At Investopedia, we are the fortunate beneficiaries of being a source of information on all things finance and investing. That didn’t happen by accident, of course. We’ve been around since 1999 and we’ve seen a bubble and a bear or two… Still, we are always fascinated with what our readers are looking to learn in good times and bad. We’ve even been able to put this information to work in our very own Anxiety Index, which tracks the search volume of a dozen keywords that our readers are looking up in times of, well, anxiety.
Now, on the 10th anniversary of the financial crisis, we’ve crawled up into the attic of our data sets from the 2008-09 era to look at what our users were searching for just as the global financial system was melting down. We decided to look at four periods in the 2008-09 era to see how the evolution of investor education was taking place on our website. We looked a lot different back then (who didn’t?), but our commitment to investor education has remained consistent.
The periods we selected were:
October-December 2008 -- The establishment of TARP and the sale of Wachovia to Wells Fargo
June 2009 -- Crisis averted and banks begin to repay TARP funds. Chrysler and General Motors restructure their businesses.
Image: U.S. Treasury Department 'The Financial Crisis Five Years Later: Response, Reform, and Progress In Charts'
September 2008 was not the beginning of the crisis by any means. The seeds were sown in 2007 and the S&P 500 Index started its precipitous decline in December of that year. But, by September, the cymbals of chaos were clashing loudly as Lehman Bros. was allowed to fail. The Dow fell 778 points on September 29,2008.
Here are the top terms searched through the month of September 2008 as measured by year over year traffic increases:
From October-December 2008, the markets were trying to recover from that massive drop. TARP was approved and implemented which breathed a little life back into patient, but November was blood red. Investors were pouring through our site trying to understand margin calls and volatility, likely because they were experiencing both. The top terms from that two-month stretch of agony:
By March of 2009 we had cleared the crisis. President Obama was sworn in the prior January, the Financial Stability Plan was announced and The Recovery Act was signed. The S&P 500 had bottomed in mid-March and this was the time to ‘back up the truck’ and buy stocks. Our readers were tip-toeing back into the market, or learning how to do it, based on their searches that month. They were learning about ‘Mark to Market’ and TIPS while also searching for the banks with the best assets or Tier 1 capital. Here are the top searched terms for that month:
By June 2009, the summer wind was blowin’ in, as the Chair of the Board used to sing. Big banks that had taken bailout money from the Federal Reserve, whether they wanted to or not, had paid back their TARP loans. U.S. automakers had completed their restructurings, and the S&P 500 had recovered more than 40% of its losses from the peak in October of 2007.
Searches were getting back to normal on Investopedia, but the fear of inflation was still lingering as evidenced by the continuing interest in TIPS, or Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities. The Fed Funds Rate was as close to zero as it could go, and economic recovery was in full swing. We had made it through the storm.
Here are the top terms searched on Investopedia for June 2009: