Aspiration & Struggle

The American Dream: How One Young Immigrant Couple Is Finding Theirs

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In 2014, Siobhan Norton and her husband, Ciaran, moved to the U.S. from a small town in Ireland to pursue their version of the American Dream.

The American Dream is about different things to different people. So while the couple does, indeed, aspire to one day purchase a home, their dreams are much broader: Siobhan wants to start her own business. They’d like to own a few rental properties. They want to start saving for retirement and create a stronger financial footing so they can enjoy a better life in 10 years than the one they have today.

They believe this can happen. In fact, Siobhan says, they’re already on their way.

“There’s a lot of energy here,” she continues.

The couple spent their first year in the U.S. living in Atlanta, where Siobhan waited tables at a sushi restaurant and Ciaran worked in a science lab. Although they enjoyed Georgia, they moved to Houston a year later so Ciaran could pursue a new job opportunity.

Siobhan embraced the move to Texas as a chance to realize her dream of opening an herbal remedy storefront. She had been diligently saving her tips to pay the upfront fees associated with launching a company. These savings, combined with Houston’s low cost of living and no state income tax, create a solid foundation for her to start a small business, she explains.

“It’s very affordable,” she says, “which is a relief.” She hopes to launch her business within the next year, once she’s scouted locations, learned the local market, and saved a little more money.

Thanks to that affordability, the couple has also started house hunting. They signed a six-month lease (rather than a one-year lease) on their current apartment, hoping to quickly buy a home in the coming months.

That’s a much faster timeline than they’d imagined.

“At home (in Ireland) it’s hard to find anything for less than 200,000 euros (220,000 U.S. dollars),” Siobhan says. “In Houston, I’m finding pretty decent places in decent neighborhoods for $80,000 or $100,000 … they’re not posh, but it suits (us).”

They’ve also been looking at duplexes, hoping—ideally—to find a property that allows them to rent one unit and live in the other. They’re anticipating that this could be their entry into the real-estate world.

“I never imagined becoming a landlord,” she admits, “but I think it’s a good way to pay off the house faster. I don’t like the idea of a 30-year mortgage; I want to be done in 15 years, or even faster.”

While the couple knows that they have ambitious goals ahead of them—homeownership, investments, and a business—they say that the breadth of opportunity in the U.S., coupled with low taxes, low living costs, and their willingness to embrace a frugal lifestyle, helps them move toward the American Dream.

“We pay a lot less here, and we save a lot of money,” she concludes.

Paula Pant is the founder of award-winning website and a journalist and blogger specializing in personal finance, real estate and lifestyle design. She has been featured more than three dozen publications, including Forbes, DailyFinance, Marketplace Money, Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, and many more.