America remains the Land of Opportunity

It’s Independence Day and most of America has shut down so people can enjoy a three-day weekend.

Before I head out to a barbecue with friends this afternoon, I wanted to pen some thoughts about why America remains one of best countries in the world, if not the absolute best, for people over 50.

America is not perfect, yet several people are working diligently to destroy America’s foundations by claiming that errors in judgement by our founding fathers means that our country grew like a weed from bad seed planted centuries ago. Those individuals want to tear down America’s foundation and rebuild it to better align with their worldview.

  • There is no doubt that slavery was a colossal human rights mistake. No person should ever be treated like property based on their sex, religious affiliation, age or color of their skin.
  • In a land where all people were declared to be equal, women should have had the right to vote and participate in society years before they did.
  • The early colonists would never have survived their first winter without the support of indigenous people who already occupied the land. What the descendants of those colonists did to native Americans was deplorable.
  • There is an enormous amount of corruption in politics today brought about by career partisans of both major parties who spend other people’s money as though it has no real value and take steps to keep their constituents riled up and angry just to maintain their own political power.

However, I still think America is great because of its foundation!

Our founders created a system of checks and balances that worked as intended to right many wrongs. Our nation’s founders gave all the power to the people, rather than a powerful central government, to control the destiny of country they created as well as their own lives.

The idea of everyone operating from a common moral code to self-govern themselves without being told what to do, say or think by people in power worked very well for Americans for centuries, especially for seasoned citizens. Consider this:

  • When it comes to faith, you have the freedom to believe what you want, or believe in nothing at all.
  • The same holds true for political ideals. You can believe and support whatever you wish along with the freedom to advocate a position on any topic.
  • America’s healthcare system, while very expensive, is still the envy of most of the world and is responsible for adding 30 years to the average life span in the 20th century, according to The Stanford Center on Longevity. Currently the average lifespan of an American extends to 77 years, but will likely be 100 when the 21st century comes to an end.
  • Americans over the age of 50 are among the wealthiest people in the world. According to the CNN Money, the average net worth for people aged 55-64 is $180,000 and for people over 65, it is $232,000. The Financial Samuri blog noted that for an above average 50-year-old who has an education, works hard and follows good financial discipline, his or her net worth actually exceeds $1.2 million.
  • The average annual income of Americans, currently at $70,430, ranks 8th in the world, according to World Data Info.
  • Many older Americans can live out their golden years in retirement communities where they have an endless array of leisure activities to enjoy as a reward for the hard work they did earlier in their lives. The United States government even provides them with supplemental income to maintain a lifestyle few people in the world enjoy.

With more money in the bank and a longer-than-ever lifespan, most people over 50 have the time and resources to pursue two separate lives.

First, their industrious pre-50 life, which involved learning a trade and raising a family. Second, their post-50 life where they can either pursue leisure every day, or capitalize on their accumulated wealth, skills and experiences to have a real impact on their lives and people around them. The choice is theirs to make.

For all the constant strife that defines America today, the southern border proves that people are still willing to risk everything just to get into this country simply for an opportunity to enjoy a better life.

Politics aside, most people just want to be left alone to pursue happiness, an unalienable right — which means incapable of being taken away or denied — afforded to them in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The beauty of America is that you have the freedom to define happiness however you want to. If you want to golf, fish and sleep all day, you can choose to do that provided you have the financial resources to enable that lifestyle.

However, if you want to start a business, volunteer, get a job, write a book, travel to new places, pour your life into your grandchildren or any of 10,000 other options, you have the freedom to do so every day.

  • Don’t like your job? You have the freedom to get a new one or to completely retire.
  • Don’t like where you live? You can move to a community that better aligns with your values.
  • Have an idea on how to build a better mousetrap or provide a better service? You have the freedom to do that and sell it to the rest of the world.

You alone have the choice to determine your destiny. You are not in a culture where karma dictates your status in life, nor were you born into an aristocracy where your family of origin either opened doors or shut them. Anyone of any race, sex or age can start with nothing at any time and be successful by simply following time-honored and proven principles of success.

Whether you were born in America, like I was, or you immigrated here, like my grandfather did, you should celebrate that you are an American and the fact you enjoy a level of freedom here that is unattainable in much of the world. Just try protesting in China to see how tolerant that society is of people advocating the ability to make their own choices.

According to World Population Review, America ranked at the top of the list of countries for charitable giving. Of those surveyed in the United States over a 10-year period, 72% reported helping a stranger, 61% reported donating to a charity, and 42% reported having volunteered their time to an organization.

Why is it that America consistently ranks at the top of that list? Because its citizens have more money and time than citizens in most other countries and, more importantly, the freedom to control how they invest that time and money.

So, this Independence Day, pause and give thanks to the fact that whether by birth or by choice, you find yourself living in unarguably the greatest country ever conceived in all of world history.

What will you do tomorrow with the gift of freedom bestowed to you?

Need some ideas? Download a complementary copy of my latest book, Fifty Over 50, which provides brief profiles of dozens of men and women who have enjoyed success and built a legacy in the second half of their life.

P.S. I also encourage you to join me in an annual tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence on July 4. It’s an eye-opening document outlining all the reasons why colonists wanted to break away from Great Britain. Every year, it seems politicians want to take America once step backward to the system from which we boldly declared our independence. So, remind yourself why we enjoy the freedoms we do.