Heading into 2010, most financial analysts and investment professionals seem to agree on two things: We’re no longer on the brink of another Great Depression, and there won’t be another 60 percent surge in the stock market anytime soon. Beyond that, things get a little hazy.
For unemployed Americans, searching the Web for jobs is about as key to starting the day as a cup of coffee. Indeed, some 11 million new positions appeared online in the first half of 2009 – plenty more than the 7 million-plus lost since the recession began.
Millions of Americans may look back on 2009 as the year they froze like deer in headlights – and made money by standing still. Since the market bottomed out in March, some who sat on their hands have done surprisingly well. As of today, an investor with all her stocks in an S&P 500 index fund would be up a healthy 20 percent for the year – and more than 60 percent since March.
The Internal Revenue Service for the first time will require the nation's approximately 1 million tax preparers to register with the federal government, with a large percentage of them having to pass competency tests and stay up-to-date on tax laws by taking 15 hours of classes a year.
As years go, 2010 is on course to be a blockbuster for retirement-account owners. Starting in January, all Americans who own a traditional IRA — not just those who have modified adjusted gross income under $100,000 — will be able to convert their accounts to a Roth IRA.
As anyone devoted to the rituals of swirl, sniff and sip can attest, 2009 was a very good year for bargain hunters – whether they’re newbie collectors who rarely pay more than $50 for a bottle, or seasoned wine geeks who write six-figure checks for pristine cases of the rarest old first-growth Bordeaux and Burgundy.
A year ago, with the markets and the economy in meltdown, the SmartMoney Power 30 was full of the usual cast of government giants and Wall Street heavyweights: Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, Warren Buffett. But as the U.S. moves into a new phase, a time of slow but seemingly steady recovery, some of the biggest players might seem more on the fringe – academics, advisers, even a lobbyist.