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MarketInsight | Going over Niagara Falls in a barrel


Since 1850, more than 5,000 people have died going over Niagara Falls. Some of those were accidents, some were suicides, and some were stunts gone awry. And, of course, some were murders. The most famous person to die going over the Falls was baseball legend Ed Delahanty. “Big Ed” was one of baseball’s first superstars. He and his brothers played for the Philadelphia Phillies at the turn of the last century. In 1903, Delahanty was travelling by train from Detroit to New York. He got thrown off the train by a conductor for being drunk and disorderly and threatening other passengers with a knife. He tried to walk across the International Railway Bridge and either fell, jumped, or was pushed off. They found his mangled body several days later next to the “Maid of the Mist.” Some people still think he was murdered.

The first person to survive a trip over the falls was Annie Edson Taylor. The 63-year-old school teacher went over the falls in a barrel she built out of oak and iron and lined with a mattress. The plunge down the rushing curtain of water was her retirement plan. She knew she could not teach forever and had not saved any money. She figured that if she survived she would earn plenty telling her tale and if she did not, she would not need any money. Others would follow her, often with less success.

A young man named Kirk Jones was the first to survive the trip unassisted. In 2003, he swam over the falls. It is unclear whether the effort was a stunt or a suicide attempt. He and his friends were drunk, and they could not work the video recorder. Either way, he survived. Jones was fined $2300 and banned from entering Canada for life. Fourteen years later, Jones was back. He tried to go over the falls in a large rubber ball. This time he died.

Going over Niagara Falls in a barrel is a bad retirement plan. For one thing, it is dangerous. Even more dangerous than investing in the stock market. And for what it’s worth, it did not work for Annie. It turned out that there weren’t a lot of people anxious to pay to hear her story. To make matters worse, her manager stole her barrel and took it on tour himself. The barrel was more interesting than its passenger. She spent most of her speaking money on private investigators trying to hunt the rogue down.

Learn from Annie Edson Taylor. Your retirement is too important to leave unplanned until the age of 63. Your retirement is likely to last much longer than you think and cost more also. If you have not done so already, you need to start saving today. And you need to earn a high rate of return. To get where you are going, you need to invest in the stock market. It is the only vehicle that is likely to get you there. Invest early and often — or start working on your barrel.

Scott A. Grant is President of Standfast Asset Management in Ponte Vedra Beach. He welcomes your comments or questions at

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