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With the wild ride that was 2021 now mostly in the books, it’s clear looking back that the year’s biggest headlines dealt with money, finances and the economy. In fact, four of the five most-searched news stories of the year involved money in one way or another. Using data from Google’s annual Year in Search report, GOBankingRates identified the financial buzzwords that defined the year. You don’t have to look far to see that fears, hopes, worries and dreams about money weren’t far from the minds of most people in 2021.
For insight into America’s financial state of mind in 2021, the No. 1 most-searched phrase across the entire news category for the whole year was “Mega Millions.” For those not in the know, that’s when you get instantly catapulted into the top 1% by guessing an impossible sequence of numbers correctly or asking a cash register to guess it for you — and 2021 sure was a good year to be in it to win it.
The year witnessed three of the 10 biggest lottery jackpots in history:
- $731.1 million Powerball on Jan. 20
- $1.05 billion Mega Millions on Jan. 22
- $699.8 million Powerball on Oct. 4
The most celebrated meme stock of 2021 — and in history so far — was GameStop. But it was “AMC stock” that turned out to be the year’s No. 2 most-searched phrase in Google’s entire news category. AMC made headlines when Reddit users launched a GameStop-inspired short squeeze to launch the stock to gains of 2,500% in the first half of the year.
The second half of the year, however, was not so kind. The honeymoon was over by the winter and by mid-December, AMC was down more than 60% from its springtime highs. Investors seem to be jettisoning risky meme stocks, in general, according to CNBC, as 2021 winds down — GameStop has had a brutal winter, as well.
Unlike Reddit-darling meme stocks and Mega Millions jackpots, the No. 3 most searched financial term of the year was about the one thing that made almost everyone a little richer in 2021 — “stimulus check.”
The centerpiece of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan, the checks began arriving in March and gave $1,400 to most Americans — $2,800 for couples filing jointly — along with another $1,400 for each qualifying dependent.
The No. 5 most-searched news story of the year — “Georgia Senate election” was No. 4 — adds yet another meme stock to the list. “GME stock” references the ticker symbol for GameStop, the video game retail chain that made headlines and history at the beginning of the year when amateur day traders on Reddit successfully squeezed a short play by some of Wall Street’s most powerful tycoons.
The move revealed the power of democratized investing in a world where even the smallest investors could trade for free without paying fees or broker commissions. The moment captivated the attention of the public — which, of course, loves an underdog — rattled the confidence of the financial industry and made lots of GameStop investors rich.
The meme stock craze proved to be fickle, however, and the year closed with a painful selloff that sent both GameStock and AMC cratering by about 30% in December alone.
A $1,000 investment in Dogecoin on Jan. 1 would have turned into more than $121,000 during its springtime peak, according to CNBC, thanks to a 12,000% gain between January and May. The world’s first meme coin, Dogecoin roared to crypto-superstardom early in the year, largely on the back of big-time celebrity endorsements from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Gene Simmons, Mark Cuban and — most notably and most persistently — Elon Musk.
The name of the coin, which started as a joke in 2013, was the No. 6 most-searched keyword across the entire news category in 2021.
How To Start a Business
Although it’s not exactly a financial term or a news story, one Google search trend spoke more loudly than all the rest. In the year of the side hustle, it should be no surprise that people were more interested in becoming entrepreneurs than employees. In 2021, more people searched “how to start a business” than “how to get a job” — although it’s also true that searches for “job interview” topped pre-pandemic levels.
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