What a year it was. Miley Cyrus was christened as the Queen of Twerk, a royal baby was born and a new Pope anointed. Add a stellar stock market and it doesn’t get much better than that.
When it comes to stocks, 2013 proved to be a winning year on Wall Street. Sure, there were many events that could have derailed it – the Government Shutdown, the botched rollout of Obamacare and plenty of turmoil overseas - just to name a few. But Wall Street still managed to make a run for it, posting the biggest gains seen in more than a decade.
For the year, the number crunching goes like this: the S&P 500 posted its biggest gain since 1997, up 29.6%, the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 26.5%, it’s biggest jump since 1987, and the Nasdaq posted a 38% jump.
Although the averages all posted hefty gains for the year, there were of course, individual winners and losers. Among them, Netflix was last year’s biggest winner, with a stock price up about 300%. Unfortunately, a different story for investors in Newmont Mining, this year’s biggest loser. Shares of this gold mining company lost about 50% as the price gold fell for the first time since the year 2000.
And all this matters… why? Well it obviously matters to your money if you are invested in the stock market and apparently a lot of people are. Investors poured more that $348 billion into stock-based funds last year. But it also matters to Main Street because a healthy stock market and healthy economy could mean more jobs for many Americans. And with the jobless rate at 7% and 10.9 million people unemployed, more jobs are exactly what the country needs right now.
So here’s hoping stocks can gain even more ground in the New Year. And, here’s something to could help with your financial forecast.
It’s known as the January Effect and it’s been around since Yale Hirsch invented it in 1972. It’s a stock market barometer that says as January goes, so goes the market. According to the January Effect, if the S&P 500 posts a gain at the end of January, the stock market will post a gain for the entire year. If you don’t want wait a month for your financial forecast, just look at the first five days of trading in the New Year. It’s predicted the stock market’s direction correctly about 86% of the time in the last 36 years.
We’ll have to wait and see whether the stock market will continue to make new highs in 2014, but here’s hoping your New Year is a healthy and happy one.
Peace Love Profits,
I’m a believer. Big time. I believe in The American Dream, I believe that all men and women are created equal, that everything happens for a reason and I believe in Santa Claus. “How could I?” You may be asking. Well, how could I not?!
He’s here, there and everywhere doing exactly what he is supposed to do: spread Christmas joy throughout the world to everyone who’s lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him. I may not be jumping in Santa’s lap anymore but the feeling I get when I see him isn’t waning with my teenage years, it’s becoming even stronger. Once you realize that Santa isn’t about wrapping paper and ribbon, you get to appreciate the true magic of Christmas.
And I am proud to say I’m not a standalone in my belief. Of course, there’s the younger generation who would bet their entire train set that Santa and his sack full of toys will come down their chimney Christmas Eve, but there’s also a whole other group of Santa supporters. According to the Happy Holidays Poll conducted by the Siena Research Institute, thirty percent of New York residents over eighteen believe in Santa Claus. Among his biggest believers are older New Yorkers, women, Catholics and Republicans.
Earlier this month, a family member came this close to saying bah humbug to the holidays. My younger brother found out that those presents under the tree don’t come from Santa’s workshop; they come from the mall. Shock, disbelief and disappointment quickly set in. You mean there’s no nice and naughty list he asked? Nope. What about the reindeer on the roof? No way. Questions about The Easter Bunny and The Tooth Fairy followed. No and No.
But my little brother was quick to catch on. And after several days of head shaking and eye rolling every time mom or dad would mention the name Santa, he proudly announced that he is still a believer. He realized the true meaning of the season isn’t necessarily inside a Santa suit; it’s the traditions, beliefs and joy that we share as a family that makes Christmas the best time of the year.
And yes, I will be baking cookies to leave for Santa again this year, along with some reindeer mix for Rudolph and his team. It’s a very busy week for all of them☺
That’s the best thing about our country: we are free to be and to believe. Let’s count our blessings.
Peace Love Profits,
We all know that the holidays are not supposed to be about the presents you give and get, but about the more important things in life like peace, love, joy, family and friends. But let’s be a little realistic here, it’s called the holiday shopping season for a reason. Santa delivers a lot of joy to good girls and boys all over the world and it’s usually wrapped up in a big box with a bow.
The National Retail Federation forecasts that this year’s holiday sales are going to be bigger than last year, up 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion for November and December. However, consumers say they plan to purchase two-percent less this year, $737.95 on average per person.
