Would You Rather… Rich 100 years ago, or Avg. now?

black and white old days
OMG this is a good one :) Big props to NPR and Brad from Time’s MoneyLand for circulating this around – very clever!  I was starting to run out of some good ones over the years, haha…. so here we go – a new Would You Rather! Courtesy of MoneyLand:

Would you rather:

A. Live in 1900 and make $70,000 a year.
B. Live today and make $70,000 a year.

If you choose A., you get to be super rich; your income is roughly equal to $700,000 today. You get a mansion, servants, the whole deal.

Choice B. means you aren’t rich, but you’re not poor — and you don’t have to worry about being crippled by polio, or killed when a cut on your foot gets infected. You also get cable TV and air conditioning.

Haha… those are some pretty hardcore cons ;) I immediately chose to continue living in modern times, but I gotta admit it was pretty tempting thinking about being rich like that. You could be one of the first to pimp out a Model T! Haha… or pretty much buy whatever you wanted back in the day. What would be even BETTER, however, is if you could bring your own brain w/ all that knowledge back there! If you know all the secrets of technology and ways to avoid certain diseases, maybe you could last a longer more fruitful life? Would suck losing all your friends and family though… hmm… too many variables…

What would you go with on first instinct? Tempted one way or the other? If you’re not already making $70k, I think you have an easier call to make ;) So pretend you’d keep making whatever it was you are, haha… would you live in today’s world with $35k forever, or be super rich 100 years ago??

Other things to keep in mind: No internets back then, no microwaves, no pet rocks, and everything was in black & white ;) Wouldn’t you miss color???

Previous Would You Rathers:
Would You Rather… Millions vs. Teleporting
Would You Rather… Sex vs. Money
Would you Politically, and Publicly, sell out for $10,000?

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  1. cashflowmantra June 3, 2011 at 6:48 AM

    I think staying in the present would be better unless you could really take a lot of knowledge with you and hasten the development of air conditioning and medicine. I could short the market in September 1929 and make a killing like Jesse Livermore. Interesting to think about.

  2. Diane June 3, 2011 at 6:52 AM

    I think it’s a question only a man could ask. 100 years ago I couldn’t vote, couldn’t study at architecture or engineering college – and most CERTAINLY couldn’t do my profession which is construction manager. I’d live now, rich or not.

  3. Elle June 3, 2011 at 7:47 AM

    I really enjoy living today – so many conveniences that are getting cheaper. Though it would be great to be rich, I feel like there’s more options now. Great way to start my Friday J!

  4. Kim June 3, 2011 at 8:01 AM

    i came here to say what diane said. being a female needing treatment for some health bullcrap, i’ll stick with now! :)

  5. Philip June 3, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    I think 100 years ago would be good. All this stuff that we have now you just didn’t worry about then and you would be feeling pretty happy. They say that happiness is not by having more but by having more than others around you.

  6. Melissa June 3, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    At first I thought about choosing 100 years ago, but then I thought of the conveniences I would lose. After you mentioned the diseases, I thought about childbirth. Yikes! Childbirth in 1911? I’ll stay in the present, thank you. :)

  7. Jessica June 3, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    Money aside, I would rather live in the 1900’s. Life was simpler back then, food was just naturally healthier, and everyone was in general happy, so even if my family didn’t make $700,000, or even $364,000 (my current contract is $36,400), I think the quality of life would still be exponentially higher than what people have today.

  8. Leddy Landers June 3, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    No doubt in my mind! I’d go back 100 years. I am selling off and racing backwards as fast as I can. To heck with the internet. I want to find human decency again!

  9. Jennifer G. June 3, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    Well, $70k now sounds just dreamy!

    Even at my current level, I think I would stay modern. One reason I don’t have a higher-paying job now (or urge the hubs to get a higher-paying one) is because I don’t feel like I NEED an extraordinary amount of money.

    So I would stay in the present, even though I try to live a little old-fashioned.

