Where do you see yourself in today’s economy?

Do you see yourself as middle class? Do you see a bright future for you? What about for your children? Has your net worth increased in the past 10 years?

According to a new study by Pew Research Center, we’ve just experienced the lost decade. The average middle tier median income has fallen by over $3,500 over the past decade. Median net worth has plummeted almost as low as our 1983 figures. And 85 percent of the middle class now say it is harder to maintain the middle class lifestyle than ever before.

What is a person to do?

I’ve had many conversations about this topic with friends.

Friends that live the traditional lifestyle – people working at corporate jobs – continue the “hope” concept. They “hope” they can hold out in their current position for a while longer. They haven’t received a raise in a great while. Yet they hope in the future things will turn around.

Friends that look at the world the way its always been – we went to college and had life better, therefore we’ll send our kids to college and hope things turn around in the next few years – continue to believe the world will always move forward in a positive way.

Friends that believe in the “paycheck” mentality can’t understand how to come up with ideas to begin generating your own income – your own lifestyle – doing anything you please from any location in the world.

And while its great to wish and hope things remain the same, the overwhelming reality is it just won’t happen.

So how should you move forward? What questions should you be asking yourself today to make decisions about your future? Take a look at these 5 questions and see where you stand.

1. Will your current job be better or worse in the future?

I remember growing up, my parents used to preach the ethics of being faithful to your employer. Go to school, get a great job, and you’ll be set for life. Yet in many ways that didn’t work for my parents, as my dad re-interviewed for his position year after year, waiting for his 55th birthday when he could retire. He didn’t “practice what he preached”, and through watching him I learned I couldn’t take the same path.

Its not that jobs are necessarily bad. Its just to rely on them for anything more than you are receiving today is ridiculous. You have to take control over your own future to make sure you are set up for your entire life, including well into retirement.

2. Will your retirement be more secure or less secure doing what you are currently doing?

Hopefully you already know the answer to this one. If you work and are putting money into a pension fund, the chances that it will all truly be there when you should have access to it is getting lower all the time. Talk with the many people out there that did what they thought to be “the right thing”, only to face a bankrupt pension fund and drastic cuts through no fault of their own. And it will get worse.

Social security, Medicare, pensions – really anything that exists today is at risk. Unless you are on top of things and handling your own accounts, there is no guarantee. Which is why you should be handling your own accounts, putting together your own plans and strategies, and creating your life strategy that will take you decades into the future.

3. Will you be in better, the same, or worse shape 20 years from now if you continue down your current path?

Yep, we don’t have a crystal ball. And if I went back 20 years ago to tell myself all I know today, it would simply be unbelievable. Yet there are things you can predict. Even 20 years ago, I knew the best way to control my life was to create my own income source. Which is why we started up our own business. There was already talk of the government going bankrupt. Which is why I’ve never anticipated getting a dime from social security or Medicare. If it happens, great. But if not, it won’t be a shock.

What should you be doing today?

Ask yourself, What’s Next?

What do you see in your future? What are your plans, goals and dreams over the next few years?

If you haven’t thought about it, there’s no better time than right now. Sit down by yourself, with your spouse, or with a friend or family member and really dive into your expectations.

Then make a plan. You may quickly find your What’s Next gives you drive and determination that you haven’t felt for years.