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2,000 Years of Economic History in One Chart

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Over 2,000 Years of Economic History in One Chart

Over 2,000 Years of Economic History in One Chart

All major powers compared by GDP from the year 1 AD

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Long before the invention of modern day maps or gunpowder, the planet’s major powers were already duking it out for economic and geopolitical supremacy.

Today’s chart tells that story in the simplest terms possible. By showing the changing share of the global economy for each country from 1 AD until now, it compares economic productivity over a mind-boggling time period.

Originally published in a research letter by Michael Cembalest of JP Morgan, we’ve updated it based on the most recent data and projections from the IMF. If you like, you can still find the original chart (which goes to 2008) at The Atlantic. It’s also worth noting that the original source for all the data up until 2008 is from the late Angus Maddison, a famous economic historian that published estimates on population, GDP, and other figures going back to Roman times.

A Major Caveat

If you looked at the chart in any depth, you probably noticed a big problem with it. The time periods between data points aren’t equal – in fact, they are not close at all.

The first gap on the x-axis is 1,000 years and the second is 500 years. Then, as we get closer to modernity, the chart uses mostly 10 year intervals. Changing the scale like this is a big data visualization “no no”, as rightly pointed out in a blog post by The Economist.

While we completely agree, we have a made an exception in this case. Why? Because getting good economic data from the early 20th century is already difficult enough – and so trying to find data in regular intervals before then seems like a fool’s errand. Likewise, a stacked bar chart with different years also doesn’t really do this story justice.

We encountered similar historical data issues in our Richest People of Human History graphic, and at the end of the day decided it was primarily for fun. Like today’s chart, it has its share of imperfections – but ultimately, it provides a great amount of context and serves as a conversation starter.

Our Interpretation

Caveats aside, there are many stories that materialize from this simple chart. They include the colossal impact of the Industrial Revolution on the West, as well as the momentum behind the re-emergence of Asia.

But there’s one other story that ties it all together: the exponential rate of human economic growth that occurred over the last century.

World GDP per capita over time

For thousands of years, economic progress was largely linear and linked to population growth. Without machines or technological innovations, one person could only produce so much with their time and resources.

More recently, innovations in technology and energy allowed the “hockey stick” effect to come into play.

It happened in Western Europe and North America first, and now it’s happening in other parts of the world. As this technological playing field evens, economies like China and India – traditionally some of the largest economies throughout history – are now making their big comeback.

Editor’s note: We have adjusted the main graphic as of Sep 10, 2017 to change the description of the chart. It now says “Share of GDP (World Powers)” instead of the previous “Share of world GDP”, which was technically an inaccurate description.

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Investor Education

The Top 5 Reasons Clients Fire a Financial Advisor

Firing an advisor is often driven by more than cost and performance factors. Here are the top reasons clients ‘break up’ with their advisors.

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The following content is sponsored by Morningstar
This circle graphic shows the top reasons for firing a financial advisor.

The Top 5 Reasons Clients Fire a Financial Advisor

What drives investors to fire a financial advisor?

From saving for a down payment to planning for retirement, clients turn to advisors to guide them through life’s complex financial decisions. However, many of the key reasons for firing a financial advisor stem from emotional factors, and go beyond purely financial motivations.

We partnered with Morningstar to show the top reasons clients fire an advisor to provide insight on what’s driving investor behavior.

What Drives Firing Decisions?

Here are the top reasons clients terminated their advisor, based on a survey of 184 respondents:

Reason for Firing% of Respondents
Citing This Reason
Type of Motivation
Quality of financial advice
and services
32%Emotion-based reason
Quality of relationship21%Emotion-based reason
Cost of services17%Financial-based reason
Return performance11%Financial-based reason
Comfort handling financial
issues on their own
10%Emotion-based reason

Numbers may not total 100 due to rounding. Respondents could select more than one answer.

While firing an advisor is rare, many of the primary drivers behind firing decisions are also emotionally driven.

Often, advisors were fired due to the quality of the relationship. In many cases, this was due to an advisor not dedicating enough time to fully grasp their personal financial goals. Additionally, wealthier, and more financially literate clients are more likely to fire their advisors—highlighting the importance of understanding the client. 

Key Takeaways

Given these driving factors, here are five ways that advisors can build a lasting relationship through recognizing their clients’ emotional needs:

  • Understand your clients’ deeper goals
  • Reach out proactively
  • Act as a financial coach
  • Keep clients updated
  • Conduct goal-setting exercises on a regular basis

By communicating their value and setting expectations early, advisors can help prevent setbacks in their practice by adeptly recognizing the emotional motivators of their clients.

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Curious about what drives investors to hire a financial advisor? Discover the top 5 reasons here.

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