Economic Outlook

| November/December 1978

  • Monetary inflation made the dollar figures in these retirement ads a joke.

And what has happened to the dollar -as if you didn't know-is that it doesn't buy much any more. Or, to turn the situation around the other way, it now takes a great many more dollars to purchase what only a few of the pieces of green paper used to bring home.

Just how. many more dollars was emphasized with stark clarity by a recent Gallup Report. It seems that pollster George Gallup's organization has been asking U.S. consumers an interesting question for the past 51 years: What is the smallest amount of money a family of four (husband, wife, and two children) needs each week to get along in this community?

In 1937-when that question was first asked-the median answer was $30. By 1947, the figure had risen to $43. In 1957, it was $72. Ten years after that, $101. In 1977, the answer was $199 ... and this year it's $201.

Which, of course, explains why the folks you see over there in the ads accompanying this column seem so smug ... yet so ridiculous. Back in 1943-just 35 years ago, when those advertisements appeared in several of this country's leading magazines$150 a month was, indeed, a comfortable amount of money for two people to retire on. Today, those two retirees would need $750 to enjoy the same standard of living. And 10 or 20 or Lord save us-35 years from now? Don't even ask.

Well, of course, we've all been told that Stage II of Little Jimmy Carter's "fight" against inflation is going to change all that. (Just as Richard Nixon's Phase 1, Phase 11, Phase 111, etc. "fight" against inflation was going to change all that back in '74 and '75.)

Isn't it interesting, though, that all these politicians' "fights" against inflation always seem to concentrate so heavily on the belt tightening and sacrificing that we (never the politicians who create inflation in the first place with their printing-press money "giveaways") must do?


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