Despite another trying year, investors have been good little boys and girls. We faithfully made contributions to our retirement accounts but have little to show for the effort. We maxed out our tax-deferred IRAs and 401(k)s and managed to keep our costs down. We even reduced our tendency to overtrade.
It mostly has been for naught. It doesn't seem like any of our holiday wishes have been granted over the past decade.
What investors wish for the New Year:
1. A consistent trend: Investors need some Dramamine after this year's wild swings. The second half of the year alone had more than a dozen swings between 5 percent and 20 percent. Despite all that, the market is unchanged year to date. It is the equivalent of a lump of coal in investors' stockings.
2 Yield, please: Those who live off their investment portfolios are having a tough time.
Dear Fed chief Ben Bernanke: Please normalize the interest rate policy. We don't ask for much, just risk-free, tax-free, real annual yields of 4 to 6 percent.
3. More civil suits against corporate execs: We got an early Christmas present when the Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit against the chief executives (and other top officers) at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
There must be many more execs at various firms who similarly misled investors. Securing convictions and huge fines against those who misrepresented their financial condition to the public would go a long way toward restoring investor confidence.
4. Good advice: Why is reasonably priced, intelligent personal financial advice so difficult to come by? We don't ask for much, just a person who will help us make money in good markets and prevent us from losing any in bad ones.
5. A bottom in housing: The ongoing residential real estate debacle continued this year, with prices falling another 3.9 percent year-over-year last quarter. If housing prices do not stabilize, then the banks are still at risk, festooned as they are with bad mortgages. Without stable, financially secure banks, we cannot see any sort of sustainable market move. Hence, a bottom in housing prices would be a real treat.