Turn off the TV.

It will bring peace of mind and restore your spirit. Step back from the press of daily events and we see a very different picture of how we’re doing.

And how is that?

Much better.

Here’s a short list of how our lives have improved since the first issue of Private Clubs in 1986.

Life. A child born today can expect to live longer, by about 2.6 years, than a child born only 20 years ago. Government figures show an improvement from 74.7 years in 1986 to 77.3 years in 2002. That’s the most recent year for which figures are available. While women still capture all the expectancy trophies, men are gaining. Over the period men of all races gained 3.3 years while women of all races gained 1.7 years. Today the over 65 population is growing so fast demographers divide it into three distinct groups: the young-old, the old, and the old-old.

Health. Here’s an important phrase: “Compression of Morbidity. ” It describes a new condition. We’re living longer but late-life infirmity is shrinking. That means we’re living longer, healthier, and more capable lives. Contrary to popular mythology, old age isn’t something to fear.

To continue the trend all we have to do is take care of ourselves--- exercise, watch our diet, drink reasonably, and stop smoking.

Wealth. Twenty years ago our collective net worth was an impressive $15.5 trillion. The current Federal Reserve figure is $49.8 trillion. It will probably be $53 trillion by the time you read this. Our national wealth has more than tripled but our population has increased only 20 percent.

Greater wealth means we live in larger houses with bigger closets, better kitchens, and more bathrooms. The fastest growing home buyer’s market today is for second homes. We fill all of them, often with products that didn’t exist 20 years ago and we get to them by plane--- faster and for less money than in 1986.

Technology. The 1986 Internet was an obscure tool used by academics. Today, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee, we have the World Wide Web. We have Amazon, EBay, Google, and Yahoo. We can hunt for houses, exotic cars, yachts, rare books, or great wines from virtually anywhere, anytime. And we can do it at fantastic speed using a computer that does more but costs less than anything available in 1986.

It has changed how we live and work, shattered geography, and slashed the cost of information. It’s not surprising that Yahoo and eBay each have market value greater than the combined market value of GM and Ford.

Investing. It’s hard to believe but there were only 741 mutual funds in 1986. Only 44 invested outside the United States. Today the fund population is approaching 18,000. More than 2,087 invest overseas. Since 1986 the cost of brokerage commissions has collapsed. An active investor can now buy and sell shares at major online firms for $8, often less. Competing online data providers such as MS Money central, Yahoo, and Morningstar provide for free information that once cost $20,000 a year.

Need I mention that we also have more golf courses?