Here they are -- 99 financial facts that will surprise almost every investor. Some are hard-to-believe pieces of trivia, while others are startling statistics we had to double and triple check. All are important for the savvy investor to know!
1. The global bond market is valued at over $82 trillion and is well over twice as large as the global stock market, which is valued around $36.6 trillion. James Carville once said, "I used to think if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the president or the pope or a .400 baseball hitter. But now I want to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody."
2. Bill Gates told his Harvard University professors that he would be a millionaire by age 30. He became a billionaire at age 31.
3. The Amsterdam stock exchange (now part of the Euronext exchange) first listed shares in 1602. The first stock to be traded was that of the Dutch East India Company, a multinational mega-corporation granted a monopoly by the Dutch government to conduct trade with Asia. The company operated for almost two centuries, paying out an 18% annual dividend for almost the entire time.
4. Agricultural giant, Cargill, Inc., is the largest privately-held company in the U.S. If it went public, it would rank among the top 10 companies in the Fortune 500 in terms of revenue. Descendants of the original founder still own 85% of the company.
5. Legendary investor Warren Buffett bought a 40-acre farm at age 14 with $1,200 in savings from delivering newspapers.
6. On January 1, 1791, the U.S. national debt was $75 million. Today, the U.S. national debt increases by approximately $75 million each hour.
7. As of December 1, 2009, the official debt of the United States government was approximately 12.1 trillion dollars. To pay this debt would require approximately $40,000 from every single person living in the United States.
8. The U.S. government's debt ceiling has been raised six times since the beginning of 2006. It now stands at $14.3 trillion.
9. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation estimates the total amount of all U.S. government liabilities, explicit and implicit (Social Security, Medicare, etc), at $62.3 trillion. That's around $200,000 owed by every man, woman and child in the U.S.
10. The first text message ("Merry Christmas") was sent in 1992. By 2009, 4.1 billion text messages were sent daily in the United States alone.
11. The design of the folding cell phone/flip-phone was inspired by the fictional communicator from Star Trek.
12. Warren Buffett claims the worst investment he ever made was in 1993 when he bought Dexter Shoes. The loss to Berkshire shareholders was $3.5 billion. In his letter to shareholders he quoted a line from country singer Bobby Bare to explain his feelings on the failed acquisition: "I've never gone to bed with an ugly woman, but I've sure woke up with a few."
13. 2008 was Berkshire's worst year in the 44 years that Buffett's been its Chairman. Net worth fell by $11.5 billion that year, a decline that reduced per-share book value by -9.6%. The only other year that saw a decline was 2001, when Berkshire's net worth fell by -6.2%.
14. The highest-price stock currently sold on the NYSE is Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, Class A (NYSE: BRK-A), which sells for around $115,000 (as of April 2010).
15. In 1930, Al Capone attempted to revamp his public image by opening a soup kitchen in Chicago during the Great Depression. Chicago was one of the hardest-hit cities during the Depression due to its reliance on manufacturing and a local fiscal crisis that wounded the city's finances even before the stock market crash. In 1933, the city's unemployment rate hovered near 50%.
16. Herbert Hoover infamously declared in March 1930 that the U.S. had "passed the worst." The worst, however, had just begun. From 1929 to 1932, over 100,000 businesses failed, banks collapsed at a staggering rate of 200+ per month, and GDP fell from $81 billion to $49 billion.
17. At $14.43 trillion, the U.S. economy, as measured by GDP, is larger than the next three largest countries' economies combined (Japan, China, Germany). However, if you consider the European Union as one economy, it jumps into the #1 spot with GDP of $16.2 trillion.
18. The United States generates 24.8% of world GDP with only 4.5% of the world's population.
19. The main article in The Economist in March 1999 was famously titled, "Cheap Oil: The next shock?" The article surmised that oil prices could be headed to $5 a barrel and prices might hover in a "normal" range of $5-10.
20. In 1979, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) sat at 800. A famous Business Week cover that year touted "The Death of Equities." Today, the DJIA hovers around 11,000.