  10. No Debt MBA June 3, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    I’d go back 100 years. I love gorgeous old houses and I’d love to be able to build one myself! We don’t currently have a microwave or TV so I can’t say I’d miss that and I think it might be sweet to have gas lights as long as I could still have a gas stove. Was that a thing in 1911 or were they still wood stoves? I would definitely miss modern toilet paper and medicine though.

  11. Emily June 3, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    As much as I feel like I would LOVE to live in the past – I think I still have to go with present day. $70,000 is still WAAAAAAAAAAAAY more than I make already, and I really feel like even if I was considered ridiculously wealthy in the past, that doesn’t mean I would be happy and satisfied with life.

  12. Brian June 3, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    I would choose 100 years ago. I could live it up and with that kind of money (and my savers mentality) I could set my family up for generations.

    Of course there is a drawback to leaving money to your kids, they could all become lazy entitled little… Well, you get the idea.

  13. Kevin @ Thousandaire.com June 3, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    I want to live today. I can make $700 million in today’s money and still live to 100

  14. LaToya June 3, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    Well, I would have to think about the era in which I would have to travel back, and for me, I would stay in the present. If I traveled to the past, as an African American woman, I would not be able to vote, would be scared of being killed because of the color of my skin, and I don’t think I would get the luxury of actually living a “rich” life. Economically, you would have to remember that in just a few years, the stock market will crash, and savings and loan could take all of your money, so no investing or saving in traditional banks. I think I will stick with the present.

  15. LB June 3, 2011 at 10:52 AM

    Present day. I figured if I lived in the 1900’s I would have died at least 10 times :(

  16. mike June 3, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    Plumbing, electricity, cement–these elementary things alone make life dramatically better and easier. Our infrastructure.

    While chatting with friends at a local golf course, we saw someone knock the ball in the hole from a long ways away. I thought, Geez, I didn’t see that, I wish it was Tvoed.

    But it really gets down to this–This is America, and it’s our freedoms that has allowed us to flourish.

  17. Ashley @ Money Talks June 3, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    It’s interesting to hear people say that people in the past were happier. Who knows that? Who says people in the past were more decent to each other? People are people. I don’t think they were any different 100 years ago. A simpler time, yes. Happier, doubtful.

    That said I will stay here. Although I did think about going back.

  18. WR June 3, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    As one of my favorite economists Paul Zane Pilzer likes to say:
    “The good old days weren’t so good”

    If you were a kid you could be in a factory all day since there were abysmal child labor laws.
    If you were considered mentally ill you could be lobotomized, fed mercury or lithium or just locked up in a ‘crazy farm’.

    As one of my favorite comparative mythologists, Joseph Campbell liked to say:
    “Life lives on life. you can’t have progress without destruction and death”

    That is to say, nothing is free. Oil has created amazing technological growth and opportunity in the world and has also well, you know.
    Amazing medical breakthroughs and communications technologies have increased birth rates and helped people live longer (some would say to the detriment of entire ecosystems such as Jungles & rainforests). Surface of the earth = a finite space.

    Oh and they did not have Zelda.

    short answer: I like now.


  19. Jen June 3, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    I wouldn’t last more than a couple days back 100 years ago. I’m too dependent on all the modern stuff and would be completely disfunctional, rich or not. Gotta stay put.

  20. Amy Lou June 3, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    I’m already living in the present at $35K. Money aside, I’ve always felt that I would like to have lived in a time when you had to physically work for what you had, tradition and commitment were valued, and horses were the main mode of transportation. There were undoubtedly problems then, as there are now. I’d choose the former. It’s true that people are people, but that works the other way around too, for the good as well as the bad.

  21. Kaitlyn June 3, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    I’d take the risk of living 100 years ago… But I’m also remarkably old-fashioned. The the thought of having tons of kid, wearing petticoats, and passing my time sewing is actually a daydream of mine!

