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good choice of Date ...three 'crashes' in that interval(the *i* know of)
Actually, I just picked 1985 because that gives us 25 years of history. More-or-less representative of the length of a person's "investing lifetime". Ten years is clearly not long enough, what with the "lost decade" and all. Thirty or 40 is perhaps too long and too easy for people to dismiss as "ancient history, before I was even born". Before 5/1/75 there was (high) fixed commissions.

does margin interest rate vary with other interest rates?
Yes. It's usually X.X% over LIBOR or some similar index. The X.X is usually on a sliding scale, with balances under $25K-$50K in the highest tier.

A very accurate spreadsheet would take into account actual historical dividends and margin rates. I suspect that the results would not be much different than the SWAG method I used.
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