Living The Dream: What Do You Own – Really?

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If someone came up to you and asked you what you own, what would you say?  It may seem like an obvious question, but it is actually a lot more complicated than you might think.  We live in a very materialistic society.  In fact, a large percentage of Americans today define their lives by what they “own”, and a large percentage of Americans consider “living the American Dream” to be about accumulating a house, several cars and a massive pile of possessions.  But what does it mean to “own” something anyway?  Does it mean to have something in your possession?  Well, if that was the case then someone leasing a car for three years could be considered the owner.  But that obviously is not the case.  Does “owning” something mean that nobody can legally take that thing away from you?  Well, if that is the case then perhaps we all “own” a lot less than we think we do. 


Maybe you think that you own your house.  But do you?  What does it mean to own a house?  Millions of young Americans have run out and have signed up for bloated 30 year mortgages that they can barely afford.  Are they now the proud owners of these houses?

Well, no, they actually don’t “own” the  houses until they pay them off.  The reality today is that Americans actually own less of their houses and land than ever.  For the first time in modern history, the total value of all residential mortgage debt far surpasses the total value of all home equity in the United States….

So what does that mean?

It means that the banks have a much greater “ownership” interest in our homes and our land than we do.

So technically, ordinary Americans “own” less of the real estate of America than at any other time in modern history.

But perhaps you have paid your house off.

Does that mean that you “own” it.

Does that mean that nobody can take it away from you?

Well, no.

Unless you keep paying property taxes (rent) to the proper authorities, you will not be able to keep your home.

So if they can take it away from you for not paying rent (property taxes), do you really own it?

Something to think about it.

Well, you might insist that you own your car.

But do you really?

If you are still making payments on that car you don’t own it.

The financing company does.

You don’t have the title do you?

Well, if you have totally paid the car off you do.

So do you “own” the car at that point?

Can you do whatever you want to with it?

Well, no.

In order to operate that car, you are going to have to pay the license fee, the registration fee, the emissions inspection fee, the property taxes (if that applies in your area), the tire taxes and the gas taxes. 

Once you have paid all of those taxes, then you can drive where the government allows you to drive and only under the rules that the government sets for you.

Not that we shouldn’t have rules.

The point is to illustrate how limited your “ownership” really is.

Well maybe you can point to a whole bunch of stuff in your house that you “own”.

After all, that is your “stuff”, right?

Well, did you pay for any of that stuff with a credit card?

If so, there is a really good chance that you are still paying it off.

In fact, if you only make the minimum payment each and every time, a $6,000 credit card bill can end up costing you over $30,000 (depending on the interest rate).

Perhaps you took out a home equity loan to pay for all of that stuff.

Well, that means you put your house at risk for that big pile of stuff that you “own”.

If you don’t keep paying that home equity loan, you could very well end up losing your house and then you won’t have anywhere to put your “stuff”.

But that isn’t the only way you could lose your stuff.

If you lose your job or you find yourself with huge medical bills that you can’t pay you could very well end up in bankruptcy.

If you do end up bankrupt, you are not going to be able to keep the vast majority of your stuff.

So perhaps your hold on your big pile of stuff is not as secure as you thought.

Well, perhaps you have a college degree that you think that you “own”.

Nobody can take that away from you, right?

Well, right, nobody is going to take your college degree from you.

But if you are like most Americans, you will be paying for it for decades.

That is especially true of millions of young Americans today.  They are up to their eyeballs in student debt only to find out that their cherished college degrees are barely enough to get them a job greeting shoppers down at the local Wal-Mart.

The truth is that life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions.

There are a thousand ways that the possessions we have worked so hard to accumulate could be taken away from us.

The vast majority of us are one lawsuit or one really bad traffic accident or one really bad illness from being flat broke.

The American Dream is not promised to any of us.

And as the U.S. economy continues to come apart like a 20 dollar suit, more Americans than ever will find their materialistic dreams crumbling before their eyes.

So what will you do if that happens to you?

  • Greg

    The only thing we can ever possess that can’t be taken from us is our salvation. That, by the way, is also the only thing that really matters. So repent, believe in the Lord Jeus Christ and live right by following God’s commands, then you won’t have to fret about the fact that you own NOTHING.

  • Judas Iscariot

    Salvation isn’t something that is given to you and repenting, believing in Jesus Christ will do nothing for you but give you a superstition to believe in. Owning nothing in this world is more beneficial than owning things. Having nothing makes you a better person as long as you don’t want those things. It frees up your time. It also ensures that the things you own don’t own you. Greg I thought I would let you know that if God already knows everything as to who will go to heaven or not. The book of life which was written before creation then repenting and all that crap will get you no where. Have fun in hell.