But those holiday shoppers looking for true love, may have to spend a little more than that. According to something called the Christmas Price Index, to buy all the gifts that my true love gave to me in the classic Christmas carol “Twelve Days of Christmas,” it will cost 7.7% more money this year than last year. From One Partridge in a Pear Tree to Ten Lords a-Leaping, that’s a total of $27,393.17.
This year’s biggest price increases are for Nine Ladies Dancing (twerking? probably not) and Ten Lords-a-Leaping. The least expensive item on the list, and the only one to drop in price this year, is the partridge with its very own pear tree for $204.99.
But if you want to buy it all in cyberspace it’s going to cost $12,300 more. Shipping can get pretty expensive on Swimming Swans, Pipers Piping and Drummers Drumming.
The Xmas Index has been around for 30 years, and although it’s a comical take on the cost of Christmas, it’s been pretty accurate when compared to the rate of inflation in the United States. PNC Wealth Management, which puts the index together, says that year-over-year increases have averaged 2.9 percent, the same number as the U.S. inflation index.
Who says you can’t put a price tag true love?
Peace Love Profits & Partridges,
Hope your Thanksgiving is filled with family and fun.
(Here’s me and my dad at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. My mom and brother are there too.)
Peace Love Profits,
I love the smells and the sounds of the season – the turkey roasting in the oven, the bands marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade - it’s all that and our family traditions that thankfully, I get to look forward to all year. What makes Thanksgiving one of the best times of the year for me? It was hard to narrow it down, but here are my top five reasons.
I’m proud to be an American and on Thanksgiving I am reminded of the incredible people, past and present, and the sacrifices they endured to help make this country the best place on earth. From the founders of Plymouth Colony who had the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621, to George Washington who in 1789 issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation calling upon all Americans to be thankful for our country’s independence and for the U.S. Constitution. To Sarah Josepha Hale who campaigned to get Thanksgiving established as a national holiday, and to President Lincoln who in 1863 during the Civil War asked all Americans to “heal the wounds of our nation” and proclaimed Thanksgiving the last Thursday in November. And, to our troops who help keep our country safe all the days of the year.
Being surrounded by family and friends. Thanksgiving is the busiest travel time of the year. There’s no traffic jam, nor check-in line too long to keep family and friends apart. An estimated 25 million people will travel by air this year, that’s 1.5 percent more than last year, with 80 million more more travelling by roads and rails. It’s a day to give thanks for the love we share and to realize how fortunate we are to have one another in our lives.
The turkey and all the trimmings. I’m talking stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, and my personal favorite pumpkin pie. About 46 million turkeys are served at Thanksgiving, and 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten. And in case you’re counting, 3,000 to 5,000 calories are consumed.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. 87 years and counting. Even if you can’t get there to see the parade in person, turn the TV on, sit in your pajamas, and watch the floats go by. More than 50 million people will be doing the same thing. And, after Santa and his sleigh have made their way down the two and a half mile parade route, there’s another holiday tradition to tune into at my house, Thanksgiving Day football.
It’s the kick-off of the holiday season and who doesn’t love that. In fact this year, the holiday season starts the night before Thanksgiving with the first night of Hanukah. And with just four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, you can bet that eager holiday shoppers will finish their meal and head to the mall to get a jump on their holiday shopping.
Here’s one more reason why Americans may say pass the pumpkin pie a few more times this year. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for ten is $49.04, that’s down 0.9 percent from last year.
Peace Love Profits & Pumpkin Pie,
Today, Veterans Day, and everyday we need to honor and thank all armed service veterans who help keep our country free and safe.
Peace Love Profits,
Is SpongeBob SquarePants a hero for the Conservative Party?
In an episode scheduled to appear tonight (Nov. 11th), SpongeBob gets fired from his job at the Krusty Krab but doesn’t want to accept any government assistance. Instead, he wants to work. His sidekick Patrick, however, thinks unemployment may be the greatest gig ever.
It’s not the first time (and won’t be the last) that cartoon characters have had a starring role in politics. Liberals partied with Big Bird during the last Presidential election after Mitt Romney said funding to PBS would be cut, even organizing a Million Muppet March on the Mall in Washington.
Don’t miss tonight’s episode on Nickelodeon at 7pm ET, will SpongeBob get caught in the safety net or not?
Peace Love Profits,
I wish I could say that it stood for fabulous or fantastic but I didn’t. My first big fat “F” stood for what it always stands for Fail. How could this happen? I knew the material, I had studied hard, I even went to see the teacher a couple of times before the test just to make sure I knew what I was doing. The practice problems were a breeze. I was prepared.
I’m not going to say I wasn’t nervous – I’m always nervous before a test, especially an algebra test. Grades mean a lot to me, and they mean a lot to my parents also. To say I was a little nervous is probably putting it mildly. I was anxious – very anxious. My brain kept asking me a lot of “what-ifs?” What if I blank out and forget how to do anything? What if I get every problem wrong? What if my bad grade hurts my grade point average forever? What if there isn’t any extra credit? What if I bring home an “F”, what will my parents think?
My confidence was definitely compromised. Looking back it’s safe to say I was doomed from the start. Negative thoughts are never a good thing. I suffer from what is called test anxiety and I’m not alone. According to the American Test Anxieties Association about 20% of students have high-test anxiety which can reduce working memory, confuse reasoning, increase mistakes and lower test scores. Yep, I’ve got a bad case of it.
I had to find some help fast. When you’re in middle school, tests come fast and furious. And with the end of the quarter coming, I had to find a quick fix if I wanted to make the grade. The Internet was going to be my fastest, least expensive and best resource. After scouring through test anxiety web searches, I compiled a list of techniques to help me with my problem. Yes, I was anxious (there I go again!) to try them.
Firstly, I need to recognize that a little anxiety is a good thing. It gets your adrenaline going, which can help you power through a test, provided you know the material. Preparation is key.
Secondly, I need to get rid of all those negative thoughts. If I think I’m going to do something bad, chances are I will. Focus on the positive things: I’ve studied, I’m prepared, I’m a good student and I know I can do it. Visualize doing well on the test.
Then, I also need to accept that nobody is perfect. Everybody makes mistakes. When a mistake is made, use it as a “learning opportunity” and figure out how to not make the mistake again. One bad grade is not the end of the world nor is it even the beginning of the end. Not even close. Basically, keep it all in perspective.
When taking a test, experts suggest starting with the easiest question first. If you get stumped on a problem, skip it, tell yourself that you know how to do it, and then try it again a little later. Practice some relaxation techniques, close your eyes, take some deep breaths, give your mind a chance to reset. Trust me, it works.
I may not be wearing my big fat “F” like a scarlet letter anymore, but I am mentally carrying it around with me. It’s a reminder of all that I am capable of: the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve since taken another algebra test and am happy to say I got an “A.” Which in this case stands for absolutely amazingly awesome. I can do it.
Here’s to the power of positive thinking.
Peace Love Profits,
Go see Gravity. You won’t be disappointed. No space aliens or even a love story needed for this space adventure starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Just good heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat fun. You’ll have a new appreciation for earth’s beauty from space and the astronauts and scientists who put it all on the line to research the world around us.
But after seeing it I can tell you that I’m not heading into space anytime soon.
Which is probably a good thing because the American astronaut program may not be going anywhere fast or far anytime soon either. President Obama cancelled NASA’s Constellation program in 2010, grounding any plans to take a trip to the moon. And now, NASA, which celebrated its 55th birthday on October 1st, has problems hitting closer to home. Some 97 percent of NASA’s workers have been furloughed and its website shutdown, just like the government.
However, there is some good news for people who still want to shoot for the moon. All you need is a billion dollars and a big appetite for adventure.
A group of billionaires are all claiming their space among the stars, funding cargo vehicles, rockets and other private space exploration, hoping to get in on what could be the next big financial frontier.
If anybody is going to do it, an entrepreneur might just be the perfect person to get the job done. By nature, entrepreneurs are determined and ambitious, with an incredible desire to succeed. History books are filled with wealthy visionaries, as Roger Lanius of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space museum noted in a USA Today article: Howard Hughes with airlines, Henry Rockefeller with the oil industry, and auto pioneer Henry Ford.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airlines, hopes to start commercial trips into space in 2014. His vision is “to democratize space, eventually making commercial space travel affordable and accessible to all” according to a recent statement. And just last week, NBC announced plans for a competition series with Richard Branson called “Space Race” with a grand prize being a trip into space on Virgin Galactica’s SpaceShip Two.
Hopefully, these new-age space explorers won’t lose their will or their wallets. Costs can get out of control and skeptics caution that the bigger the project, the bigger the cost miscalculation.
But these entrepreneurs aren’t only on a money mission; they’re on a mission for mankind. “This is smart money investing in one of the largest commercial opportunities ever: going into space to gain resources for the benefit of humanity,” says space “ranger” and X Price Foundation chief Peter Diamandis.
Entrepreneurs living their dream and paying their own way. What in the world, or galaxy, could be better than that?
Peace Love Profits,