21. Two countries posted stronger GDP growth than China (+8.7%) in 2009: Qatar (+9.5%) and Azerbaijan (+9.3%).
22. October 13, 2008 saw the single largest point gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The index rose 936.4 points (11.1%). Just two days later, on October 15th, the index posted its second largest point loss in history, falling 733.1 points (-7.9%).
23. The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted its largest single-day percentage increase on March 15, 1933, gaining 8.3 points for a 15.3% gain. Meanwhile, October 19, 1987 marked its largest single-day percentage decline, losing 508 points and -22.6%.
24. In 2004, Alan Greenspan said, "American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage." Since 2007, total losses attributable to subprime, Alt-A and other alternative mortgage products have been in the trillions.
25. Eight U.S. companies have total debt loads in excess of $500 billion: Bank of America ($862.2), Freddie Mac ($780.6), Fannie Mae ($774.6), JP Morgan Chase ($750.6), Citigroup ($743.9), Barclays ($668.9), UBS ($538.7), General Electric ($516.6)
26. The following countries are a few of many that posted annual GDP of less than $500 billion in 2009: Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, Saudi Arabia
27. Telecom Brasil (NYSE: TBH) has the highest market capitalization in the world with $5.375 trillion. It's not actually a company, but instead is an American Depository Receipt (ADR) made up of the stocks of 7 Brasilian telecommunications companies traded on the NYSE.
28. Approximately 13 million Americans are "unbanked," meaning they do not use mainstream, insured financial institutions. The most common reason given for not having a bank account is that the respondent thinks he or she does not have enough money to need one.
29. Total U.S. consumer debt is $2.46 trillion as of January 2010. For those households that have credit card debt, the average debt is just over $16,000.
30. The average credit card holder has 3.5 credit cards.
31. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 159 million credit card holders in the United States in 2000, 173 million in 2006, and that number is projected to grow to 181 million Americans by 2010.
32. 84% of the student population overall has credit cards.
33. In 2007, Forbes listed over 60 female billionaires, led by Alice Walton with a net worth of $23 billion. Oprah Winfrey was listed at #47 with a net worth of $1.5 billion.
34. The first female millionaire was Madam C.J. Walker. In the early 1900s, Walker developed and operated a cosmetics empire focused on African-American women. She was quoted as saying: "I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From the washtub I was promoted to the cook kitchen and from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations. I have built my own factory on my own ground."
35. In 2006, after tough new bankruptcy laws were passed, bankruptcy filings hit an 18 year low with only 617,660 bankruptcies filed that year. Total bankruptcy filings reached 1.4 million in 2009 but that number was still well below the 2.1 million bankruptcies that were filed in 2005 in anticipation of the aforementioned change in the laws.
36. In 2009, Nevada surpassed Tennessee as having the highest per capita bankruptcy rate, with more than 11 bankruptcies filed for every 1,000 residents. Tennessee and Georgia were second and third, respectively.
37. Young Americans now have the second highest rate of bankruptcy, just after those aged 35 to 44.
38. In 2009, Memphis, Tennessee consumers suffered the most bankruptcies per capita. Yonkers, New York, suffered the fewest.
39. Jim Cramer is a former hedge fund manager and founder/owner of Cramer Berkowitz, where he reported a compounded "rate of return of 24% after all fees for 15 years." However, the returns have not been independently audited or verified.
40. On February 29, 2000, about one week before the historic all-time high of the NASDAQ Composite index, Jim Cramer delivered his "The Winners of the New World" speech, in which he recommended 10 stocks and said, "I wouldn't own any other stocks in the year 2000." By 2009, all 10 companies were either out of business, were taken over by competitors or traded at fractions of their 2000 stock price.
41. Four of the world's 30 largest economies don’t have a dedicated exchange-traded fund (ETF) listed on a U.S. exchange: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and Pakistan.
43. Total business bankruptcy filings in 2009 were the highest in 16 years: 60,837 companies declared bankruptcy.
44. After accounting for debt, the net worth of the average middle class American household is less than $10,000.
45. During the next 40 years, the number of women over 85 is expected to triple. 75% of them will be single, divorced or widowed.
