AS THE TOOTH FAIRY'S FORTUNES GO, SO GOES THE ECONOMY
For generations, parents have been telling kids with wiggly teeth a tale that would be fairly disturbing if it were true. When a loose tooth finally drops, a mythical fairy sneaks into their house while they're sleeping, takes the tooth and compensates them usually in the form of legal currency.
So, how much does the Tooth Fairy give? Delta Dental has an annual Tooth Fairy Poll, which interviews thousands of primary caregivers about what they award their kids for the loss of a baby tooth. Answers range from small-time coin change to enough to cover a cell phone bill. The average, however, has a remarkable tendency to mirror the Standard & Poor's 500 Index. In fact, the Tooth Fairy Poll tracked the S&P for 12 of the last 14 years.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $1.60
In 2001, the S&P 500 dropped nearly 12 percent, the second of three consecutive losses traced to the implosion of the tech bubble and the resulting dot-com crash. That year, the tooth fairy doled out an average of $1.60 per tooth per kid.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $1.54
In 2002, the effects of the obliterated tech bubble were still in full effect, and the Tooth Fairy was forced to issue a pay cut to kids who spent the day running their tongues across exposed gums where teeth once were. The 6-cent decrease constituted a drop of 3.75 percent — peanuts compared to the crushing 25 percent hit the S&P 500 took that year.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $1.58
In 2003, the Tooth Fairy upped her payout, but only by a barely noticeable $0.04. The S&P 500 is known for following the Tooth Fairy's lead, but not this year. Roaring out of a multi-year recession, the benchmark index posted hefty gains of 28.68 percent in 2003.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $1.78
The Tooth Fairy was generous in 2004, upping the prize for a lost tooth to $1.78. That's an increase of two shiny dimes over the year prior. That gain represented an increase of 12.5 percent — the S&P 500 also put up a double-digit gain that year of 10.88 percent.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $2
The Tooth Fairy must have done well for herself in 2005 — and she spread the wealth around in the form of a 12.4 percent bump in tooth money. That left her wiggly toothed jackpot winners with 22 cents more in their piggy banks than they would have had if they dropped the same tooth the year before — a full $2. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by a strikingly similar 11.2 percent that year.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $1.71
Kids who had gotten used to $2 bounties from their generous earnings the year prior must have been disappointed with the average take in 2006, which was just $1.71. Breaking tradition, the stock market went the other way, with the S&P 500 posting significant gains that year of 15.79 percent.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $2.09
In 2007, inflation was the order of the day — and that panned out well for kids who went to sleep with teeth under their pillows instead of in their mouths. That year, the bounty for a shed tooth jumped 22 percent, back over the $2 mark for the first time since 2005 — but things were about to take a turn for the worse.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $1.88
2008 witnessed one of the most dramatic economic collapses in modern history — and the Tooth Fairy's fortunes were not immune. Her gift to those who surrendered their teeth fell by 10 percent that year, but those kids should count themselves lucky. The S&P 500 lost a devastating 37 percent of its value in the same time period.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $2.13
In 2009, economists and investors who were hip to the Tooth Fairy/stock market correlation had reason for optimism that the Great Recession might be waning. The Tooth Fairy's average gift once again cracked the $2 mark for a year-over-year increase of 13 percent.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $2.52
The Tooth Fairy gave kids a raise of 49 cents in 2010. Those steep gains were closely mirrored by the gains investors earned in the stock market. The S&P 500 rose by more than 15 percent that year.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $2.10
In 2011, the cloud of economic downturn still loomed large over America and the world, and it showed in the average amount the Tooth Fairy was able to scrounge up for little ones whose wigglers finally dropped. The loss of 42 cents that kids endured that year was a microcosm of the country's overall suffering.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $2.42
By 2012, America was digging out of the recession, which was evident in the double-digit gains that most major U.S. market indices put up. Like so many times before, the Tooth Fairy kept pace. The Tooth Fairy's splurge of $2.42 represented a healthy gain of 15.2 percent over 2011.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $3.50
As the economy began to chug back to life, the stock market gained considerable momentum in 2013. But nothing like the massive 44.6 percent increase over 2012 that the average kid was paid for going to bed one tooth shy. For the first time in history, the loss of a tooth meant an under-the-pillow haul of more than $3.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $4.36
By 2014, the economy was in full recovery mode and, like the S&P 500, the Tooth Fairy gave children their third consecutive year of gains. In fact, the rate for a small hunk of face bone leapt past the $4 mark for the first time in history for an estimated total haul of more than $255 million, which was also a record.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $3.91
In 2015, piggy banks across America rattled a little bit lighter. That year, the average price of a tooth — a 6-year-old's only real currency — plummeted by double digits from the year before to $3.91. The trip below the $4 mark represented a hit of 10.32 percent. But the $256 million the Tooth Fairy traded in total for lost teeth that year was actually a small increase over the record set in 2014.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $4.66
2016 was a good year to lose a tooth. That year, the Tooth Fairy paid an all-time high for molars, incisors, bicuspids and the rest. $4.66 represents an increase of 75 cents, or 13.5 percent, over 2015, which is close to the nearly 12 percent the S&P earned. In total, the imaginary trade in the teeth of human children topped $290 million.
Average Tooth Fairy gift: $4.13
The economy roared and the stock market toppled records in 2017, but the Tooth Fairy still came up light. Even though the S&P 500 gained nearly 18 percent that year, kids with holes in their smiles took an 11 percent hit compared to 2016.