2015 is almost over and it certainly has been an interesting year. Between Black Monday, Donald Trump’s Republican presidential candidacy and the Volkswagen scandal, there’s a lot to learn about the economy and your money. Here are the top 41 events of 2015 and what personal finance lessons you can learn.
Find Out: 40 Ways to Save Money Over the Holidays
1. Interest Rate Hike Talk
Throughout 2015, investors and consumers have been waiting with bated breath for the forthcoming interest rate hike. But while the Federal Reserve has said they might raise interest rates in December, the truth of the matter is you don’t know when rates will change.
Interest rates affect every aspect of American finance from the government’s budget down to your personal checking account. “Interest rates affect consumers because people use debt to fuel purchases. When rates are low it’s a great time to get a loan or use a credit card,” said Tiffany Welka, vice president of VFG Associates. For consumers on tight budgets, she suggested reviewing your finances to see how a potential rate increase could affect your finances.
2. Volkswagen Emissions Scandal
The Volkswagen scandal took over business news coverage in September when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that many Volkswagen (VW) cars being sold in America had software in their diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested so they could cheat emissions tests.
Since then, President and CEO of the VW U.S. group Michael Horn said, “We have totally screwed up.” VW has recalled nearly a half-million cars and set aside over $7 billion for the emissions scandal. The company will also likely face enormous fees and legal action. When it comes to your personal finances or business, there’s one big lesson to take away from this: There are no shortcuts in life.
3. The Tesla Model S Review
Tesla, America’s leading electric car company, released their much anticipated Model S this year. It came with a hefty price tag, with the model costing between $69,900 and $105,000.
But while the release of the Model S was met with rave reviews from Consumer Reports, which awarded the model a 103 out of 100, it was not long after Consumer Reports said there was serious issues with the car’s reliability. In the end, consumers learned one important lesson: Buying a brand new car model isn’t always the best idea; sometimes it’s best to wait until you’re sure a new model deserves the reviews it got when it was first released.
4. Target and Walmart Raise Wages
Earlier this year, Walmart and Target raised wages for employees. Target upped its minimum wage to $9 per hour. While this is good news for low-wage workers, “One issue is that this will likely lead to inflation of basic goods in the coming year,” said Ryder Taff, portfolio manager at New Perspectives.
Walmart CFO Charles Holley said higher wages and investments in training will lower profits by about $1.5 billion in the 2017 fiscal year — which accounts for nearly all of next year and January 2017, according to CNN.
With Walmart likely to increase prices to recover lost profits, you’ll want to be mindful of where you shop for groceries and the cost of other items you get from big box stores. In short, although Walmart is known for its rock-bottom prices, don’t be complacent — remember to comparison shop.
5. Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez Divorce
Halle Berry and French actor Olivier Martinez are divorcing after two years of marriage. The couple first began dating in 2010 after meeting on the set of the movie “Dark Tide” and got married in July 2013. The two are parents to two-year-old son Maceo.
“It has been stated that (the divorce) has become very volatile,” said Russell Luna of Luna Financial Advisors. “When people let their egos get in the way of dividing assets the cost of divorce begins to escalate.”
Luna pointed out that even though assets accumulated during marriage are considered joint, people will claim ownership to something knowing that it will infuriate their estranged spouse. Doing so leads to additional litigation costs. “If you are separating or divorcing, keep your heat under collar. What you are holding on to may cost you more than it is worth,” he added.
6. Stock Market Crash on Black Monday
“On August 24, 2015, after over six years of a bull market, the stock market ‘corrected’ and dropped 10 percent from its high point,” said Ryan Brown of CR Myers & Associates. This was big financial news. “The point is that no person, whether it’s Warren Buffett or Jimmy Buffett, has a crystal ball and has the ability to beat and time the market.”
In terms of an investment strategy, Brown suggested buying guaranteed financial products that grow your wealth by tracking an index, such as the S&P 500. “If the index goes up, you participate in the upside, and if the index goes down, you won’t lose any of your principal.”
7. Bobbi Kristina Brown Dies
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, died at the age of 22. She was found unconscious in her bathtub early this year and was later moved to a hospice where she never regained consciousness. Throughout her comatose state and well after her death her family has battled over her inheritance.
