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.