  • Greg

    Judas – you seem to be a highly confused individual. Your incoherent rambling does not warrant a detailed rebuttal.

  • Keith

    Greg is right. Jesus is the answer to every problem. He wants a
    personal relationship with you. Read John chapter 3

  • Matt

    I also agree. Gods word gives us wisdom. it states that we should strive to owe no man. I am not stating that debt is evil, but we should strive to have no debt. if you cant afford a 200,000 house, don’t buy one. buy one you can afford. If you cant afford a boat, 4 wheeler, motorcycle, etc, then don’t finance them and then wonder why your monthly cash flow is not enough. If you can’t afford a Denali, then buy what you can afford. A Chevy cavalier will drive you to the same destinations. The most necessary change in America is for people to be satisfied with the simple things. Family and friends will ultimately fulfill you more than assets and toys. Try and manage to live below your means instead of exceeding your income. Just because the banker and salesman said your approved, doesn’t mean you can afford it. the first person responsible for change is you. If you are some one who lost their job abruptly, or had a sudden decrease in income due to someone else’s poor decisions then my heart and prayers are with you., but if you are the one that just plain overspent and have too many payments on unnecessary toys then shame on you. Pray that god will help you and give you wisdom. he is an awesome God and will teach you in his word, and bless your obedience.

  • Through a series of personal catastrophes beginning 1998, I experienced the full, actual effects of what you warn of in this blog post. It was a TOTAL stripping. That stripping took years.

    From it I learned many things. First, I discovered that the HARDEST thing to get over and give up was something I hadn’t expected: I really really really missed being able to go and shop. Shop for groceries, shop at Macy’s, just the simple ability to go and get what I needed or wanted. I hadn’t realized how addicted I was, if addicted you could call it. I was accustomed to a life where I could easily go and pick up what I wanted. When that was gone, I had more difficulty with it than I ever thought I would.

    Second, I learned that families weakened by hospital bills, deaths, job losses and/or other catastrophes are nothing but prey for certain vultures: government, insurance companies, lawyers and not least, banks. Had these institutions fulfilled their duties AS CONTRACTED, my family would NOT have lost everything. But instead, they proved to be the worst of the worst. They picked EVERYTHING clean, and they did it with impunity. No criminal could have done what they did, in violation of law, in violation of contract, in violation of human decency. No institution or department cared enough to enforce law against them. They had millions of tricks up their sleeves and they used every single one of them until there was nothing left.

    They KNEW what they were doing and they just didn’t care.

    Believe me, they do not care about the people more now.

    They roped me into a corner in which dependence on these same institutions seemed like the only thing to do: a government job or welfare. Both options looked like selling out the only thing I had left: my soul. Therefore I refused.

    As an aside, I learned that charities like the Red Cross, have far more invested in keeping people in such a condition than of actually helping people stand up on their own. WE are their reason for being.

    Finally I learned which ties that really bind, and they didn’t bind in the ways I had expected: family and friends. All of those got sorted out too.

    The bottom line proved to be: We don’t even own OURSELVES. ALL of these failures of our society is, at its core, a failure to love.

    We will either LOVE, which means we are God’s; or we won’t, which means we do not belong to God.

    We all have clues every single day as to which camp we actually belong in. I suggest that while today is still today, each person examines these clues and acts on them. ESPECIALLY Christians.

    Once everything hits the pavement, and it will soon in a HUGE way, it will be almost impossible to make the changes in your heart- the behaviors of those who do not love will tend to generate hatred at that time and thereafter. Hatred will only be overcome by profound love, humility and forgiveness.

    God bless you all.

  • Tobin


  • Bill

    Interesting that some of those argue that “religion” is the answer….and then pay their pastor/priest to keep them on the preferred list….lol.

    Can it be taken away from you? No, but, then again, neither can any other belief, real or imagined. Try paying a bill with them or buying food. Not accepted? Awww….too bad!

    You really own nothing, material or spiritual in a world where someone else can take it away if you do not conform to dogma and/or pay the tolls. Even religions…

    You can “own” what you have learned… and this may be the ONLY possession you truly have that cannot be taken away.

    • Dave

      This has been the best statement in the comments. The people of the world still act like children. Thinking only of themselves. Learn and at least try to grow up. Believing in a Santa like figure wont save society. Possessions are meaningless unless you still are thinking like a child. Just use logic and reason. Ask WHY? about everything (just like children do) so we can all grow up.

