As the decade winds down, it’s time to take a look back at the most prominent finance stories of the last ten years. Even though the decade was never officially named, there were many significant events that changed our economy forever.
During the 2000s we saw stock market highs and lows, companies collapse and new ones form, hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and a war. While the economic growth and prosperity of the early part of the decade was substantial, it’s the economic crisis and recession that’s in our recent memory.
A special thanks to all the personal finance writers who contributed to our walk down memory lane.
2000: The Dot Com Bubble
By: Mike, Four Pillars
Year 2000 was the year starting with the dreaded Y2K – supposedly at midnight of December 31, 1999 all the computers in the world would unite and overthrow their human masters. Like most stock analyst predictions – that never happened. Although the Y2K scare ended up being a non-event, something else was going on that was real and much bigger. The Dot Com bubble!
Although the internet itself has been around since the 60’s – it only existed as an electronic passage way for selected geeks to communicate with each other over the wires. In 1995 the world wide web became popular. This was the beginning of what we know as the internet with email and websites to visit on your dial-up modem. Yes, it was slow but it was there.
One of the economic questions when the web first started was how was anyone going to make money from it? After a few years the idea of online shopping started to catch on and there were a multitude of websites that were intended to be online stores. Somehow the investing community got caught up in the idea that most brick and mortar shopping would move to the net where profits would be a lot higher since they didn’t need to have stores, cashiers etc. After a while the general public started getting internet fever and any website that had any idea at all was getting money thrown at it from investors. Internet stocks were jumping higher and higher and it looked like it would never end.
But then it did. Although analysts and investors swore that “this time was different” and “the old stock valuation methods don’t work anymore”, it turned out that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. At some point people clued in that selling toilet paper online with free delivery wasn’t a money maker no matter how low your costs were.
Many investors were hurt in the eventual crash – day trading had become a popular occupation and there were many stories of people who borrowed to invest in internet stocks and/or switched large amounts of their retirement portfolios to equities which would end up losing 90% or more of their value. It was a tough investing lesson that many people learned the hard way.
2001: Terrorist Attacks Close the Stock Exchange
By: Lynnae, Being Frugal.net
2001 is a year that will always be remembered for the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The attacks not only had a devastating effect on our sense of national security, but they also had an immediate negative effect on the economy.
On September 11, 2001, the opening of the New York Stock exchange was delayed in the wake of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. When the second plane hit, the NYSE closed down all together and remained closed for six days, marking only the third time in history the NYSE was closed for a prolonged period of time. When it reopened the Dow Jones Industrial average had dropped 684.81 points.
The stock exchange wasn’t the only part of the economy negatively affected by the terrorist attacks, though. Gold prices went up, the value of the dollar went down, and the airline industry hit serious financial trouble, as people were afraid to fly. Insurance losses from the attacks were around $40 billion. In addition, it is estimated that around 146,100 people lost their jobs, directly due to the September 11 attacks.
2002: Enron and Worldcom Corporate Scandals Emerge
By: PT Money
2002 was a year marked by investigations into corporate financial scandal, as well as the introduction of the Euro coins and banknotes.
In 2002 the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would pursue a criminal investigation of Enron, the Houston-based energy company. Enron had used many irregular accounting practices to hide loses and give the appearance of constant growth. Also in 2002, Worldcom filed for what was at the time the largest bankruptcy ever after finally succumbing to declining earnings they tried to hide through fraudulent accounting schemes.
In both cases, corporate employees everywhere learned a big lesson about the risk of relying on company stock options and investing in your own company through a 401(k). Some workers at Enron and Worldcom lost their jobs and their retirement at the same time.
Finally, in 2002, the Euro was introduced in coin and note form. At the time a Euro was valued at around .90 compared to the U.S. Dollar. It’s risen since that time and currently trades at 1.50 to the U.S. Dollar.
2003: War in Iraq Begins While Martha Stewart Gets Insider Information
By: Pete, Bible Money Matters
The foundations of our faith in corporate America were shaken loose in 2002 when Enron and Global Crossings (among other large companies) were found out to be engaging in unscrupulous and illegal behavior. 2003 was supposed to be the year that corporate America and Wall Street cleaned up their acts and restored public confidence in our economy. It was not to be.
There were a lot of big financial stories that hit the front page in 2003. First of all, there was the launching of the Iraq War in March 2003. Whether you agree with the war or not, it has an undeniable impact on the economy with the billions in dollars spent to wage the war every month.
Corporate scandals continued in 2003, most notably with the legal troubles of Tyco’s former CEO Dennis Kozlowski who was on trial for bilking his company out of $600 million dollars. Kozlowski famously billed his former employer over $1 million dollars for his own anniversary party in Italy.
The year was rounded out by Martha Stewart becoming the subject of an investigation for insider trading. The domestic diva ended up under federal scrutiny when an associate of hers pleaded guilty to insider trading – of which she had taken part. She was later convicted and spent time in prison.
