Stranded at the Drive In

I opened The Times yesterday morning to this photo and my heart fell. Was one of this timeless couple gone? Alas, it was true. Oh Sandy baby, some day, when high-igh school is done. Olivia was up there with Felicity Kendal in the nineteen eighties as the girl all the boys wanted. Well, us good, somewhat innocent boys anyway. It takes a few years under your belt before you start to suspect that you’d maybe prefer some time with Rizzo. Olivia was such a great choice for Sandy, but I can’t say the same for that goon Travolta. I thought, and still think, he was totally gormless in the role, and was so lucky that she was so perfect in hers that, as a couple, they worked. I have to wonder if Grease would be in my Top Ten films of All Time? It could be and maybe it should be, with its portrayal of the All American High School Dream, unrivalled until Marty McFly appeared at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance in Back to the Future. Due to these movies, ask anyone in my generation which years and where we’d like to have lived through and many of us would probably say “Nineteen Fifties America”. 

What’s that got to do with Early Retirement, I don’t hear you ask? Well, not much really, I suppose, although I could try and hack out a link along the lines of “If I’d invested £100 a month in the year that Grease was released in a Global Index Fund, that sum would now total £112,000.” (That’s a guess, I haven’t done the maths.) 

Films can have such a big influence on us though. I think of portrayals of capitalism such as “Wall Street”, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Local Hero” and wonder about the cultural impact of them? Could you imagine a world in which the key scenes in Grease or Back to the Future are centred around young people gathering at the local bank to invest a small amount of cash each week, instead of squandering it on yet another strawberry milkshake? It would certainly have more influence than the stupid banking adverts we see of black stallions galloping down your local high street. I have noticed that Vanguard has been advertising on TV recently, but have to admit that, other than noticing it, I couldn’t tell you one message or scene that the advert contained. Maybe they should have gone with a white horse?

On the other hand, maybe I should just be heartened that Vanguard is actually now able to advertise, regardless of how hopeless they’ve been about getting their message across. I count myself really lucky that I discovered Index investing almost thirty years ago, because I still reckon nine out of ten people I know have no idea what Index tracking funds are. In fact, the majority of our best friends, incredible as it is to write this, hold most of their life savings in cash. As for what their pensions are invested in and how much they are being charged for the service, well, answers on a postcard please.

I could also use the reflection on time going by to moan that in the Nineteen Eighties there was no information for young people like myself on the glories of compound investing. Or actually on anything to do with the stock market. I read J L Collins, who started his investing career in the Eighties, and think to myself where was I and what was I doing with my time and money at that point? Those were the most important years for saving! Why was I squandering my cash on going to watch popcorn films like Grease? 

Well, I’m glad I went to see Grease instead of saving the cash. Iconic films of your youth remind me there’s a lot more to life than money and that the years go quickly by. I also won’t try to justify the post on the basis that this subject could be relevant to at least three of the four words of my blog title. That feels just too crass. But I have written a few draft posts trying to find something worthwhile to say about “gathering rosebuds while you may”, because I do feel myself thinking that a lot more in retirement. With that in mind, maybe it’s time to go and watch Grease again.

9 thoughts on “Stranded at the Drive In

  1. Nice piece. Agree with your comments about both ONJ and Travolta – he came across as a complete dolt in that movie!

    Yes, don’t the years just fly by. I had a fairly traumatic event back in 2003, and seem to use that as something of a yardstick in my life, and I can’t tell you how shockingly fast these last nearly 20 years have passed.

    Reckon with a good wind behind (old age flatulence assisted perhaps?), I could see another 25-30, which puts things into perspective in a quite dramatic way – if these next years go as fast as the previous couple of decades, then, well, I better make the most of it! 🙂


  2. Great post. I had similar feelings when I heard the news about ONJ on the radio, these days I’m finding it a bit of a kick in the teeth when these cultural icons of our youth are gone! Maybe I will watch the film again some time soon – hearing the songs on the radio this week has been quite nostalgic.

    I think to do any investing in the 1980s in the UK it would have been quite hard work, with no internet you’d maybe have to go into a bank or phone a broker and do a lot of paperwork with loads of fees no doubt? I have an old book I inherited from my father about money and investing published in1973. In the investing section it says brokers weren’t allowed to advertise and you’d need to write to the London Stock Exchange and get a list of brokers, choose one and contact them. It all sounds like hard work compared to today! Maybe this is why my father advised me to save some salary into a savings account each month when I started work in the 1980s so I did that. I think interest rates would have been about 8% then, so not bad advice.


  3. I’ll be watching Grease again this weekend – I’ve probably watched it over a hundred times, definitely my favourite musical film, having first queued round the block to watch it at the cinema. All the adult themes went right over my head at the time; I remember when I first realised what they were singing about in the lyrics of ‘Greased Lightning’ and got some of the dark undertones, and I was like “Oh!” RIP ONJ.


  4. Brilliant movie. It’s nice to look back on good times. It’s yet another marker of how far you’ve come in this thing called life when your hero’s start to age and wither away. Focuses the mind.
    As for investing, I’ve never been what anyone could call an expert, or indeed an enthusiastic amateur. I’ve mostly relied on my pension and a few brief forays into stocks and shares. As long as there’s enough in there to cover the bills I’m happy.
    The next Warren Buffet I ain’t. I do wonder though if it gets like an addiction for these billionaires. Fair play to them, they’ve used their years to amass a fortune, but I do hope Mr Buffet isn’t still doing a sixteen hour day in the pursuit of yet more filthy lucre.
    I’m at an age where I deal with whatever problem is in front of me as and when it pops up. Tomorrows problem can wait. When you see the mental strength of people like Doddie Weir who is dealing with motor neurone disease, his outlook on life leaves me feeling very humble indeed.
    The 9 to 5 puts us under pressure every day we are a slave to it. In the rat race you are under such perceived pressures to be successful, climb up the greasy pole, be focused on career to the point of obsession.
    I have to admit I’ve enjoyed sliding down it, (no dirty comments please), more than I enjoyed trying to climb up it.
    I think this concludes this reply from an old but happy hippie.


    • I don’t know Linton, I’d say I’m miles from being an expert investor too. But it still surprises me to hear what my friends are doing, or not doing, with their savings. I never give them advice though – after all, they might be right holding cash!


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