BEFORE THE CRASH: Here's What It Was Like When 'Everyone' In America Was Rich

Looking back on it now, the years leading up to the Lehman collapse seem like a dream.

This was the era when:

— Your friend who had majored in English went to work for an investment bank.

— Your parents thought it would be a good idea to buy a second (or third!) home upstate.

— “My Super Sweet 16” came into existence.

We wanted to go back to see just how absurd this moment was.

So we’ve scoured American (and a slice of global) culture and society from 2003 to 2008 to find the most absurd examples and reflections of financial excess.

In retrospect, it is now ludicrously clear that we should’ve seen it all coming…

Bravo's 'Flipping Out,' the show about trying to buy homes, renovate them, and put them back on the market, may have best captured the Zeitgeist.

Though 'Cribs' is arguably a close second.

MTV's 'My Super Sweet Sixteen,' about rich teenagers' lavish sixteenth birthday parties, was another good sign we'd reached peak excess.

Wikipedia actually has incredibly detailed tables documenting each episode, including the most outrageous gift in each. It was often a German automobile.

And we've also concluded the success of MTV's 'Jackass,' about a bunch of violent pranksters, reflected the belief that we were all indestructible.

It was as if the period was just one long, lazy Sunday, with each day bringing a new Magnolia cupcake.

The No. 1 song of 2006? 'Bad Day' by Daniel Powter. Real bad days were a thing of the past, so we could bounce along to an ode to a pretend one.

Think about it: we could listen to a breezy song about a crummy 24 hours with impunity, blithely unaware of all the bad days to come.

Source: Billboard

Other music that hit the top of the charts: 'Get Rich or Die Tryin'' by 50 Cent (2003) ...

And 'Gold Digger' by Kanye (2005).

The highest grossing movies all had numbers, 'ands' or colons after them, reflecting the society-wide belief that you could continue to invest in the same franchise with impunity.

That is, demand would keep going up...

Kids could reassure their parents that the only financial products they needed were from AIG.

And by Super Bowl 42, in 2008, day trading was so easy a baby could do it.

The best movie of 2004 (in our humble opinions) was a comedy about wine tasting.

The New York Times produced an entire series called 'The Age of Riches' documenting extreme examples of wealth in the U.S.

For instance, therapy sessions in New York reached $US600 an hour.

You would pay top dollar for a swank apartment, then gut the entire thing and spend an additional fortune tailoring it to your own tastes.

And millionaires no longer felt rich.

Maybe because the cut-off for Forbes' richest list was $US1.3 billion.

It was a time for ma, pa and grandma to pile into the markets.

No patch of the country ...

... didn't feel like they were getting in on it.

States were just breezing along.

Stock market records were met with 'yawns.'

And everyone had a job coming out of college.

BONUS -- Easily the weirdest but most representative of the era. Good times indeed.

We've got more flashbacks for you ...

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