Normally, people write New Year's resolutions for themselves. But given the experience of the past two years, I figured some folks might need a little extra encouragement. Call it a nudge.
So here's my list of resolutions for 2010 — for everyone else:
Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke: Do not blink. When the White House and Congress pressure you to keep interest rates low to aid the flailing economy despite inflation warnings, don't give in.
Rep. Earl Pomeroy: Give employers a break on contributions to their defined benefit plans — without tying them to a promise to keep the plans open. It's a voluntary system. If you want to make the system mandatory, then just say so.
Sen. Herbert Kohl: Give target-date funds some breathing room. 2008 was a pretty extraordinary year. Target-date funds didn't all get it right, but they're still in their early days and offer a vast improvement in asset allocation for most DC plan participants.
Pension executives: Emerging-market stocks are for real. China, India, Brazil, anyone? 2010 might be the year that pension executives realize massive government deficits will weigh down developed markets and that growth lies elsewhere.
Investors: Be wary of PIIGS in a poke. Take a close look at debt from countries with huge budget deficits — Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. And did we mention Dubai?
Real estate investors: Time to buy? With valuations down 45%, and $1.4 trillion in commercial real estate debt that will need to be refinanced by 2012 (according to ING Real Estate Investment Management), this could be the best opportunity in years to up the ante.
Everyone: Beware of housing markets built on shaky foundations. There are lots more foreclosures to come. Many current homeowners remain under water and can't sell, financing is limited and home equity loans are virtually non-existent. The return of consumer spending? Not any time soon.
Cheery? No. It's going to be a sober 2010.