Champagne bottles were popping on Wall Street as bankers rang in the Dow Jones hitting 20,000 points for the first time ever in late January. The media got in on the celebration as the story of record high stock prices spread around the country.
Left out of the excitement was the vast majority of Americans whose lives are largely unaffected by the bullish market.
For the bulk of the 20th century, most Americans had no connection to the stock market. It could creep up or down, but short of a major downturn or boom it was largely not the affair of working people. Their jobs might go away if a recession came, but if profits soared they didn’t share much in that prosperity.
That’s changed a bit with the decline of pensions and rise of 401k retirement plans. With the advent of those plans, just under half the country became stock owners – albeit indirectly – with a stake in the daily dalliances of the major stock indices.