Stock market investors certainly seem enthusiastic about prospects for higher market values in 2017, largely reflecting the belief that the new administration will cut taxes, reduce regulations and spur infrastructure spending. Bond investors share a similar outlook, which, in the fixed-income market, translates into worries about rising rates of inflation at home and abroad.
Other forecasters are more cautious. The skeptics offer up several worries for the new year. One of the most compelling notes of warning is their focus on increasingly political uncertainty. The kind of political risk assessment routine for investors in emerging markets is now essential when evaluating economic and market prospects for the major industrialized nations, including the U.S.
"Most notably, 2016 was the year when Western markets were rocked by political shocks almost as startling as anything seen recently from the emerging markets world," writes Gillian Tett, U.S. managing editor of the Financial Times. "In 2017 investors will probably confront even more political risk in the 'developed' world that will make asset values look more volatile."
With that in mind, I want to suggest three personal finance strategies that will hold you in good stead no matter what 2017 brings — the good, the bad and the mixed.
First, take stock of your household finances. How much income is coming into your household? How reliable is that income? What are you spending your money on, on a weekly and monthly basis? The information is especially valuable if you want to boost savings or establish a budget.
Second, pay off any credit card debts or personal loans. Eliminating these debts is a surefire, guaranteed way to make a high return on your money. For instance, the average rate on new credit card offers is 15.07, according to CreditCards.com. If that's the rate you're paying, getting rid of the debt is the equivalent of earning a 15.07 percent return on your money. Of course, your rate may be may be higher or lower, but the same rate of return calculation holds.
Third, think about becoming a microentrepreneur. A side gig doing something you enjoy that also brings in some money is an additional safety net. According to a CareerBuilder survey from September 2016, 29 percent of workers have some kind of a side hustle. Think about increasing savings with the added income, and, if you do lose your job, the side hustle will help pay the bills.
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor for "Marketplace" and a commentator on Minnesota Public Radio.