46. One in four women currently retires on income below the poverty level.
47. Life expectancy in the United States has reached a record high of 74.1 years for men and 79.5 years for women.
48. 66% of Americans don't pay off their credit card bills each month.
49. 27% of people responding to a survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute say that they have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.
50. One-third of the world's poor live in India.
51. France is the world's top tourist destination, accounting for 11% of all tourist arrivals worldwide.
52. The United States tops the world in plastic surgery procedures.
53. Russia is geographically the largest country in the world. It covers 1/7 of the total land on Earth. Moscow is the largest city in Europe with a population of 11 million.
54. GM sells more cars in China than in the U.S. China also has the highest number of car crash deaths of any country with 100,000 people dying annually in recent years.
55. 72% of the U.S. population own cell phones. Nearly half (47%) of U.S. teens said that, without their cell phone, their social life "would end" or be worsened.
56. More than one million shares changed hands on the NYSE for the first time on December 15, 1886. The NYSE had its first billion share day on October 28, 1997.
57. The largest daily trading volume on record for the NYSE was on February 27, 2007, when 7 billion shares were traded.
58. Oakley, Inc. chose the ticker symbol OO because it looks like a pair of sunglasses.
59. Colgate's first toothpaste, introduced in 1873, was packaged in a jar. Toothpaste was first packaged in a tube in 1896.
60. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) was started in a bedroom in Cupertino, California in 1976.
61. Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) was started in a dorm room at The University of Texas in 1984.
62. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) was started in a garage in Palo Alto, CA in 1939. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard flipped a coin to determine whether the firm would be called Hewlett-Packard or Packard-Hewlett. Packard won the coin toss but chose to go with Hewlett-Packard.
63. The history of Wall Street dates back to the 1600s, when New York was called the New Amsterdam settlement. Back then, before the bells and exchanges, it was merely a pathway that ran alongside a wall protecting the settlement from Native American attacks. In a moment of creativity, the citizens named the corridor "Wall Street."
64. The New York Stock Exchange was born on May 17, 1792 with the signing of the Buttonwood Agreement. The agreement, which laid out trading rules and regulations, was signed by 24 stock brokers underneath a buttonwood tree. The entire contract was only two sentences in length.
65. In 1790, to pay for war debt, the federal government refinanced all federal and state Revolutionary War debt by issuing $80 million in bonds. These become the first major issues of publicly-traded securities and marked the birth of the U.S. investment markets.
66. The first listed company on the NYSE was the Bank of New York, traded under the buttonwood tree on Wall Street. The bank now continues under the name of The Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE: BK).
67. By the end of the Civil War, between one-third and one-half of all U.S. paper currency in circulation was counterfeit.
68. The Secret Service Division was created on July 5, 1865 in Washington, D.C., to suppress counterfeit currency.
69. The Bank of North America, located in Philadelphia, was the nation's first private commercial bank. It was chartered in 1781 by the Continental Congress, which was looking for a solution to its problem of funding the American Revolution. It was largely modeled after the Bank of England.
70. Flatbush National Bank of Brooklyn was the first bank to issue a credit card in 1946.
71. The largest cash robbery of a bank was the Loomis Fargo bank robbery in 1997. $17.3 million, in cash, was stolen from a regional office vault in Charlotte, NC. An FBI criminal investigation turned up evidence that the heist was an "inside job," and less than six months later, the thieves were caught. In the end, 95% of the cash was recovered.
72. It's not gold that John Maynard Keynes famously called a "barbarous relic" in 1923; he was actually referring to the gold standard.
73. The most expensive coin in the world, the 1933 Double Eagle, was sold by Sotheby's in 2002, for a record sum of $7.59 million. The coin is one of only a few Double Eagles that escaped being melted down after the Gold Reserve Act of 1933 made it illegal to circulate and possess most gold coins.
74. The Stutz Blackhawk, made from 1971 to 1987, was a luxury car in which everything normally in chrome -- the steering wheel, pedal surrounds, ashtray and cigarette lighter -- was instead plated in gold. Elvis owned five, though he gave three away as gifts.
75. Dennis Kozlowski, former CEO convicted of looting the mega-corporation Tyco International (NYSE: TYC), redecorated his bathroom with a gold-threaded shower curtain costing $6,000.
