2023: A Year in Review

The Acosta family fall picture with leaves on the ground

Dear friends,

I hope you read this with a steaming mug of a holiday beverage in hand. Doesn’t time move quickly? Being a working mom reinforces this truth, as every holiday season seems to swing around faster than the one before it.

Each December, I reflect on the year to remain present in my beautiful chaos. I look at my calendar, photos, and text threads to laugh and cry over important events that are otherwise too quickly forgotten.

Reengaging the year’s trials and triumphs with hindsight bias is healing, even converting uncomfortable moments into some of my most treasured experiences. The truth is, life brings more positive moments than we tend to realize.

As investors, we entered 2023 with trepidation, and the taste of fear lingered on the global palette for longer than it should have. Nonetheless, a lot of good happened. And here we are today. I invite you to remember 2023 with me—the fun, the sad, the suspenseful—in hopes that we can build on our experiences for a more grounded, storm-tested 2024.

Without further ado, here is my year in review.

January:

  • Memphis—and the nation—mourns the death of Tyre Nichols and the criminal misconduct of 5 of our policemen.
  • The S&P 500 crosses over its 200-day moving average (which is a big deal), and positive returns start to peek out of the ground.
  • The American Cancer Society reported a 33% decrease in cancer deaths since 1991—that’s almost 4 million deaths prevented in the last 30 years. Good job, science!
  • I taught my daughter how to play mancala.

February:

  • Chinese Spy balloons visit the US. Three others, “likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation, or research institutes,” were shot down as well (Pres. Joe Biden). Yikes?
  • Inflation is starting to come down, but not as much as the Fed had hoped. The year-over-year CPI increase is 6.5% against 6.2% estimates; they’re still lower than the 9.1% readings back in June of 2022.
  • I start watching Survivor (20 years later).

March:

  • The Fed approves its 2nd rate hike for the year, getting the federal funds rate up to 4.75-5.
  • Taylor Swift kicks off her Eras tour. Eventually, Eras would go on to add an estimated $5bil to the world economy, getting a grateful nod from the Fed itself. Thank you, #swifties, for contributing to a soft landing.
  • Benchmark wins Investment News Best Place to Work* for the 2nd year in a row (we weren’t surprised!).
  • Silicon Valley Bank collapses. Markets temporarily react but rebound once they digest the reality that they—and two others—were isolated cases brought on by the banks’ own lack of due diligence.

April:

  • NASA announces Artemis 2, a crewed mission to the moon that is scheduled to launch no later than November 2024. Even more exciting is Christina Koch—she will be the first woman and first African American astronaut on a lunar mission. Some of us (definitely not me) realize with disappointment that we haven’t been to the moon since the 1970s. Guys, what have we been doing?
  • The Tennessee Three are expelled from the TN House of Representatives following their participation in protests after Nashville’s Covenant School shooting. Two would eventually go on to be reinstated.
  • Small bank stocks continue to reel. On April 28th, the FDIC openly sought a buyer for First Republic Bank, which finalized the last chapter in the Banking Crisis Saga of 2023.
  • Benchmark teammates had their 5th annual Easter Egg Hunt, which was obviously a blast.
  • Audrey Acosta starts t-ball, dashing all hopes of a professional career in sports.

May:

  • King Charles III is crowned in the United Kingdom. Tina Turner passes away. Sam Altman, OpenAI CEO and ChatGPT founder, appeals to a Senate subcommittee for responsible regulation of Artificial Intelligence that doesn’t slow innovation. By this point, many of us use ChatGPT for workout schedules and birthday party planning.
  • The Writers Guild of America strike begins, and the massive cliffhanger from Severance, Season 1 will go unresolved. Hunter and Shannon Acosta unwillingly hold their horses.
  • School ends. Parents “beer” one another strength (that’s an Office reference) as they depart for Memorial Day weekends, where fights over sunscreen and bug spray will ensue.
  • The Fed raises rates to 5-5.25, delivering the news with a slightly more dovish tone. Markets hope they may skip a June rate hike, which has already been priced into year-to-date performance.

June:

  • Barbieheimer and the Titan submersible have everyone glued to screens for various amounts of hours, depending on what you tuned into. Ryan Gosling is everything, and James Cameron speaks out about OceanGate’s irresponsibility following multiple warnings about the craft’s safety from the submersible community.
  • The Fed does indeed skip a rate hike on the back of cooling economic data: unemployment jumped from 3.4% to 3.7%, ISM indices declined more than expected, and inflation falls 12 months in a row. However, markets believe the Fed will hike rates at least once more.
  • The US avoids another debt ceiling.
  • It’s Father’s Day! We go to Graceland for the first time ever (yes, my husband grew up in Memphis).