“Unfortunately, this incident provides a valuable estate planning lesson for all of us because estate planning is not just for older, established individuals,” said Julie Ritten of Ritten Financial. “Estate planning attorneys recommend that children 18 and older should have an advanced care directive and financial durable power of attorney. This allows parents to act on their child’s behalf if the unforeseen occurs.”
8. 50 Cent Files for Bankruptcy
This past July, rapper 50 Cent filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a surprising financial turnaround; 50 Cent’s net worth was estimated at $155 million as recently as May, reported Time. During the filing, he listed his estimated assets between $10 million and $50 million, with liabilities in the same range.
What 50 Cent teaches us is that no matter the value of the car or the size of the house, true wealth is measured by the stability of your finances and the size of your financial accounts. Rather than waste away your money on material things, invest in your financial well-being.
Read More: Rapper 50 Cent Files for Federal Bankruptcy
9. U.S. Women Win the 2015 World Cup
On July 5, the U.S. women’s national soccer team beat Japan 5-2 in a thrilling final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. “This win really highlighted the importance of teamwork. While the team certainly had stars, role players came through in big situations and worked together to allow the team to ultimately hoist the Cup,” said Robert Johnson, president and CEO of The American College of Financial Services.
The key takeaway: Everyone that’s part of a team should be carrying their weight. When it comes to your family, see how loved ones can contribute to monthly bills and other obligations.
10. Essena O’Neill Quits Social Media
Teen Instagram star Essena O’Neill abruptly quit all social media in October 2015 including Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube. She also declared that social media has created a “brainwashed generation.”
For O’Neill, social media was a full-time job. She had over 500,000 social followers and was paid by sponsors to promote certain products in posts. So while O’Neill might have had good intentions in quitting social media altogether, she might have sacrificed her livelihood. Before ever making a rash decision like quitting your job, make sure you have money saved to support yourself while you find new employment.
11. Uncertainty Over China’s Economy
On August 24, Chinese equities dropped 8.5 percent, wiping out hundreds of billions of dollars in market capitalization. The market drop had a worldwide impact and raised concerns over U.S. dependence on China.
Chinese authorities are now trying to get things back on track and are taking steps to stimulate the economy. It’s a tough pill to swallow for many investors because China seemed reliable and investors around the world had extremely high expectations. But as Black Monday taught us, predicting the market is impossible.
“When it comes to your portfolio, low expectations are the secret to happiness and high returns,” said Chris Stephenson, investor specialist at Steadyhand. “High expectations are your nemesis.”
12. New Images of Pluto
New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe that was launched as part of NASA’s New Frontiers mission. The probe provided images of the surface of Pluto that are 1,000 times the resolution of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
While the images took years to gather, the payoff was huge. This kind of patience and faith in a long-term goal is an important money lesson. As Warren Buffet once said, “If you aren’t willing to own a stock for ten years, don’t even think about owning it for ten minutes.”
13. Lamar Odom Tragedy
Former NBA player Lamar Odom was found unresponsive at a Nevada area brothel in October. He spent weeks in the hospital and only more recently has regained consciousness.
The sudden tragedy has served as a reminder of the accidents and deaths that can occur at any moment — and the value of estate planning. “Estate plans need to be made early and updated at any major life event,” said Taff. “I do not know the details of his planning, but things like a will and a medical directive are important for people at any level of assets or relationship status.”
14. One Direction Loses Zayn Malik
On March 25, 2015 Zayn Malik left One Direction. Most fans were upset — to say the least — but Malik’s reasons were simple: He wanted to be a normal 22 year old who had time to relax. And then the entire band announced they would go on hiatus in 2016.
“Our inner tween fell into deeper despair,” said Taff of the hiatus. “Regardless, like a working relationship it is important to always evaluate our financial relationships.”
As difficult as it might be, you’ll need to consider and reconsider your financial advisor. Even if you have built a personal relationship with them, you might find that their expertise no longer align with your long-term goals. Like Malik, you might find yourself pursuing new goals that will require you to leave others behind.
15. Donald Trump Runs for Presidency
Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul, launched his presidential campaign for the Republican party in June 2015. For the better part of his campaign he was the frontrunner among Republican presidential candidates. More recently, he has fallen behind Ben Carson.
