This year has been a difficult one on many fronts. Russia invaded Ukraine. Inflation has soared around the world. Europe is contending with an energy crisis heading into winter. Developing nations are contending with a food crisis. And to top it off, a global recession is widely expected, if it isn’t already here.
To Americans, 2022 has delivered a whole set of truths closer to, well, home. All the trends that characterized the 2010s have come crashing down in a historic fit of economic destruction. Think of the crypto bro or meme stock retail trader whose big profits have turned into steep losses. Or consider the remote worker who fled a big city only to worry that their job will be the first axed in layoffs. Even many van lifers, who seemed in the last decade to have found a way to largely escape the world’s worries, have grown disillusioned with the nomadic lifestyle glorified in TikTok and Instagram posts.
For these Americans, 2022 has felt like a splash of cold water. The Federal Reserve is a big reason why. For the past dozen years, the U.S. central bank’s inflation-boosting policy of super-low interest rates and massive bond purchases fueled an “everything bubble,” in which prices of assets across the board seemed to hit new highs.
The resulting “wealth effect” couldn’t last forever, and this year marked its end, with the Fed vowing to fight sky-high inflation with higher interest rates—even if it means a recession. “While higher interest rates, slower growth, and softer labor market conditions will bring down inflation, they will also bring some pain to households and businesses,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell warned this summer.
With the Fed remaining hawkish, stock markets have had a bad year—the S&P 500 has fallen more than 20% year to date. Nervously watching one’s 401(k) has become an unhealthy obsession for many.
Cryptocurrency investors have had an even worse year. High hopes have been hard to maintain during the “crypto winter” of 2022. Bitcoin is down over 50% year to date, and other cryptocurrencies have fallen even more in…