2004: Tsunami Drives Charitable Contributions
While the war continued on in 2004, Martha Stewart was convicted, and we experienced the second Presidential election of the decade, it was the event in the last week of the year that would forever be stamped in our minds from 2004.
The tsunami in Indonesia, Thailand, and other nations bordering the Indian Ocean killed 230,000 people. The charitable response that followed was one of amazing proportions. Donations from the world were more than $7 billion.
Many nations, corporations, and individuals all united to donate to the humanitarian aid. The fundraising efforts reminded us all that the basic necessities of food, shelter, and clean drinking water were more important than our own personal spending.
2005: Gasoline Prices Skyrocket after Hurricane Katrina
By: Amanda, My Dollar Plan staff writer
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit, unraveling the lives and personal finances of thousands of Americans who were directly in its path. But Hurricane Katrina also had huge impacts on everyone else’s lives, showing America that we are all interconnected financially.
Roughly 400,000 jobs or one percent of the labor force were lost directly due to this natural disaster. The storm also caused a rise in gasoline prices nationwide (around $3 a gallon of petrol, which was roughly twice the price from a year earlier) due to damaged pipelines and ports from the Gulf running well below their capacity. Katrina also led to a sharp decline in consumer confidence; Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index went from 105.5 in August 2005 to 86.6 in September 2005.
2006: Mint Changes Online Personal Finance
By: WC, The Writer’s Coin
Mint.com won’t release its web-software for another year, but Aaron Patzer gets the company off the ground in 2006. It marks the beginning of what will soon become the way to manage one’s finances in the 21st century.
Mint allows users to track all their credit cards, investing accounts, and bank accounts in one centralized place on the web. Because it’s “in the cloud,” users can access their information anywhere there’s an Internet connection. But it goes beyond mere tracking: it seeks out inefficiencies across your portfolio of accounts to spot changes you can make to maximize your money, like pointing out an ING Account that earns higher interest. It’s via these partnerships that Mint makes its money—everybody wins.
Overcoming security concerns, Mint will soon become so popular that Intuit will buy it and ask Patzer to run their personal-finance group, which includes one-time competitor Quicken. With Mint’s help, you might even get your credit score up close to mine. If you’re lucky…
2007: Housing and Stock Markets Hit All Time High
By: Jill, My Dollar Plan staff writer
Financially, 2007 was a very good year for most folks – in fact, the last very good year most of us remember! Housing prices were high and the stock market was rising. Yes, personal savings rates were a little low, but nobody cared, because credit was free-flowing! Life was good, and we had no reason to believe things would change in the near future.
On October 1, 2007, one analyst wrote, “it’s looking like all systems are go again for the bulls.” Indeed, the market did keep rising for a few more days. Then, on October 9th, we saw the landmark financial moment of 2007 –the Dow hit an all-time high of 14,164.53 and the S&P 500 reached 1,565.15. Other record highs had been set that year, only to be eclipsed within a few months. I had graduated from college that May, started my job in July, and opened my 401(k) at the end of August. I made four contributions, and saw immediate growth. Then, the stock market topped out, and I faced declining prices for the rest of the year just like everybody else. We had no idea that this all time high was truly one to be remembered! Of course, we would find out soon as 2008 was just around the corner…
2008: The Economic Crisis and Financial Meltdown
By: FS, Financial Samurai
On September 15th, one of Wall Street’s most well known institutions, Lehman Brothers went *POOF*. Hank Paulson’s decision to allow a company with 26,000 employees drown caused a cataclysmic chain of events. Bond spreads widened, stocks plummeted, banks stopped lending and hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs as a result.
Why save Bear Sterns earlier in the year, and not Lehman Brothers? Nobody will really know. Perhaps Dick Fuld, the then CEO made too many enemies to be saved.
Unlike the year 2000, everybody was affected by the financial meltdown and not just tech and internet investors and employees. We realized the importance of financial institutions and their ability to provide liquidity in the system. Without liquidity, things stop working and people suffer. Everybody suffered, except John Paulson, who made a reported $3.8 billion for himself for shorting financials and sub-prime assets!
If we can survive 2008, we can survive anything. There will never be a bigger financial downturn in our lifetimes than in 2008!
2009: Economic Stimulus Plan Aids Recession
By: Daniel, Sweating the Big Stuff
The market hit lows in early March, and after Congress passed the $787 billion stimulus bill in February, the market rebounded tremendously, up over 60% over its lows.
However, the Dow Jones Industrial Average remained down over 25% from its October 2007 highs and unemployment hit a high of 10.2% in October, the highest level since 1982.
Of course, 2009 isn’t over, so there’s still a chance another big financial event could happen before the end of the year, but it’s going to be hard to top the size of the economic stimulus plan of 2009.
What will the 2010s bring? Only time will tell…