But Trump appeals to a specific group of voters — those who are tired of politicians tip-toeing around issues. Trump is a straightforward candidate who has strong and honest opinions. In a way, he teaches one important money lesson: Trust in yourself and don’t be afraid to go against the tides if it can work in your favor.
16. ‘Jurassic World’ Tops the Box Office
“Jurassic World” is among the top grossing films of 2015. It made over $650 million at domestic box offices and $1 billion overseas. Meanwhile, the first “Jurassic Park” was released in 1993 and made over $1 billion. If the Jurassic Park franchise and slew of other movie sequels has taught us anything, it’s that if something keeps making you big bucks, don’t change it.
17. Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set A Watchman: A Novel’
Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” was published in 1960 and became a worldwide success, winning a Pulitzer Prize and becoming a classic in modern American literature. Her second book, “Go Set A Watchman: A Novel,” was published this year, 55 years later. The book instantly became a bestseller and still tops Amazon’s bestsellers list.
No doubt the novel was an instant success owed to Lee’s early success as an author. For her publishers, investing in marketing campaigns for the book was a guaranteed win. In your own investments, while it’s expected you’ll need to take risks, don’t forget to invest in guaranteed — or at least near-guaranteed — winners.
18. Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton Divorce
Country superstars Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton confirmed they were divorcing in July 2015 after four years of marriage. On this, Cathy DeWitt of DeWitt and Dunn said, “The country crooners swore they’d remain friends forever, but not everyone can be so lucky.”
If you’re facing divorce, DeWitt suggested looking to a certified divorce financial analyst. “One of the most important things a CDFA can do is help put a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) in place. A QDRO is the legal mechanism behind dividing the retirement benefits earned during the years of marriage.”
She said one of the worst things you can do is assume a divorce settlement will protect your rights to your portion of your former spouse’s retirement account.
19. Budget Bickering
One of the biggest financial current events of the year was the threat of another government shutdown. “This year, the partisan bickering continued, but a government shutdown was averted,” said Johnson. “The Democrats want to raise taxes and increase spending on entitlements and the Republicans want to slash many of these benefits and taxes.
“The personal finance lesson learned is that difficult choices need to be made today,” said Johnson. “When individuals are saving for retirement they can’t afford to wait. Make the tough choices today.”
20. FIFA Corruption Scandal
The U.S. charged nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives with systematic corruption of international soccer in order to make themselves richer. The case alleges these individuals took and handed out bribes for media and marketing rights, among other charges.
The big financial lesson here is to know where your money is coming from and where it’s going. Most of all, “ethics and integrity matter. When choosing a financial advisor, the biggest consideration is trust, not knowledge or experience,” said Johnson.
21. ‘If You Have Savings in Your 20s, You’re Doing Something Wrong’ Backlash
Lauren Martin’s Elite Daily article “If You Have Savings in Your 20s, You’re Doing Something Wrong” received significant backlash when it was published this September.
“The backlash from the article was swift all over the web, including from Time Magazine,” said Melissa from SunburntSaver.com. “Lauren was trying to start a broader conversation about taking risks while you’re young, but her advice — and the associated backlash — put an emphasis on why it’s important for young people to save.”
Despite Martin’s advice, it’s essential millennials save emergency funds. When it comes to retirement savings, millennials have the power of compound interest on their side. Still, millennials shouldn’t be afraid of taking risks, too.
22. Michael Jackson Is the Richest Dead Celebrity
Singer Michael Jackson came first in Forbes’ annual “The 13 Top-Earning Dead Celebrities” list. According to Forbes, the King of Pop’s estate has pulled in more than $1 billion pretax since his death in 2009. The personal finance lesson is morbid but a gentle reminder that if you set your estate up properly, your family will reap the benefits years after you’re gone.
23. Starbucks Introduces New Toasted Graham Latte
In September 2015, coffee giant Starbucks introduced the new Toasted Graham Latte. The latte is the first new autumn espresso drink in four years, and it costs the same as the Pumpkin Spice Latte. A grande Toasted Graham Latte will cost you $4.95 before taxes.
While the drink might taste delicious, a regular morning coffee at Starbucks will cost you. Be sure to account for this seasonal drink in your budget.
