Rob McDaniel started poor in life, and after a lot of sacrifice by his mother and a lot of work in school, he worked his way up to be an assistant superintendent in the Murray School District in Utah. It sounds like a typical American dream story — nothing flashy, just hard work and perseverance.

I wrote about McDaniel as part of an article on how the American dream may be in trouble: "Moving on up: Can the American Dream still become a reality today?"

The thing that struck me, a Deseret News reporter on the financial responsibility beat, was how simple, little ideas believed and acted upon made the difference in McDaniel's life. His mother believed in the power of education and used education to change her life. McDaniel watched and learned. It isn't a wonder that he ended up in education.

But so many of these ideas aren't acted upon, simply because people have never heard of them.

For example, who knew that families waste about 25 percent of the food they buy? Just realizing that one fact might make people plan their shopping more carefully.

It's also interesting that principles that work with individuals and families also work at the macro level. For example, financially responsible public policy is at the heart of Eric Schulzke's look at how cities such as Stockton, Calif., are running out of money or David Ward's story on whether the recession will bring about a renaissance of thrift.

1 comment on this story

There is also a morality to the issue of financial responsibility. David Ward wrote about people putting their money into "moral" investments. But the idea of using money and resources responsibly applies to simple, small decisions as well.

And those simple decisions — such as whether to spend money on lunches or to brown bag — can have an element of fun to them. Being responsible doesn't mean people can't have fun. Sometimes saving money becomes the game.

EMAIL: Twitter: @degroote Facebook: