It’s always interesting to look back at the year that was…here are my 7 Biggest Money Stories of 2017:
- Stock Market Rally: The post-election rally continued throughout 2017. Early in the year, investors bought on the hope of potential infrastructure spending, tax cuts and a reduction of regulations across a wide swath of industries. What many had not priced in was a surge in global growth, which propelled corporate profits. The rising market was a fairly consistent and quiet one, without the usual gyrations on the up or downside.
- Federal Reserve Policy: Two years ago, the Fed embarked on a new policy: it raised short-term interest rates. There was one 0.25 percent increase in 2015, another in 2016 and then three more in 2017. New to the Fed policy this year was the unwinding of the bonds that it had purchased during the financial crisis, recession and recovery. Despite fears that the actions would shatter the stock and bond markets, investors cheered the methodical approach that Fed Chair Janet Yellen employed.
- Federal Reserve Personnel: As expected, President Trump did not re-nominate Janet Yellen to a second term as Fed Chief. He chose current Fed Governor Jerome Powell to lead the central bank. He also appointed Randal K. Quarles as Vice Chairman for Supervision, leaving three more openings to fill next year.
- Regulatory: There were two areas of the Trump Administration’s regulatory rollback, which were of particular interest to consumers. The Department of Labor delayed the full implementation of the fiduciary rule, which would have required anyone who handles retirement assets or given financial advice to retirement savers, to work in their clients’ best interest and to provide disclosure of conflicts, when they exist. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) remains in limbo, after the former director Richard Cordray stepped down in2017. There are currently two interim leaders of the agency: (1) current head of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, who was selected by President Trump to oversee the consumer watchdog until a permanent replacement could be found and (2) Leandra English, former CFPB chief of staff turned deputy director, who Cordray had appointed. The court system will determine who wins the battle.
- Equifax: The massive data breach at credit monitoring company Equifax exposed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license and credit card numbers, from a whopping 143 million Americans. The upside? We became more familiar with the concept of a credit freeze!
- Bitcoin Blitz: It started the year at 1,000 and charged up towards 20,000 by the end of the year, making the Bitcoin Blitz inescapable for all. As competitive crypto-currencies cropped up, so too did the analogies to the 1990’s tech boom and bust.
- Republican Tax Plan: Love or hate the final bill, the GOP passed the most sweeping overhaul to the tax code in more than three decades. Winners include: corporations, whose top tax rate will drop from 35 to 21 percent; owners of pass-through businesses (sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies and S corporations), whose income could be taxed at a rate as low as 29.6 percent, subject to some limitations; wealthy earners, whose top tax rate would drop from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. Among the losers are many individual taxpayers, because the majority of their cuts will expire after 2025; homeowners in high-tax states, whose state, local and property tax deductions will be capped at a total of $10,000; and the remaining people who are insured through the Affordable Care Act, whose insurance premiums could rise 10 percent.