24. Media’s Impact on Investors
”In 2015 we learned that the media spotlight can sometimes obscure what’s really important to investors. In the spring and summer, we couldn’t go a minute without hearing about Greece in the financial news,” said Tom Bradley of Steadyhand. He added that what happens in Greece, however, won’t have nearly the same impact as activity in Europe and China.
”As investors, we should never equate the volume and urgency of the news with what’s important to our portfolios,” Bradley said. That said, never make rash decisions based on what you hear in the news.
25. Bruce Jenner Becomes Caitlyn Jenner
Caitlyn Jenner, previously known as Bruce Jenner, is an Olympic gold medalist and former spouse of Kris Jenner. In a “20/20″ interview with Diane Sawyer, Jenner proclaimed, “I’m a woman.”
She has since undergone surgery and treatment to become female. Americans were surprised by Jenner’s proclamation, but the reality star has said the decision has left her happier, showing it’s never too late to change the course of your life — or finances — for the better.
26. Justin Bieber’s Nude Photos
Pop singer Justin Bieber was on a private vacation with British model Jayde Pierce in Bora Bora when nude photos of him were leaked in October. Since the event, Bieber has taken legal action against the New York Daily News.
No matter how secure you feel you always need money in an emergency for unforeseen circumstances. Hopefully, any emergency situation you encounter is less dramatic than this one. As Warren Buffet famously said, “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.”
27. SnipSnap Debuts
In October 2015, the coupon app SnipSnap debuted and grew to over 100,000 users in one week. With the app, you can make digital copies of your coupons and seek out deals using the Scout feature. Users can also hunt down offers and get reminders when coupons are expiring.
If the app’s popularity has anything to say, it’s that people love to save. Don’t forget to use apps on your smartphone when shopping to save a little extra on your trip.
28. Taylor Swift’s Epic Tour
Singer Taylor Swift kicked off her 1989 tour on May 5, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. She has been using social media every step of the way, using #1989tour to keep fans up to date and excited about events. The singer has also had numerous artists make cameos at her concerts, building up additional publicity. Overall, the tour has been a success, with Forbes estimating the singer will make over $100 million this year.
The personal finance lesson here is to put your friends and fans to work. Don’t be afraid to seek out help online and over social media, and enlist your friends for advice. Having an open discussion about your finances can help you see the kinds of improvements you need to make to truly succeed.
29. ‘Inside Out’ Debuts
The children’s animated Pixar movie “Inside Out” was released in June 2015. The film features an all-star cast including Amy Poehler and Bill Hader.
The main character, Riley, moves cities and her emotions — Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness — conflict on how to best deal with the move. The film is a tearjerker, but left viewers with an important lesson: the value of communication. Be open and honest with your children when it comes to the household’s finances, especially during difficult times — it can make them better with money when they’re older.
30. Amy Schumer Becomes a Star
Amy Schumer is to millennials what Madonna was to women in the 1980s. With her blunt delivery and honesty about what life is like for women, she draws in massive audiences. Since she’s blown up the comedic stage, Schumer has catapulted her success onto the big screen with “Trainwreck,” a film she wrote.
As you manage your finances, look to compound your successes. If you pay down one debt, for example, increase how much money you put toward another debt. That way, you can pay off your next debt faster without changing your budget.
31. Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck Divorce
In June 2015, actors Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck announced they were divorcing after 10 years of marriage and three children. The two agreed to continue living together for the benefit of their children. Unfortunately, the two actors did not have a prenup, and their business managers are now having quite a bit of trouble separating the two actors’ assets.
As uncomfortable of a conversation it might be, it’s important to get a prenup when you marry. A prenup makes divorce straightforward and removes a lot of the financial risk that comes with a snubbed former spouse.
32. David Letterman Retires
David Letterman, former television host, ended his 33-year television run early this year. The award-winning host is now officially retired.
As you move toward retirement, consider how you would like your decades-long working career to end. Set a plan in motion so when you’re ready to call it quits, you can comfortably exit stage left.
33. ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Movie
“Fifty Shades of Grey” is the first film in a series based on the bestselling books by E.L. James. The titillating film saw terrible reviews, much owed to the confusing romance and unbelievable characters. However, the film and books have been a major success, in part thanks to the Twilight Saga, from which the Fifty Shades series was born.
