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Were You Afraid of 2014?

By January 7, 2015May 21st, 2019Leadership News

Quick: Without looking at your investment account statements, or Googling for the data, how did the American economy and stock & bond markets really do in 2014? As recently as November, the vast majority of us thought that the economy was in dire shape. About 45% of American voters went to the polls saying that the economy was our number one worry, and 70% of us thought it was “not so good” or “poor” (click here for poll data). News reports all year long gave us every reason to be worried.

But when we look at the facts, we find that … it was a pretty good year, actually. Although non-US stocks were lower, the US markets ended the year substantially higher. Unemployment numbers have improved significantly during 2014, too, moving from nea2014 Total Returnrly 7% to just under 6% during the course of the year. And with more Americans employed — and oil and gasoline prices spiking lower in the second half of the year — more of us were willing to spend this year, driving strong growth in GDP. So by most measures, 2014 was a good year for the American economy (click here for economic data).

This was a great year from a social and environmental perspective, too. 2014 saw the rise of the Climate March movement across the US, with a small group of people marching all the way across the country. They were joined in New York by a crowd estimated at more than 300,000perhaps as many as 400,000! This was matched by growth in the Carbon Divestment movement, and by the number of our clients requesting “Zero Carbon Energy” portfolios. And the fight for marriage equality seems to have reached a tipping point in 2014, with 19 new states extending the right to marry to same-sex couples, bringing the total to 35 states and the District of Columbia (click here for a summary story).

To be blunt: while it seems like someone in the media wanted us to be afraid this year, the news was actually pretty good — maybe even great! Of course, as we always say, “past performance is no guarantee of future results”: there’s a lot of work yet to do on social justice and environmental sustainability issues, and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the economic outlook. But maybe, just maybe, we can take the fear-mongers with a grain of salt.