  • Jan

    Margaret, Greg, Keith and Matt… are so SOOOOOO right!!! I lost everything and humbling as it was and still is…I’m so glad I did because I took EVERYTHING and EVERYONE for granted. GOD stripped me of all possessions along with my sins of GREED and PRIDE and I now have a new mindset (THANK YOU JESUS) that inevidably HE owns it ALL…even us… for WE are HIS Children and that my dear brothers and sisters is the greatest “thing” I could ever wish to acquire….HIS LOVE, HIS STRENGTH and one day SEEING HIM FACE TO FACE BEING WITH HIM ETERNALLY …WOWWWWWWWWW.

  • Mike D

    The government can basically do with us what it wants and be guaranteed a legal justification to do this.

    That said I would just like to counter the sentiments of the other posters by saying that Jesus will not get us out of this or any other problem. In fact a contributing factor to the problems we have today is the highjacking of conservatism and the republican party by born-again fundamentalist christianism. All of you would probably gladly vote for somebody who would sell his own grandmother as long as he went to church on sunday and voted against abortion.

  • Ken Thomas

    We are living in a time of broke “debt millionaires” who rent their mortgages. Under water mortgage owners are people who rent “with debt”.
    We live under a feudal system of land ownership based on English law. All land in England is owned by the Queen, you are simple given a “fee simple TITLE” which the Queen still has rights of taxation, police power and eminent domain. We mostly use the same system here in the US. You walk away from the bonds of feudalism by giving up your “debt millionaire status” by walking away from your mortgage through “no deficiency laws” set up in several states. Or through allodial title in some states.

  • Brian

    im going to quote froma different religion.
    “desire is the cause of all suffering” – Buddah

  • You don’t really own anything you can’t carry on your back at a dead run.

  • Sarah Palin’s Glasses

    Listen, the funny thing is that the fed gov and all the top 1% elite rich all depend on us paying taxes…right down to the police and all the ‘so called’ enforcers that can physically put us in jail. If we all unite and just say f**k it and stop paying taxes, what are they going to do? Build a prison for 300,000,000 Americans? Let’s dump the incompetent politicians and start over. We can make the rules if we all get off the couch, stop listening to Mariah Carey BS and do something!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • stafford

    I hope that someday we will all understand that LOVE is the answer

  • Kragnorak

    Well, it’s becoming obvious why Americans are more religious than other first-world countries. Religion is something immaterial to cling to when all else is lost, and more Americans are losing these days.

    During the Great Depression, Americans defenestrated themselves and died on Wall Street. As suicides, who owned their soul? Did they? Did God? Did Lucifer? Did the Void? Did Hel?

    I agree that Love is the answer, but the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god has given evidence that he is NOT Love. After all, “ye shall know them by the company they keep” and YHVH’s pals committed the Inquisition and suicide bombing. At least the spiritually bankrupt are less likely to jihad or bomb an abortion clinic!

  • Deborah

    Great article and I agree! I always believed there is no such thing as home ‘ownership’. Even if a person has completely paid off their house or condo, they must stay enslaved to the government because of the property taxes and fees.

  • Andrew

    Speaking of religions, let’s include it in this list: if you don’t believe in it – you don’t have a soul, if you do – you don’t owe it, as you should follow all these rules and commandments (depending on your beliefs) otherwise you loose it too.

    Also, even if you are a dictator and unconditionally OWN everything and everyone in your country, nothing prevents powerful neighbors to invade you, impose democracy and put you to jail for life :)

    So, don’t focus on all this materialistic stuff, rent or buy if you want to, pay cash or lease, but don’t let any of this junk enslave you. Love, travel, make friends, enjoy life! Time is the one and only valuable asset, and it runs out sooner than you think.

    Don’t worry, be happy! :)

  • John

    If you died today do you know without a shadow of a doubt where you will spend eternity? There is a heaven to gain or a hell to shun. Jesus is the only way. He died for our sins and freed us from our shame. Just ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and then ask Him to come live in your heart. No matter what you have done you are forgiven.

  • xyloman

    ‘…and the worms ate into his brain.’

    Our ultimate futures are to consumed my the decay elements of the earth. Souls are for shoes. You walk on them … they wear out … you buy another. You die and the ‘ballgame is over.’ lights out.

  • candy

    We own nothing, I don’t want a bunch of taxes & fees looming over my head. I will live in an apartment and when I need to get around I will rent a car after all I can’t take any of this with me when I die and whatever I leave my children they won’t own it either. The american dream is a big fat illusion.

  • Calvin McCreary

    USA, your kids are going to school right now and being told that they live in the greatest nation in the world and will be able to have anything they want if they just work hard enough, own it and live happily ever after. What utter hellish sadism we wreak.