  22. mila June 3, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    J.! This is a fun quiz… :D I love it!
    Even though I’d love to be super rich in any time period, I think I’ll stick to the present (even with only 35K — can I get freelance income, too?). Not so much for the fear of polio, lack of internet, etc… more of the hygiene/plumbing problem. If I be super rich in the ye olde days but have to go to an outhouse everyday, I think I’ll take our modern plumbing anytime.

  23. Jenna June 3, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Interesting question! I would love to go back and be a fly on the wall just to watch how people lived back then; I think that would be fascinating! However, I think it’d be hard to permanently give up my independence as a female. I own a house and support myself financially – things I wouldn’t have been able to do in 1900. I would’ve needed a husband to provide for me and might not have been able to choose one for love, so I’m not sure how happy I would be.

  24. Sassy June 3, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    I have to say today. I couldn’t imagine living without AC and technology.

  25. Becky June 3, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    I would like to make $70k now. I’m about $20k off from that and that additional money would sure help out! I couldn’t imagine living in an era without AC — I do live in Florida!

  26. Katie June 3, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    Can’t I just have a time machine that lets me enjoy the best of both worlds? Go back, live like a gazillionaire, then come back and blog about it? :)

    Its hard for me to decide. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence – but there are certain aspects of society that I *think* were better – and then there are those that were indeed what I *think* are worse. (Specific to the fact that I am a female – not to mention the other issues dealt with during the Civil Rights Act)

  27. Rose June 3, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    In the here and now. 100 years ago I would not have been able to read, vote, work, and had to call you Masta!

  28. Kathy June 3, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    Definitely today. $70k is much, much more than I make currently & I’d be sitting pretty if I had that income right now.

    My mother told me that her dad used to say that all he wanted at the end of the day was enough money to pay/fulfill his needs and have a dime left in his pocket.

    When I stop to think about what he said, it always makes me think that we (society in general) are a greedy lot and always want, want, want more and more. (I’m including myself in this generalization.)

    Basically, I just want to be happy. And money doesn’t make me happy. Yes, money helps….most definitely. And, sometimes all money does is let us buy more ‘crap’ to give us that false sense of happiness. When that instant happiness is gone, buyers remorse sets in & we’re worse off than we were before because now we have a house full of crap. When that money wculd be the bank for retirement. See….money doesn’t buy happiness.

    So, I try to live my life by my Papa’s philosophy. It’s hard at times, and yes, I don’t always listen to reason. However, I believe that I’m much happier for it and not as stressed out because I’m not living life for the ‘almight dollar’.

  29. Crystal June 3, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    I live in Texas. It’s 97 degrees outside. If you told me I couldn’t have a/c anymore, I’d break down and weep like a 2 year old. I am a modern girl 100%. Not to mention women really were just looked at like breeding stock back then…

  30. JoeTaxpayer June 3, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    The AC is the deciding factor for me. That and dying from a paper cut infection. Today it is.

  31. South County Girl June 3, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    I’ll take the 70,000.00 because that’s a good 30,000 more than i’m making now…

  32. retirebyforty June 3, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    The present wins! It’s no contest. We like indoor plumbing and all the modern conveniences. We had to use an outhouse when I was a kid in Thailand. It was so scary to go to the bath room at midnight. :(

  33. Jacqueline June 3, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    I like living today. I don’t mind having little now but working to grow it. Besides As a brown women I do not know that I would be free enough to enjoy that that money back then.

  34. Sense June 3, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    now now now! even at my current salary forever. I have plenty now. In 1900, I wouldn’t be able to travel by plane! imagine taking boats everywhere…i’d pretty much be stuck wherever i was living, no thanks!

  35. eemusings June 3, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    Give me my modern comforts any day!

  36. Pete June 4, 2011 at 12:25 AM

    Can I take my Delorean back in time with me in case I decide I don’t like it, or i get an infected paper cut?