76. The Exxon Valdez, whose infamous wreck spilled almost 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound, was repaired and renamed the Sea River Mediterranean. The ship is prohibited by law from returning to Prince William Sound.
77. The five largest U.S. companies by market capitalization are: Exxon Mobil ($326.6 billion), Microsoft ($270.6), Apple ($237.0), GE ($202.1), Wal-Mart ($201.8)
78. Texas has had the most bank failures with 898 closures from 1934 to 2008; California came in second with 223 closures.
79. The oldest known monetary law code, the Code of Hammurabi, was created ca. 1760 BC in ancient Babylon. It formalized the role of money in civil society by setting amounts of interest on debt, fines for wrongdoing, and compensation in money for various infractions of formalized law.
80. The birth of modern banking is credited to the medieval Knights Templar. They took oaths of poverty; therefore donating all of their cash and property to the Order. Nobles often used the Order to safeguard their money while they were off fighting in the Crusades.
81. 90% of Americans who own pets buy them Christmas gifts.
82. 5% of lottery ticket buyers buy 51% of all tickets sold.
83. The largest Powerball jackpot was won by eight co-workers from a Nebraska meat processing plant who jointly bought a single ticket that landed them $365,000,000.
84. Approximately 147.3 million ounces of gold are being held at The United States Bullion Depository in Fort Knox.
85. The weight of a standard gold bar is approximately 400 ounces, or 27.5 pounds.
86. In the past, Fort Knox has housed the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, Lincoln's Gettysburg address, three volumes of the Gutenberg Bible, and Lincoln's second inaugural address.
87. In addition to gold bullion, the United States Mint has stored valuable items for other government agencies. The Magna Carta was once stored there. The crown, sword, scepter, orb, and cape of St. Stephen, King of Hungary, were also stored there before being returned to the government of Hungary in 1978.
88. The 1792 law that established the United States Mint also made coin defacement, counterfeiting, and embezzlement by Mint employees punishable by death.
89. The portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the penny faces to the right and all other portraits of presidents on U.S. circulating coins face to the left.
90. The motto "In God We Trust," was omitted from new gold coins issued in 1907, causing a storm of public criticism. As a result, legislation passed in May 1908 made "In God We Trust" mandatory on all coins on which it had previously appeared.
91. The largest note ever printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was the $100,000 gold certificate, series 1934, featuring Woodrow Wilson. This series was issued only to Federal Reserve Banks against an equal amount of gold bullion held by the Department of the Treasury for certain credits established between the Treasurer of the United States and the Federal Reserve Banks.
92. The oldest component company of the Dow Jones Industrial Average is General Electric, which was added on November 7, 1907.
93. The first stock exchange can be traced back to Antwerp, Belgium in 1460. However, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange is widely considered the oldest stock exchange in the world. It was established in 1602 by the Dutch East India Company, which issued the first shares.
94. The first female member of the NYSE was Muriel Siebert, who became a member in 1967.
95. Lion County Safari, the first drive-through safari park in the United States, traded under the ticker symbol GRRR.
96. The physically smallest U.S. bond was the State of Louisiana 'Baby Bond' Certificate, called a Baby Bond for three reasons: Its small denomination of $5 (the lowest denomination U.S. municipal bond), its small size (three inches by five inches), and its vignette of a baby wearing a hat.
97. Credit cards were not always made of plastic. There have been credit tokens made from metal coins, metal plates, and celluloid, metal, fiber, and paper cards.
98. Michael Milken, the "Junk Bond King," originally gained notoriety after being indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and securities fraud in 1989. Although he was never convicted of racketeering or insider trading, he did plead guilty to reporting violations and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a permanent exile from the securities industry. Today, the man once known as the epitome of Wall Street greed is the founder of many charitable projects, including the Milken Family Foundation, which has awarded over $60 million to more than 2,400 "master" teachers, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the world's largest philanthropic source of support for prostate cancer research.
99. In 2007, the top 1 percent of tax returns paid 40.4 percent of all federal individual income taxes and earned 22.8 percent of adjusted gross income.