10 surprising facts about life in 1996 you may have forgotten

By HarperLees

This year HarperLees celebrates its 25th anniversary. It’s a milestone we are all extremely proud of, and the cornerstones of first-class service and excellent advice are as important today as they were in 1996.

Unlike our principles, however, plenty has changed in the last two and a half decades. We have seen six prime ministers, a Conservative, a Labour, and a coalition government, two financial crises and a global pandemic.

Read on to take a trip down memory lane and discover how life and the UK have changed in the last 25 years.

1. John Major was prime minister

A quarter of a century ago, Tony Blair’s ten-year stay in Downing Street hadn’t started. That came in 1997 when New Labour saw its landslide victory over Mr Major’s Conservative party.

Gordon Brown took over from Mr Blair in 2007 before he handed the keys of Number 10 to David Cameron in 2010 thanks to a coalition agreement with Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems.

Since Mr Cameron, we have seen two Conservative prime ministers: Theresa May between 2016 and 2019, and the current PM, Boris Johnson.

2. In 1996, hardly anyone had a mobile phone – let alone a smartphone

As the graph below by Statista shows, in 1996 just 16% of households had a mobile phone, whereas in 2018 nearly all of us (95%) had one.












Source: Statista

Phones in 1996 looked very different to today. They were bulky (in comparison to today), usually had large antennas and didn’t have cameras or access to emails and social media. Back then, their main function was to make telephone calls.

3. We went to Blockbuster to rent our films on video

The most popular films in 1996 included Independence Day with Will Smith, Seven with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, as well as Leaving Las Vegas with Nicolas Cage. Back then, you probably dropped into your local video rental store, such as a Blockbuster, to find your chosen movie for the evening.

How things have changed. Today you’re more likely to stream your chosen film through Amazon, Netflix, Disney+ or Sky.

4. The Spice Girls were number one with ‘Wannabe’

According to Billboard, 1996 was the best year musically of the decade thanks to artists including The Spice Girls. Their debut single ‘Wannabe’ was an instant hit, closely followed by the girls’ first album called Spice, which went on to sell more than 23 million copies.

As one group started their career, sadly another ended, as Take That announced they were splitting that year. Other chart-topping artists included George Michael, The Prodigy and Oasis.

5. The average price of a house was one-fifth of what it is today

According to Land Registry data, the average house price in England in 1996 was £53,331. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed it was £268,000 in February 2021 – a fivefold increase in the last 25 years.

According to statistics from the Building Society Association, new mortgage rates were between 6.5% and 7% in 1996. Today, Which? reports you will be paying 4.9% for a standard variable rate mortgage in 2021. That said, you are perhaps more likely to go for a fixed rate, which could have been around 2.5% in April 2021.

This reduction is typically due to the Bank of England (BoE) dropping its base rate from 5.94% to 0.1% in the last 25 years. The base rate is the amount of interest high street banks pay the BoE.

Sadly, the drop is bad news if you have large amounts in savings accounts, as it will have caused your interest rates to have dropped significantly from around 4.5% in 1996. Today, National Savings & Investments (NS&I), which many savers saw as a safe haven as other lenders cut rates, only offers 0.01% on certain products.

6. The FTSE 100 was significantly lower than today

In 1996, the FTSE 100 stood at 3,738 and, as the graph below shows, has seen a number of ups and downs in the last 25 years. Today the FTSE 100 stands at around 7,000 – a growth of around 85% since 1996.

As you can see, investors who stuck to the plan and waited for the index to recover after each downfall came out best in the long term.






Source: London Stock Exchange

7. Bread and lager were half the price they are today

In 1996 the price of an 800g white sliced loaf was 53p. However, today the same loaf will cost you £1.08.

Those who like a pint with friends saw the price of a pint of draught lager rise from £1.70 in 1996, to £3.79 today – a 120% increase.

8. The average wage was £17,500 a year

If you were earning an average income in 1996, it would have reportedly been around £17,500 a year. While the graph below starts at 1999, when the average wage was £17,800 a year, it shows that today it stands at £31,461.












Source: Statista

9. Football came home at Euro 96

After Paul Gascoigne’s goal against Scotland and a decisive 4-1 victory against the Netherlands, England’s hopes of winning the European Championships in 1996 – and football finally “coming home” – looked good. That year the sun was out, and hopes were high as England reached the semi-finals.

However, the nation’s hopes were dashed by an agonising penalty shootout defeat against Germany. Since 1996, England has never reached the semi-finals of the tournament.

10. The most popular car was the Ford Fiesta

It seems the one thing that hasn’t changed is our favourite car. In 1996, the Ford Fiesta was the most frequently sold car, followed by the Ford Escort and Ford Mondeo, respectively.

In 2020, the Ford Fiesta was again the most popular car in the UK, followed by the Vauxhall Corsa and VW Golf.

Get in touch

As you can see, a lot can happen in 25 years – and the same goes for your wealth. If you would like to discuss how you could make the most of your wealth in the years to come, please email us at info@harperlees.co.uk or call on 01277 350560.