    For some reason I think it’d be extremely interesting to live in the old times, but only for a spell. I like my modern conveniences too much. :)

  37. J. Money June 4, 2011 at 12:38 AM

    Yikes! I forgot about a few other variables that could come into play here with the olden day answer: There would be a LOT of setbacks for women and especially African Americans as well! Good comments you guys… I don’t always pick up on ’em since I’m neither of the aforementioned ;)

    Oh, and also? If you picked staying in the present – your wish is granted!!! Haha…

    @cashflowmantra – Haha, yup! But not like more money would really do much difference for you back then – I’d rather have the technology ;)
    @Diane – Interesting… I am def. a man ;) Great great answer, thanks for sharing it with us!
    @Elle – Happy weekend :)
    @Kim – Smart move!
    @Philip – I like it :)
    @Melissa – Haha, yeah – that wouldn’t be pretty!
    @Jessica – Thanks for sharing :) Guess the loss of women’s rights didn’t phase you? I hadn’t even thought of that when I posted this up…
    @Leddy Landers – Haha, I like your confidence.
    @Jennifer G. – That’s great you know what you can be happy with! Some people just keep “needing” more and more and more and they never reach that level of satisfaction. So good job!
    @No Debt MBA – Haha… was their toilet paper back in the day that bad? And you do know you can build one of those houses now, right? Would probably just take more effort and finding someone who knows what they’re doing ;)
    @Emily – True that. Money doesn’t always = happier.
    @Brian – Oh yeah, I know a lot of people like that actually ;) But maybe you could put things in their wills/estates that force them to learn first before taking grandpa’s riches? Make them jump through hoops – it would be fun! Haha…
    @Kevin @ Thousandaire.com – Then you’d have to change your blog name ;)
    @LaToya – Ooooh good point! Another thing to keep in mind along w/ general women’s rights as well. Good thinkin’ ;)
    @LB – Haha, yes. There’s that too.
    @mike – Amen, brotha! And funny about Tivo, haha… sometimes I walk up to my house door and try to open it w/ my car remote. It never works ;)
    @Ashley @ Money Talks – I always think people were happier and nicer to each other back in the day too… wonder why we all think that? Probably cuz of the simple stuff you mentioned.
    @WR – Zelda!!!! I used to love that game!!! And nice plugs from your favorite smart people ;) Talk about adding to the discussion.
    @Jen – I’m with ya on that one.
    @Amy Lou – I think the horses would be fun for a week. But after that I’d get soooo frustrated knowing the difference! :)
    @Kaitlyn – Haha, well you can still do that in these days too! Just pretend you’re living 100 years ago and see what happens :)
    @mila – Haha, indeed. Not a fan of outhouses either myself, esp in the snow!
    @Jenna – Yeah, much suckier for a woman back then than now. Amazing how much has changed over the years, huh?
    @Sassy – I forgot about AC. That wouldn’t be fun at all.
    @Becky – I was just in your Florida last week, and I agree – NOT good w/out AC!
    @Katie – If I could let you go back for just a day, you know I’d let ya ;) And I’d also be a freakin’ rich man too!
    @Rose – Yuck! I like being called J. Money :)
    @Kathy – I like your Papa :) Sounds like a smart man!
    @Crystal – Maybe Texas was a lot colder back then? Haha… I wonder if they had BUDGETS back then???? *Gasp*
    @JoeTaxpayer – Ahhh you’re no fun ;)
    @South County Girl – what if you stayed at $30k for ever and ever? But you can go back 100 years and make $300k forever and ever? :)
    @retirebyforty – Ewww, yeah I bet. Easier for pranks thoug :)
    @Jacqueline – Are you a brown woman? I didn’t know that. Cool :)
    @Sense – I agree with you 100%. No more traveling all willy nilly like we love to do!
    @eemusings – Well you’re in luck, I can grant you that!

  38. StackingCash June 4, 2011 at 1:52 AM

    Rich in the past. I would eat, travel, read, and socialize. I would be an international student going to schools around the world. I think it would be a great life compared to my current mundane life of working so damn much. I hate work.

