A young man at the grocery checkout told me of an elderly woman yelling at him over the store’s high prices – and I realized the different perspectives time brings. I’m probably one of the youngest people who can recall putting a nickel in the Coke machine to get a bottle of Coca-Cola. It must have been 1957 or 58. Dad’s last duty station was in Tacoma. I don’t remember his office – but I did know the path to where the Estes was moored – AGC-12, an amphibious flagship, and quite possibly the last of the Pacific fleet to host a 5-cent pop machine.
When I started college in 1967, I discovered that the last ten-cent pop machine on campus was in Montana Hall annex. The dormitory machines were already up to 15 cents, but the last dime machine was operating in MSU’s equivalent of the flagship. I’m generalizing on minimal data – but it seems like the last of the low-cost vending machines were left in the halls of the highest paid.
An article on Foxstarts with the headline “Rising costs erode buying power of Social Security earnings by 36%, report says”. The article continues with these observations:
“Inflation is moderating, but rising costs have eroded the buying power of Social Security earnings by 36%, according to a recent study by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL).
Older Americans that retired before 2000 would have to earn an extra $516.7 more per month or $6,200 more this year than what they are currently getting to maintain the same level of buying power as in 2000, according to the study.
The loss of buying power comes even as Social Security cost of living adjustments increased by 8.7%, which boosted the average monthly benefit by about $140.”
The article notes that the price of eggs tops the list of fastest growing costs for seniors. I guess there is always the option of replacing eggs with gruel, as Scrooge did.
“The cost of goods and services purchased by typical retirees rose by 141.4%, averaging about 6.2% annually over the same period,” TSCL said. “For every $100 a retired household spent on goods and services in 2000, that household can only buy about $64 worth today.”
Eggs topped the list of fastest-growing costs for seniors since 2000, according to recent data from TSCL, which compared price changes from March 2022 to February 2023. Also counted among the top five growing costs seniors are dealt with are prescription drugs, heating oil, dental services and Medicare Part B premiums.
This chart, taken from macrotrends suggests that the stock market is doing better than social security, but the economy isn’t doing so well on Biden’s watch as it did for either Trump or Obama.
Annual, even monthly, inflation rates from 1914 to present are available at usinflationcalculator.com and their inflation calculator is here . With this sort of data available, it is much easier to understand how inflation actually affects us. I do know that, if my comparison data is that rare nickel coke machine from 1957, my view is going to be a bit distorted.
NPR provides a little more perspective:
1886, a bottle of Coke cost a nickel. It was also a nickel in 1900, 1915 and 1930. In fact, 70 years after the first Coke was sold, you could still buy a bottle for a nickel.
Three wars, the Great Depression, hundreds of competitors — none of it made any difference for the price of Coke. Why not?
In 1899, two lawyers paid a visit to the president of Coca-Cola. At the time, Coke was sold at soda fountains. But the lawyers were interested in this new idea: selling drinks in bottles. The lawyers wanted to buy the bottling rights for Coca-Cola.
The president of Coca-Cola didn’t think much of the whole bottle thing. So he made a deal with the lawyers: He’d let them sell Coke in bottles, and he’d sell them the syrup to do it. According to the terms of the deal, the lawyers would be able to buy the syrup at a fixed price. Forever.
The Coca-Cola vending machines were built to take a single coin: a nickel. Levy says the folks at Coca-Cola thought about converting the vending machines to take a dime. But doubling the price was too much. They wanted something in between.
So they asked the U.S. Treasury to issue a 7.5-cent coin. At one point, the head of Coca-Cola asked President Eisenhower for help. (They were hunting buddies.) No luck. The last nickel Coke seems to have been in 1959. The nickel price had lasted over 70 years. “