At the recent celebration of my mothers 90th birthday, I wanted her grandchildren and great grandchildren to understand what our nation was like back when she was born.
I know it’s hard to imagine, but in 1930, only 40 percent of American households had telephones. Wires connected the phones and you shared lines with your neighbors, hence the term “party lines.” If you were fortunate enough to have one, all you could do was talk to someone. Texting and the Internet were decades away.
Slightly over 50 percent of households had a car, whose stickers ranged from $500 to $1500. Similarly, only about half of the nation’s households had hot water, bathtubs or showers. And many felt fortunate if their toilet was actually indoors.
There were no disposable diapers for babies and no microwaves to warm their bottles. Moms were kept pretty busy.
Thanks to the technology of the day, people didn’t have to wait for newspapers to get their daily news. They simply turned on a radio and listen to it. And in the absence of televisions, families actually gathered around their radios and caught their favorite shows as well.
The last President to serve more than two terms was Franklin D. Roosevelt. His radio fireside chats helped keep our citizens informed through the Great Depression and World War II. Today, our president communicates with tweets.
Prior to my mom’s birth, Charles Lindberg became famous for flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Shortly after, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to do so. I’m confident a woman will walk on the moon before my mom reaches 100.
Some of the big movies of the ’30s were the Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind and Frankenstein. And you could see them for about 25 cents. Speaking of a quarter, George Washington first appeared on one in 1932.
The 1930s also brought the great Dust Bowl famine, the Hoover Dam and Social Security. Ida May Fuller was the first recipient. Over three years she contributed a total of $24.75. When she turned 65 her first check was $22.54 and her lifetime total was nearly $23,000.
Yes, the world has changed significantly over the past 90 years.
Technology has advanced exponentially. Compare today’s Apple Watch to historically prestigious Swiss watches. Last year Apple watches outsold all of the Swiss watchmakers combined, and they do far more than just tell time.
From an investment perspective, 1930 was near rock bottom. The stock market crashed in 1929 and was followed by the Great Depression. If you think the Recession of 2008 was bad, pick up a good history book.
Over the past 90 years the markets have climbed and fallen many times. But overall, investors that have diversified and taken calculated risks have done quite well.
One really big difference is buying power. What cost you $1.00 back then would set you back about $15.00 today. That’s why it’s so vital to invest wisely.
I’m confident that when we celebrate my mother’s 100th birthday ten years from now, technological advances will have made the world an even better place. By and large, technology has been good for the public in general and investors in particular. But for me 1930 was a great year because that’s when my mom was born.