  39. bleu June 4, 2011 at 2:16 AM

    Def pick today… much more opportunities

  40. J. Money June 4, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    @StackingCash – Haha, it would take you like 10 years extra too from all that boating across the world! :)
    @bleu – That’s def. true.

  41. MariaN June 4, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    What an interesting question! I will stay in the present. My reasons in not specific order:

    1) The past is history, the future is a mystery and the present is a gift;
    2) The past is often over-rated. Have you noticed that the ‘golden age’ of anything is usually in the past, and we usually have not lived through it.
    3) Going back 100 years means living through two World Wars – which is not good irrespective of how wealthy one is.

  42. Maggie June 4, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    In regard to the original article….
    It was a very thought-provoking question., but had an error.
    You wouldn’t live without color… color was all around you.
    You may think the world was in black and white, because all of our old photographs and television shows were in black and white, but that would be an incorrect assumption.
    The world was in color, and the technology which was availalble then hadn’t progressed to color film. An example to illustrate: Our photos now are in 2-D, but that doesn’t mean our world is only 2-D. It means that the technology to capture 3-D in still photos hasn’t become commercially available yet.
    History note: Black and white television came into being after WWII, (late 1940’s), and color television started in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s.

  43. Jerry June 4, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    Life is definitely more complicated now but I’ll take it. Living now may not lead to a mansion with servants and the like but I’m pretty happy. I have a mortgage and have to worry about my health insurance but hey, I guess I don’t have polio.

  44. Finanzas Personales June 4, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    I think today… but maybe I’m comming from a modern life contaminated perspective. If you lived back then, I’m sure that kind of money would have allowed you to have the many luxuries that were unavailable for the regular income households, just as today those of us with a regular income have lots of things we can’t afford. It must have also been a very chilled out life!!

  45. Karen June 4, 2011 at 6:21 PM

    Two words as to why I choose now: I’m black.

  46. Ginger June 4, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    I was thinking I would love to go back but then the comments reminded me that I would have many less rights as woman and I would have to give up indoor plumbing and even worse the internet. I think I’ll have to stay here but I would not mind the $45k raise. :)

  47. Cat June 5, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    Average today. No Question.

  48. Paula @ AffordAnything.org June 5, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    I’m a woman AND I’m not white, so 100 years ago in America would have been a far-less-fun time for me to live. I’ll take living in the modern era, please.

  49. Paula @ AffordAnything.org June 5, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Oh yeah — and no airplanes? How could I take exotic trips to far-flung destinations? I’d definitely rather be living today, with my coach airfare and my Kindle.

  50. J. Money June 5, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    @MariaN – Oh yeah!!! War is horrible, great great point. Even though we’re still living through one now :( Just a different kind.
    @Maggie – Haha, yeah for sure :) I was actually trying to make a joke… though it seems it wasn’t a good one, haha…
    @Jerry – Polio is scary man. Good thing you don’t have it!
    @Finanzas Personales – Yup! Although not sure how you would have come about all that money…. maybe you worked your ass off and still continue to in order to keep your lifestyle ;) Maybe it takes $700k to pay all your bills! Haha…
    @Karen – Good reason :)
    @Ginger – Haha, yup!
    @Cat – :)
    @Paula @ AffordAnything.org – You can still go across the world! It would just take a year there, and a year back ;)

  51. dollar incense June 6, 2011 at 1:53 AM

    If we are talking about suddenly being teleported to 1900, no way! I am not good at roughing it, and the lack of amenities would feel like a serious hardship. In fact, Id rather make <$50K in modern times than be rich in 1900.

    However, if we are talking being born into that reality….I think I might take 1900.

  52. Elaine April 14, 2018 at 10:43 AM

    I’m struggling now. “Average” would be a dream come true for me, any year or century!
    I pick the present; at least I’m not likely to catch smallpox, polio or cholera.

    1. J. Money April 16, 2018 at 9:37 AM

      Well I’m glad you’re on blogs and trying to improve your situation like you are :) I hope you reach “average” and beyond sooner than later!