheaper the resource, the better. As my mother always said, “Free is the magic number.”

I’ve created my long term goal, which is to save enough money to move out.

There are a lot of steps along the way where I have to remind myself of the goal and feel secure in my plan that everything will be alright.

Fuck the American Nightmare and the American Dream.

I choose to stay awake and adapt to whatever the future brings.

For my readers, I hope you do the same. Dive into the deep end of the capitalist pool and learn to swim.

Or dont, who fucking cares, I’m not living your life.

Resources are here to be utilized and are not just to take up space. In the past and in the future, funding for resources have been canceled because the allocated money was being underutilized.

For the sake of one’s well being, find cheap or free resources to offload some external stress and show why grants like the Title V grant should continue to fund programs.

If any of the information we deem vital aren’t regularly implemented into our personal practices, then all of this is useless.

Only you can do yourself the favor.

Take present day aspirations and turn them into future realities.

Learn some realistic strategies.

Cream get the money. Dollar dollar bills, y’all.


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