July:

  • Someone leaves cocaine in a bathroom of the White House, which is briefly evacuated in response. Oops! I bet that person feels dumb.
  • Inflation turns a corner as the Fed raised rates for what will be the last time in 2023. Twitter is rebranded, and everyone is confused for a couple of days.
  • A new malaria vaccine is approved, which hopes to offer up to 80% protection, largely for children, against the disease. Belize is declared malaria-free!
  • My family of 5 bravely road trips to Texas, and we mostly survive; only one of us (it’s always me) came home with double pink eye.

August:

  • Stocks have been climbing all year, and in August, they correct back down again. News of Chinese disinflation spooks the markets. Moody’s downgrades several midsized banks due to profitability concerns that interest payments are higher than planned. Remarks from the Fed’s Jackson Hole meeting aren’t as dovish as some had hoped.
  • Wildfires destroy parts of Maui, and we grieve with the islanders over their loss of life and beauty.
  • Women’s sports get a W—a record is set for highest attendance at a women’s sporting event when 92,000 fans watch a volleyball game in Nebraska.
  • The Acostas support Holy Rosary’s Angel program by participating in the Memphis Runs for Autism 5k. I get a PR! Audrey doesn’t lose her shoes this year, so we are proud of her.

September:

  • Tupac is definitely dead. Las Vegas police arrested Duane Keith Davis in Las Vegas for the 1996 murder of the famous rapper. Taylor Swift graces the NFL by publicly dating Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Her methods of discreetly leaving the stadium are creative.
  • The Fed’s tone is more hawkish than markets would like. Markets continue their 2-month losing streak.
  • Benchmark wins Memphis Business Journal’s Best Places to Work* for the 2nd year in a row!

October:

  • The world mourns over the conflict in the Middle East. Israel declared war on Hamas due to their unprecedented attacks on October 7th. Notably, markets are not affected by this news—they push back a bit against the recent declines from August and September. However, Meta, Google, and some other big companies missed their earnings; this sends markets back down to what will end up being the last “low spot” of 2023.
  • Our “Friend,” Matthew Perry, dies in his Los Angeles home.
  • Kelvin Kiptum breaks the marathon world record by finishing the course in less than 2 hours and 1 minute. That’s 13mph, or 4:34 per mile, for 26.2 miles. High-five, dude.
  • Miraculously, my family showed up on time for a family photo shoot (picture above).
  • We adventure to St. Louis for Fall Break slash Annie’s birthday. The City Museum does not disappoint!

November: 

  • Markets experience their best week of the year. We are in “goldilocks” territory—the economy is not too hot, not too cold. Jobs reports, manufacturing data, CPI, and other economic metrics are promising enough to keep the Fed from raising rates again.
  • “Sams” dominate the news. Sam Altman was fired from OpenAI—and immediately rehired after an employee revolt. I guess they kinda liked him. Sam Bankman-Fried was convicted of fraud, stealing from customers through his FTX cryptocurrency exchange.
  • The Hollywood writers strike comes to an end (phew).

December:

  • Shohei Ohtani agreed to the biggest contract in sports history—a 10-year, $700mil deal with the LA Dodgers.
  • Saudi Arabia kinda sorta agreed, maybe, to a little bit, begin to transition away from fossil fuels.
  • The markets are hot, and so are economic indicators. Nonetheless, the data points to a soft landing which supports this year’s double-digit returns. The Fed finally starts to shift its tone on interest rates; it signals cuts in 2024.
  • The Acostas were quarantined at home over Christmas and play lots of Mario Kart; 5-year-old Audrey declared herself the winner of each round (sidebar: she’s horrible). Mr. Monk’s Last Case aired on the Peacock Network, which was the perfect Christmas present to me.

It was a pleasure to walk through 2023 with you. Thank you for inviting me and the rest of the Benchmark team on your journeys. We will continue to link arms with you in 2024, and I challenge us to look for the good in each day that they bring.  

Cheers, y’all.


*Best Places to Work winners are determined exclusively on the basis of their employees’ responses to the confidential
survey. Employee responses from the 30 standard survey questions, along with the number of employees that respond to the survey, are calculated to determine the company’s overall score and ranking. A registration fee was required for the program.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for  any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged  and may not be invested into directly.

Benchmark Wealth Management
5855 Ridge Bend Road
Memphis, TN 38120

Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA/SIPIC.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide
specific advice or recommendations for any individual. There is no assurance that the views or
strategies discussed are suitable for all investors or will yield positive outcomes.
Investing involves risk including possible loss of principal.

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