Like author E.L. James, look to the successes of others to inspire your own personal finance strategies. Find out what has worked for others and see how you can apply their strategies to fuel your own success.
34. ‘The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst’
“The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” was an HBO miniseries that aired in February. The series focused on the complicated life of real estate heir Robert Durst and came to a haunting end when Durst mumbled to himself while his microphone was still on, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
After being arrest, Robert found himself in financial trouble when his brother, Douglas, confirmed that the alleged murderer had leaked materials about the family, violating the terms of an agreement that had been established in 2006. As a result, Robert could be out tens of millions of dollars, affecting his ability to afford litigation.
35. California Wildfires
California has faced a series of wildfires throughout 2015. The fires have scorched over 300,000 acres, according to CAL FIRE. In September, Governor Jerry Brown issued a state of emergency over the 65,000-acre Gold Country fire. Thousands of homes have been destroyed in fires in California, emphasizing the need for some homeowners to pay up for fire insurance coverage or else risk a major investment — their homes.
36. Texas Storms and Flooding
Near the end of October deadly storms wrecked havoc in Texas, killing up to 6 people. Parts of Texas and Alabama were under flash flood warnings. Six tornadoes around Houston and Galveston, Texas, destroyed homes and businesses with winds up to 115 miles per hour.
”Part of the personal finance lesson is to make sure you are properly insured,” said John Bodrozic, co-founder and CEO of HomeZada. He also suggested going one step further and making a digital inventory of your home. “You can then share this digital inventory with your insurance agent to verify that you have the right amount of coverage.”
37. Hackers Post Stolen Ashley Madison Data
In August 2015, hackers of the Ashley Madison website released private account details of over 32 million users and seven years’ worth of credit card information and other payment transaction details. The personal finance lesson each user learned that day was to make sure your private information remains private by never passing along your details to an unsecured website.
38. Teenager Hacks CIA Director’s Email
In October 2015, a teenager hacked CIA Director John Brennan’s private AOL account, which contained confidential documents, such as a 47-page SF-86 application Brennan filled out to obtain top-secret government security clearance, according to WIRED.
The teenager, who was not acting alone, said he obtained access by posing as a Verizon worker to trick an employee into revealing Brennan’s personal information. From there, the hackers were able to reset Brennan’s AOL password, reminding us that while a hacker might be able to slither their way into your email account, there’s no reason to leave sensitive information around to be found.
39. Banks Release ‘Chip’ Cards
As of Oct. 1, new bank cards issued to customers will contain chips to protect sensitive data. “Unlike traditional cards, these use a computer chip for transactions rather than the magnetic strip that is swiped through a card reader,” said Benjamin K. Glaser, features editor for DealNews.
The new technology has proven to be effective in reducing fraud in Canada and Europe, according to CNN. However, it requires you to adopt the technology. To protect your financial assets, look to the newest ways to keep your private information secured. It might save you from the hassle of bank fraud.
40. Study Finds White Middle-Aged Americans in Rough Shape
Since 1998, people all over the world have been living healthier and living longer. But middle-aged, white non-Hispanics in the U.S. have been getting sicker and dying in greater numbers, according to the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” paper published early November.
Drug overdoses, suicide and alcohol-related deaths have risen in recent years. One possible reason for the rise in deaths, according to the researchers, is due to financial strain. So if your finances are tight, make a clear effort to take time for yourself. Find ways to improve your health on the cheap, such as by running or requesting a gym membership through work. It might just save your life.
41. Netflix Raises Prices By $1
Netflix is raising the price of its most popular streaming subscription by $1 a month to $9.99 for new customers in the U.S., Canada and parts of Latin America. The company made a similar move in Europe earlier this year. But while your favorite streaming service might be a tad bit more expensive, it’s still leaps and bounds cheaper than cable.
Expanded cable prices hit an average $64.41 between 2013 and 2014, according to the Federal Communications Commission. The rate at which cable increased in that time was four times the rate of inflation. So while Netflix might be more expensive, it still offers the most bang for your buck. Look to get the same value from other products you subscribe to.