Regular people

An investment I was not anywhere near smart enough or prescient enough to make. Plus, 7 other things worth a click.

Who remembers Super Bowl XLII?

If you're not a big NFL fan, you might not remember the game (2/3/2008. Giants 17, Patriots 14),

But you might remember one of the key advertising campaigns that debuted that day: the E*Trade baby.

Here. Ring a bell?

The next day, E*Trade reported, was the single greatest new account signup day in the company’s history.

Keep in mind, this was back before everybody had broadband or even smartphones. E*Trade had been around for more than two decades already by then, but its value had tumbled after the dot-com crash of 2000.

Now, it began a recovery.

Anyway, imagine that you were one of the people who went to the office the day after the Super Bowl, and you took, say $5,000 or $10,000 or even $25,000 that you had lying around, and opened an E*Trade account for the first time.

Let’s say you simply loaded up on big tech stocks.

We’ll use the so-called FAANG group —Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google (now Alphabet)—as an example. Actually, we should drop Facebook since it didn’t go public for another four years.

Here’s where you’d be today, by my math:

  • Google was trading at $258.34 right after the Super Bowl. It closed at $1,518.15 yesterday. That’s a 587.66% increase.

  • Apple was at $17.93 in February 2008. Yesterday: $320.30. That’s a 1786.39% increase.

  • Amazon? $74.63 right after the Super Bowl, and $2,153.10 yesterday. That works out to 2885.03%.

  • And Netflix? This is the truly amazing one: Just $3.63 the day after the Super Bowl in 2008, and $386.00 yesterday. That’s a 10,633.61% increase.

Invest $10,000 on that day after the E*Trade baby’s debut, never touch it or add to it, and you’d be sitting on $397,317 today, minus fees and such. (That means of course that if you had $30,000 free back then, you’d have over $1 million today.)

Now, this is an admittedly odd example, involving a brand new investor with amazing prescience. But I bring it up for two reasons.

The first is to point out one of the key differences—investment—between people who say the economy is going well and they feel optimistic about the future in 2020, and those who don’t.

A Gallup survey last year found that about 55 percent of Americans have at least some stock investments. That number includes people who have retirement accounts invested in the market, along with those with brokerage accounts.

The second reason is because news broke Thursday that Morgan Stanley is paying $13 billion to buy E*Trade outright, in a deal that “will reshape the storied investment bank and firmly stake its future on managing money for regular people,” as the Wall Street Journal put it.

Morgan Stanley gets “five million retail customers, their $360 billion in assets and an online bank with cheap deposits,” as the Journal put it.

As for E*Trade, it’s been under threat recently after its two biggest competitors, Charles Schwab Corp. and TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., announced a merger, and E*Trade’s own stock had fallen sharply after Schwab cut its trading fees to nothing.

So, it gets a big premium and a giant new owner to shore it up and keep it moving forward.

I’m not an expert in this field. I certainly wasn’t smart enough to make that hypothetical $10,000 investment back in 2008.

But anything that makes it even slightly more likely that more people— “regular people” — will invest and benefit from the modern economy, is worth watching.

7 other things worth a click

  1. Welcome to the wealthiest town in America, where average income exceeds $500,000. (Yahoo Finance)

  2. When I lived in Washington, DC, I easily paid a few hundred dollars worth of parking tickets over the years. Now, it turns out the District issued “more than $1 billion in tickets in just three years.” (WJLA)

  3. The author of a new book argues that dogs actually experience love. (Phys.org)

  4. A classified intelligence briefing to Congress said Russia is meddling in the 2020 election to try to reelect President Trump, and the president isn’t happy about it. (New York Times)

  5. Facebook will supposedly pay small amounts if you’re willing to let it record and use your voice. (The Verge)

  6. Kids who sleep later do better in school, according to a new study. (Science Magazine)

  7. Why are Americans bad at math? Start with “math anxiety.” (Quartz)

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