A Look Back at the Top Finance News of 2023 (#4 Was a Big Relief)

Dive into the highs and lows of the year's most talked-about financial sagas.

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Updated June 6, 2024
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After years of COVID-19-related financial news stories dominating the headlines, 2023 brought a refreshing change of pace.

While the novel coronavirus remained a concern, plenty of other financial news earned a top spot in the public eye over the last 12 months.

From pop stars to labor feuds, let’s go through the epic highs and lows of this year’s major finance stories. Looking back may even help you prepare for 2024.

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Taylor Swift becomes a billionaire

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Thanks to her stunningly successful Eras Tour, Taylor Swift joined the highly exclusive billionaires club at the end of October. Per Bloomberg, the 33-year-old idol’s net worth is now $1.1 billion.

Swift’s billionaire status might have been one of the year’s hottest financial news topics, but she hit headlines for all sorts of reasons, financial and otherwise.

Most recently, she was deemed Time’s Person of the Year and Apple’s Artist of the Year. Fans at her Seattle concert caused enough noise to register as an earthquake of 2.3 on the Richter Scale.

Student loan payments are back on

Malik/peopleimages.com/Adobe woman reviewing bills using laptop

Starting March 13, 2020, the federal government pressed pause on requiring monthly repayments on all eligible student loans, which also stopped accruing interest for the duration of the pandemic.

Federal student loans remained in stasis for the next three years — until September 1, 2023, when student loan repayments and interest accrual restarted.

But while the pandemic might have been officially declared over, Americans’ budgets, including graduates’ budgets, are far from recovered. According to data from December, nearly nine million former students missed their first repayment due September 1, 2023.

Silicon Valley Bank collapses

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Silicon Valley Bank — a regional commercial bank based in Santa Clara — collapsed at the start of March when millions of Americans were worrying a recession was imminent.

While the bank had been around since the 1980s, it truly took off during the pandemic, where it grew by three times to become the country’s 16th-largest bank.

The bank’s too-rapid growth likely contributed to its collapse, as did the Federal Reserve’s frequent interest rate hikes throughout the year in response to high inflation. The bank’s management and a social media-fueled panic contributed as well.

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Recession fears prove unfounded — so far

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Americans spent much of 2023 abuzz with worries that a recession rivaling the 2008 financial crisis was coming. High inflation rates, the collapse of major banks like SVB, and high-profile layoffs didn’t do much to allay those fears.

But as of December 2023, the economy isn’t in the shambles predicted at the end of 2022. The job market remains relatively strong, and inflation, while still problematic, has gone down.

It’s possible that 2024 could spell the start of the recession everyone spent the year fearing, but if 2023 is any indication, 2024 could start stronger than expected.

The stock market gets a boost from breakthrough AI technologies

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Novel AI technology like ChatGPT sparked a variety of reactions, from panic and outrage to enthusiastic endorsement.

Tech giants like Microsoft flooded the company responsible for ChatGPT (OpenAI) with billions of dollars in financial support, ensuring the product had a bright future.

Investors with a similar enthusiasm for the brave new world of artificial intelligence sent Microsoft and Alphabet stocks sky-high. Nvidia, a leading AI software and hardware manufacturer, also saw record-breaking investor interest.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman leaves the company, joins Microsoft, and returns to OpenAI in just one week

Jacob Lund/Adobe businessman reviewing work in lounge

Over a whirlwind weekend in November, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was ousted from his position by the company’s board. The removal seems to have reflected the board’s concerns about the ethics of ChatGPT and Altman’s communications regarding the product.

A few days later, Microsoft announced that it had hired Altman and his OpenAI cofounder, Greg Brockman. And just a few days after that, OpenAI announced it had rehired both Brockman and Altman after the incredible backlash the company received for its decision.

Barbenheimer takes the summer box office by storm

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Tonal contrasts "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" debuted over the same weekend in July — both of them to critical acclaim and a massive audience turnout.

"Barbie" grossed over $162 million at the domestic box office on opening weekend to "Oppenheimer’s" $82 million (a notably high opening weekend for an R-rated film, which has a restricted audience).

To date, "Barbie" has grossed over $636 million, while "Oppenheimer" has exceeded $326 million at the domestic box office. Worldwide, "Barbie" has grossed over $1.4 billion, and "Oppenheimer" has grossed $952 million.

Ongoing labor disputes impact industries from Hollywood to health care

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Nonstop inflation and an escalating cost of living without corresponding wage increases led to hundreds of thousands of workers striking across dozens of industries this year. 

This included faculty members at state colleges as well as actors and writers demanding better working conditions in the film industry.

All told, 492,000 employees had been on strike at some point during the year as of October 2023.

As digital payments (and inflation rates) increase, so does tipping fatigue

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A whopping 95% of Americans say they tip when asked, but that ask seemed to grow this year as digital sales via point-of-sales services continued to replace cash tipping.

Frustratingly, it’s hard to know who tipping benefits based on an automatic prompt on a digital screen. Does the employee helping you actually get it? American consumers aren’t sure. 

But with the proliferation of tipping prompts on even the cheapest, fastest purchases, one thing seems clear: American tipping fatigue has hit a tipping point, and there’s no telling whether the American propensity to tip will last into 2024.

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The Federal Reserve raises interest rates 11 times between March 2022 and October 2023

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In response to high inflation, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates month after month for a total of 11 times. 

While the rate hikes meant that consumers could find high-yield savings accounts with solid APYs, it also spelled trouble for hopeful homebuyers forced out of the market by increasingly high interest rates.

It’s now the end of 2023, and the Fed hasn’t raised rates for three months. This could mean homebuyers have a more affordable future to look forward to if rate cuts start in 2024.

Bottom line

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Like any year, 2023 was a year of nonstop surprises in the financial sector. You might think you know what’s coming in 2024 — and in some ways, you’re probably right. 

Interest rate cuts seem likely, prices on consumer goods will likely remain above pre-COVID-19 levels, and AI tech will continue to develop, disrupting a host of industries as it grows.

But as 2023’s financial newsreels show, the only real certainty about 2024’s future is that nothing is certain, and anything could happen. Keep an eye on your finances, and try to get ahead financially to prepare for whatever the new year brings.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.