One Life Lived
by Ethan Haskel (Cormend@aol.com)
Baltimore, MD (Feb. 17, 1999) -- This write-up is going to be pretty short. My grandmother died this week, and I went to her funeral in New York.
It never really comes as too much of a surprise when a 98-year-old woman dies. It does get you thinking about the big picture, the forest-for-the-trees kind of stuff. She was born in 1901, and it's doubtful that throughout the course of human history things have ever changed so much in the course of one person's lifetime.
My grandmother was born the year McKinley was assassinated, bringing Teddy Roosevelt to the White House. It was the year of the first-ever automobile show. Baseball's National League ordained that a foul ball was to be counted as a strike. The Wright Brothers were still two years from making aeronautical history at Kitty Hawk. Movies weren't popular yet.
On the day my grandmother was born, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, just four years old, stood at about 71. There wasn't such a thing as the Dow Jones Transportation Average. One could, however, check the daily paper to find the Dow Jones Railroad Average standing at about 106. In 1903, something called the "Rich Man's Panic" dropped the Dow Jones Industrial Average about 36% in the course of seven months.
I couldn't find a lot of information about this Rich Man's Panic, but it seems like there were a lot of panics back then. In fact, the Rich Man's Panic was preceded by panics of one type or another in 1893, 1896, and 1898, not to mention the subsequent Panic of 1907.
When my grandmother was eight years old, Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), produced the first Model T. Ninety years later, Ford is still one of our current Beating the S&P stocks. The Model T Touring car sold then for $850. The wonders of mass production brought the price down to $290 by 1925, a phenomenon by now familiar to those who still dabble in high technology.
If my grandmother's parents had $850 when she was born, instead of investing in new wheels, they might have given her a gift of stock. At an average historical market return of 11%, that single investment could be worth about 24 million dollars right now, despite all those panics.
My grandmother didn't leave a whole lot of money behind when she died. Just a bunch of smiles, fading mementos, and memories of the best chocolate chip cookies ever. We'll miss you, grandma!
Beating the S&P year-to-date returns (as of 02-16-99):
Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB) +7.1%
Kimberly-Clark (NYSE: KMB) -11.0%
Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB) -25.6%
Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) -1.4%
BankAmerica (NYSE: BAC) +7.5%
Beating the S&P -4.7%
S&P 500 +1.4%
Compound Annual Growth Rate from 1-2-87:
Beating the S&P +20.0%
S&P 500 +17.7%
$10,000 invested on 1-2-87 now equals:
Beating the S&P $90,900
S&P 500 $71,700