Friday, February 20, 2009

A Free Fall, of Sorts

If you've been keeping up with the news at all, you'll know that the stock market is for all intents and purposes, crashing. Some economists are starting to say that what we're witnessing could be the beginning of a financial crises that will make the Great Depression look like a picnic. Basically, it has never happened before that everything is falling so far, so fast.

Many people think that the stock market crash in 1929 was a singular event, something that happened overnight and left lasting repercussions. That isn't true at all. It was an overall gradual decline over a few years, punctuated by steep losses every few months.

Here are the charts from Yahoo! News:

The 1929 crash, and it's aftermath (Feb 1929 to Feb 1930).

The 2008 crash, and it's aftermath (Feb 2008 to Feb 2009).

If you notice, there's a great deal of similarity. However, the stock market now has lost more percentage-wise from the high of a year and half ago until today, than the stock market in 1929 did. The initial drop this time was lower, but the overall decline is what is frightening. The initial drop in 1929 was 40%, but by February the following year having recovered some, it was down 29% from it's high the year before.

Last October, the initial drop was "only" 21%, however the stock market is down as of today 48% from it's high a little under a year and a half ago. And it isn't going away anytime soon. If history is any indicator of anything, it's going to be one hell of a ride, in slow motion.

Anyone who has studied the Roman Empire knows that it didn't fall overnight. It was a gradual thing, something that happened so slowly that the people living through it might not have even noticed it until long after the fact. In many ways, Depressions are the same way. We know something is wrong, but we're not ready to call it a game yet.

On the bright side, all of this could have a very positive outcome. My grandmother used to tell me that "you can't take it with you." People are greedy and materialistic, and in all of this there is a lesson to be learned. Money is not everything. Oh, it's good to have for the purposes of having a roof over your head and food on the table, but do you really need another flat screen television for the kitchen/bathroom/garage/etc? Or the latest fashionable purse/shoes/etc? Or a car/house/boat/etc. that you can't really afford? Many people in this country are very spoiled, and in my humble opinion, they're going to have a very rude awakening before it's over with.

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