Housing takes the spotlight for 2013 – it was an integral part of the recovery we’ve seen so far, according to this piece.  Highlights?

  • Mortgage rates have been fluctuating from their historical lows since the summer when talk of tapering the Federal Reserve’s $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program first started. In fact, rates for the 30-year fixed mortgage jumped to 4.42% from 3.35% in May when the central bank’s chairman mentioned policymakers could taper in the next two meetings.  
  • Mortgage rates peaked at 4.6% in August and have held steady since September. Freddie Mac reported last week the rate on the 30-year loan increased to 4.47% from 4.42% the week prior, while the average rate on a 15-year fixed loan rose to 3.51% from 3.43%.
  • While new home sales for November came in at a five-year high – with a whopping 22.7% jump to 1.09 million units – the trend wasn’t around earlier in the year.  In fact, housing experts say low inventory levels have been the major factor preventing a full housing recovery.

It was a soft recovery, but the real estate market did see a recovery in 2013. But 2013 wasn’t so kind to the high-tech industry.

At some point, most everyone worries about the cost of college tuition, so just by itself this story in the New York Times about how smaller colleges are cutting tuition without losing revenues is interesting. But digging a little deeper, there’s a lesson about how all the government subsidies, student aid, and other guarantees drive up tuition costs – creating an Ouroboros of rising prices and increased subsidies. Somewhere in there is a lesson for the housing industry, if we dig deep enough.

Wherever you stand on healthcare reform, everyone agrees the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and its glitchy, 1998-era website was a disaster. There could be a lot more trouble coming down the pike in 2014 for the economy in general, businesses overall, and the taxpayers in particular as the new Affordable Care taxes kick in. The takeaway?

  • The new taxes on one customer’s bill added up to $23.14 a month, or $277.68 annually, according to Kaiser Health News. It boosted the monthly premium from $322.26 to $345.40 for that individual.
  • The new taxes and fees include a 2 percent levy on every health plan, which is expected to net about $8 billion for the government in 2014 and increase to $14.3 billion in 2018.
  • Under ObamaCare, individual tax filers earning more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000 will pay an added 0.9 percent Medicare surtax on top of the existing 1.45 percent Medicare payroll tax. They’ll also pay an extra 3.8% Medicare tax on unearned income, such as investment dividends, rental income and capital gains.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

An analysis here says that the bottom line of the ACA is that it’s going to shift the costs of expanding healthcare to the middle class.

“Those making…$47,780 for an individual or $61,496 for a couple — are ineligible for subsidies to buy insurance.

… But the analysis clearly shows how the sticker shock hitting many in the middle class, including the self-employed and early retirees, isn't just a perception problem.

The prices of exchange plans have shocked many shoppers, especially those who had plans canceled because they did not meet the ACA coverage requirements. But experts are not surprised.

"The ACA was not designed to reduce costs or, the law's name notwithstanding, to make health insurance coverage affordable for the vast majority of Americans," says health care consultant Kip Piper, a former government and insurance industry official. "The law uses taxpayer dollars to lower costs for the low-income uninsured but it also increases costs overall and shifts costs within the marketplace."

To hedge bets on the aforementioned Affordable Care Act, here’s one suggestion of what to do when the ACA unravels.

Speaking of check-ups (we were, kind of) here’s a way to give a physical to your investment portfolio, courtesy our friends at Forbes.com. It has some tips for fine-tuning where you put your money. (Follow it with this piece if you want some interesting advice on alternative investments like real estate, gold, art and Bitcoin.)

Yahoo (he said buy), Netflix (he said no) and more – here are the stupidest bits of investments of 2013 and a mea culpa from the man who suggested them, according to MarketWatch. Good read and reminder that even the best of us make bone-headed calls.

If the economy is really recovering and not “wreck hovering” – why would we need to hike the minimum wage and extend unemployment benefits yet again? Could this all be a diversion? Say it ain’t so.

Utah is leading the way in the demanding the return of control of the two-thirds of the state the federal government took over as federal lands, and other western states may be following that lead. This could make things very interesting going forward, according to this article.

Very interesting study suggests that CEOs should be shown the door after 4.8 years because they lose their mojo if their tenure is too long. Laid-off employees all over the place nod in approval.

And just for the fun of it, we enjoyed this Forbes.com look back at the worst films of 2013, even if we think the critic is way off about "Man of Steel."