Throwback Thursday: The 1980s vs. Today

Do you remember what life was like before emails, the Internet, smart phones and 24hr TV?

Today the feature is the 1980s – the decade of big hair, big shoulders and bigger interest rates.

This turbulent decade was when most Boomers were in their borrowing phase and raising their little Echoes amidst soaring inflation, increasing high interest rates, wage and price controls, and the beginning of home technology.

Some fun 80s facts:

  • 1980 – Quebec referendum – 60% vote “no” to separation.
  • 1981 – IBM introduced the first personal computer. The 16kb base model with black and white graphics cost $1,565 (that’s $4,075 in today’s dollars).
  • 1982 – The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect, guaranteeing all Canadians fundamental, political and civil rights.
  • 1983 – Motorola produced the first hand-held mobile phone to be sold to the general public. You couldn’t chat for long, as the battery life was only 20-30 minutes. This was just as well. Nicknamed “the Brick,” the phone weighed in at 2.5 lbs, so you could place a phone call and get a workout at the same time. Initial cost was $3,995. That would be $9,490 today!
  • The number one most popular baby names for the decade were Jennifer and Michael.
  • Canadian hockey teams dominated. The Stanley Cup was won by the Edmonton Oilers in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988; the Montreal Canadiens in 1986; and the Calgary Flames in 1989.

Money facts:

  • 1982 – Beginning of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
  • 1985 – RRSP maximum contribution limit (20%) increased to $7,500 from $5,500. Contribution room did not accumulate – it was on a “use it or lose it” basis.
  • 1986 – The Canadian dollar hit an all-time low of US$0.702
  • 1987 – Stock prices plummeted throughout the world. Black Monday was the largest one-day market crash in history, erasing 11% of total market value.
  • 1989 – Canadian $1 bills were replaced by a new coin named the “Loonie” because of the engraving of a loon on the “tail” side.

Some financial comparisons: 1980s vs. Today

  1980s Today
Gold: high (1980) $850 $1,189
Gold: low (1985) $275
Oil: peak (1980) $35/barrel $57.68
Oil: low (1986) $10/barrel
TSX: Jan 1980 1790.64 15106.98
TSX: Dec 1989 4072.83
5-year mortgage (1981) 21.75% 4.64%
10 year bond (1982) 16.39% 2.08%
Canada Savings Bond (1981) 19.50% 0.50%
5-year GIC (1981) 17.50% 1.50%
Daily interest savings (1982) 6.0% 0.10%
Inflation: peak (1981) 12.46% 0.80%
Inflation: low (1983) 5.82%

Tell us some of your best or worst memories from the 1980s.

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  1. Gary on June 4, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Great post Marie; brings back a lot of memories. We bought a cottage in 1982 with a mortgage at 19-3/4% and by cashing in our RSP’s for the down payment. Sold it 5 years later for a $20K profit.(wish I still had it) My business almost went kaput but my Dad lent me $10K to keep me afloat. I had very serious cancer surgery in 1980 but that has turned out great. We were able to save absolutely nothing during that decade. Maybe I’ll erase 80’s from my memory bank.(:

  2. CanadianDaniel on June 4, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Even though I had a multi-year contract with Canada Post, in those days there was absolutely no way my bank would grant a mortgage loan to a self-employed contractor. Believe it or not, I also recall a certain big bank that would foreclose on your mortgage if you missed ONE monthly payment. Like Gary, I consider myself a survivor.

  3. DivGuy on June 4, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Wow! Funny how things have changed yet it still seems like yesterday! Thank you for the memories.



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