65 — It Could Happen to You

Product: Financial planning
Date: 1927

Most of us expect — barring unfortunate and unforeseen circumstance — to live to a ripe old age. To at least 80, maybe 90. Heck, some financial planners caution us to plan on living 100 years or more.

We know that our retirement years will probably start around 65. And we all know the drill about saving now to sustain ourselves financially during those years.

But saving for retirement hasn’t always been a given.

This ad from 1927 plainly shows that many people didn’t plan for retirement because they didn’t think they’d be alive past 65.

What if YOU live to age 65?

Yet things were beginning to change, and the financial services companies were urging people to consider the statistics:

Sixty-three per cent of the 40-year-old men of today will be living at age 65.

To provide for yourself if you live to old age is as necessary as to provide an estate for your family. (emphasis from the ad)

If you lived to old age. A 63% survival rate as surprising. Old age at 65.

What a tremendous shift in cultural thinking from then to now. Improved nutrition, access to medicine, and a myriad of other blessings, big and small, have extended our life expectancies by more than a third in less than 100 years. Mind-boggling.

1927 retirement planning ad

Click to enlarge.

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Don’t Wait to Investigate — You’ll Be Too Late!

Product: New York Real Estate
Date: 1906

In the category of “Where’s a Good Time Machine When You Need One” comes this ad from 1906 selling land in New York City for $190.

Actually, the price was just $161 if you paid cash. The $190 was on the payment plan of $5 per month after a $10 deposit. Sounds like a sweet deal. And it was (don’t you know it!), if you had the money. But in 1906, the salary of a working man was somewhere in the range of $200 to $400 — so these lots cost about a year’s income for an Average Joe.

1906 ad for land in New York City

Click to enlarge.

What I love about this ad is its unrelenting sales pitch, and the sense of scarcity, urgency, and opportunity it creates.

These are positively the last cheap lots in New York City…Lots in the Bronx, farther away from the City Hall than these we now offer in Richmond at $190, are to-day selling for $2000.


The Borough of Richmond is to-day where Brooklyn was three years ago and those who invest with us now will get all the advance. It is the only undeveloped part of New York City, and it is in the direct line of growth…there is no other cheap land in Greater New York.

And my favorite piece of all:

Don’t wait to investigate now or you’ll be too late. Investigate later. These 100 lots will sell fast. Pin a $10 bill to the coupon at the bottom of this page and mail it to us at once–today if possible. We will save a lot for you–the best one unsold…

No need to do your homework, folks. Don’t think about it, just send your money. We’ll save YOU (just you) the very best.

You can practically hear the 100-year-old sound of coupons being ripped out of magazines everywhere.

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